When they were young children, Jan and I discovered a parenting book called “Champions in the Making.” It offered a great model for raising kids through a concept known as “refrigerator rules.”
Until our youngest was about 10, five rules for our household were simple and straightforward enough to display on the refrigerator:
As our now-adult sons, Tom Jr., John, and Michael grew into their teenage years, we knew they needed boundaries regarding a curfew. Of course, they complained that they couldn’t stay out as late as some of their friends, but we told them that—let’s face it—nothing good usually happens after midnight.
Jan and I were determined to remain their parents, not their friends. We wanted to avoid the “frantic family syndrome,” in which the children become the center of the family, and Mom and Dad believe their role is to make them happy. When parents make their children think that the world revolves around them and that it’s the world’s job to make them happy, it doesn’t prepare them for what’s ahead.
In addition to knowing where their boundaries are, children need to know that you, as their parent, will spend as much time with them as you possibly can. A parent needs to be available to their children a lot, because you don’t know precisely when a teachable moment will present itself or when your child might be ready to open up to you. The more time you spend with kids the better the odds that these important opportunities will occur.
The father of Washington Redskins’ quarterback Colt McCoy has been quoted as saying, “My job is to prepare my children for the road, not to prepare the road for them.” We must allow our children to solve their own problems. Letting them fail helps them become better adults by preparing them for the time when they’re no longer sheltered.
Remember, we are trying to raise adults, not children.
By // Tom Lewis*
In an interview with Debra Gelbart.
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