Most parents want the best for their children and to encourage their children to live to their fullest potential. Most yearn for a child who is intelligent, friendly, responsible, honest and a productive member of society. Can you encourage your child who is born with a strong free will to be all that and more?
Considerations like this often creep up when you are pregnant and soon you are obsessing over whether your child will be just like you were as a teen. Were you a good student, good friend and good child? Then chances are you want to raise your child to be the same. But if you made mistakes like using illicit substances, not applying yourself in school or worse, then chances are you are going to want to raise your children to be different than you were. Can you parent kids to be happy, carefree people? Can a mom and pop influence their child's personality?
Ultimately, as a parent, the best thing you can do is encourage your children in all aspects of their life to be the best they can be. That happens by taking an interest in your child's school, social and extracurricular lives.
Debbie Glade, a children's author and mother, talks to students around the country about the importance of applying themselves in life so that they don't repeat her mistakes. "I tell these middle school students that I deeply regret having not worked harder when I was their age, being a mediocre student and having a negative attitude about life. I was a kid who was NOT a trouble maker - no drugs, alcohol etc, - just negative, miserable and mediocre. We talk about how each of the students are responsible for their own decisions and actions, and they should not blame their parents, teachers or others for their choices. I encourage them to ask their parents and grandparents about their own regrets (knowing most will tell them they did not try hard enough in school)," says Glade.
Repeat success, fix fails
Parents aren't perfect. Everyone has successes and fails, and successful parents capitalize on the successes of their childhood while working to fix whatever wasn't ideal.
"It's this clear and open communication I am already replicating with my three sons. However, I don't think I 'obeyed' my parents in a good way, as they were quite remote and not that warm and loving. I guess the remote relationship served to make me feel deprived, and I sought to quell this by stealing money and things and by hurting my brother and sister. So what I am doing differently is to work on a good, trusting, and loving relationship with my sons," says dad John Lee Clark. "I think the key is to recognize and respect my sons as human beings. True, they have less experience living on earth than do adults, but they're still human and have human feelings. They're not some kind of second-class caste."
If you've been there yourself, you are likely to notice the signs of trouble so you can respond and remedy the problems before they spiral.
"If my daughter was acting like I did in high school, I'd know she was in trouble. I had emotional problems that were reflected in the acting out behaviors of stealing, doing drugs, drinking, and skipping school," says Melody Brooke, MA, LPC, LMFT, author of Oh WOW This Changes Everything.
Brooke says that kids who act out are really looking for attention.
"I worked with teens for many years as a therapist and found that when kids act up in those "typical" teen age ways, they are attempts for someone to pay attention to the pain they are in and get them some help. It was true for me and every child I worked with in residential and inpatient treatment," said Brooke.
And knowing what it feels like can help you really relate to your children in a way your own parents didn't.
"My younger son thinks deeply, and that bugs the heck out of him, since he can't let go of disturbing thoughts, which used to plague me as an adolescent. I love that he uses his mind and emphasize with how much it bothers him, and I love that I can help him work through it, as opposed to my parents who told me to stop obsessing, what's your problem," says mom and humor writer Lauren Mayer of Psycho Super Mom (http://psychosupermom.blogspot.com).
Best of both
For some parents, they find that children pick up the best aspects of both parents personalities ... and even a few traits of their own.
"My 20-year-old daughter ended up with all my good qualities (smart, warm, enthusiastic, creative) and some others (like common sense!) that I still haven't mastered. She also has my husband's strengths (responsible, intellectually curious). We always treated her like her own person, not a hand-me-down version of us; I think that's why she didn't feel the need to reject anything we gave her," said speaker coach Jazra Kaye.
If you are expecting now, you have plenty of time to feel your way through parenting. Approach each day as a new chance to impact a positive, happy experience on your child. Love them, hug them and remind them how much you care about them from day one.