I remember the first time my child called me mama. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Throughout the years, I have heard that name called many times; often, my children just wanted to make sure I was nearby. Other times, however, when they were physically hurt or emotionally upset, my children called for me in desperation. Now that my own kids are grown with families of their own, I still automatically turn when I am out in public and hear someone call the name of mom. The decision to have children is not one to be taken lightly.
They require constant care and our full effort. In simpler times, when there were not so many distractions, it was probably easier to give children the time they deserved. With no computers, and sometimes no televisions, there were less things to interfere with building relationships with each other. The demands upon us today make the job of raising children especially difficult. However, it is possible to provide our children with the emotional and physical framework they need to become successful and happy individuals.
If we remember that our job of parenting comes before anything else in our lives, then we are more likely to be successful. Nothing should come before our commitment to raising children. Though both parents may need to work outside the home to provide for the physical needs of their families, and the world demands their time and attention more than ever before, parents simply have to be available to their kids. Parents must be actively involved in their kids’ lives. Children need to know their parents will be at every sporting event, dance recital, and every parent-teacher conference. Our time is what they really want, even when they think they want to be left alone.
One of the most important things parents can do for their children is to be their biggest supporters. Children need to know that their parents are behind them. When they have made poor choices, kids need their parents to sit down and talk to them about why they made those choices. Kids need the security of knowing their parents will always take their part. Parents must also have clearly defined family rules. Without rules and consistent consequences for both positive and negative behavior, raising children to be responsible is almost impossible. Children don’t think they want rules, and most of them certainly don’t want negative consequences when they break them, but having clear expectations gives them a framework that helps them feel safe.
Even when they do something wrong, they know what to expect. Family mealtime is also an important part of raising children to be healthy and happy. A regular dinnertime where both the parents and the children sit down together provides a chance for communication. It can be much easier for children to talk about their challenges when the family is gathered around the table. Fun times together are extremely important for raising a happy family. Though big family vacations to distant locations can be fun, some of the best times together are usually the ones where the outside world is not competing for everyone’s attention.
A week of camping or a day of hiking gives parents and their kids the chance to play together and to talk to each other. One of the greatest things in the world is just being silly together. One of our favorite family memories is of the many spontaneous water fights we used to have with our children. They had all of our attention, and they saw us in a positive light as we put aside the cares of the world and just had fun with them. Though the child-rearing years can sometimes seem long, they really do pass in a flash. Through it all, when parents make a full commitment to their children, they will find that the joy always makes the hard times worth everything they may have been through.