The Architecture of Parenting

(Saw the bike parked in the street, had to take the photo! Hope the owner doesn’t mind!)

A lot of my friends ask me, “what is the best way to raise a child?” Talk about a loaded question.

And really the answer to that is that it is the wrong question to ask.

The correct question would be “What is the best way to raise MY child,” and is one that only you and mom can answer for yourselves knowing the uniqueness of your own child.

However, I believe that just like any structure you want to stand the test of time, there are a few simple guidelines that no matter who the child or the parents are, still apply.

A sort of architectural rule of thumb for good parenting:

1. Any structure that is built to last begins first with the soil, bedrock or site upon which it rests, without this nothing else will follow. Or it will sink rapidly in the future.

In parenting this is called “love.” No child stands a chance of having a good parenting experience in the absence of love. It won’t matter how many gifts they are smothered with, it won’t matter what else happens. Without love, all else will fail.

2. Next come the foundations. All great structures have a foundation that is sturdy and can weather any storm.

These begin with morals and manners. In the future if a young man proposes to marry my daughter and he won’t even open the door for her, I’ll be opening the door for him. To leave. Manners are the oil of the social machinery of society. Morals provide a compass by which one can find one’s own way no matter how lost one may get. They seem almost outmoded in today’s day and age and that is a real shame. I blame mostly the entertainment industry for that. Look at the films of the 30s and 40s. Those people had class and highlighted the importance of it.

What does the entertainment industry focus on now if anything? It has played a massive part in creating the culture of confusion we live in. And I want my daughter to be able to find her own way in it. Hence morals and manners.

Morals are especially important, because they are the difference between right and wrong in the society that one lives and partakes in. If your child doesn’t know that, he or she is liable to end up in a very bad and dark place and with hardly what one would call a life at all.

The other part of foundations is teaching your child to defend themselves. That’s right. This world gets more brutal by the decade. And no matter how much I want to be there every second to ensure my daughter will be safe, I also know that would be overprotective, suffocating and frankly, just about impossible. So if some guy is threatening her, I am going to make sure she knows how to kick him in the bejeebies. Squarely and with emphasis.

When the world pushes, you want your child to be able to push back. That way, their life isn’t a house of cards.

3. The materials for the structure itself.

This starts with teaching your child to question things and think for themselves. So much of the world is spoon-fed on predigested and spun information that the truth is very rarely something respected or looked for anymore. Teaching your child to find their own answers, to question authority, to find what is true for them…is possibly one of the greatest gifts you can give your child in this day and age when so many people accept what they hear or read as gospel or unquestionable when it is often nothing but well covered lies or information twisted to someone’s advantage.

4. The tools with which to build the structure.

In my opinion this is education. And by that I mean seeing to it that your child is well educated. The evidence of an education is always that a person can DO something. It isn’t what college they attended, it isn’t how great their grades look. It is what they can DO in life that is proof of a good education. And this starts with the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic. Without those fundamental skills, any child is liable to have a hard time living in this world. A big part of this is recognizing when they can’t learn and helping them find a solution for this, not beating their education into them.

5. Security around the site where the structure is to be built.

This is you. Being there and protecting your child during the fragile years. Providing proper nutrition, medical care, clothing and shelter at whatever level of elegance ones means provide for, but at a minimum so the child is safe and can develop properly. It does not mean being overprotective or trying to keep them in a “bubble” with no concept of how the world actually is.

Probably as important is the understanding that often your child doesn’t need whatever you may think “a mother” or “a father” should be. They just need a friend. Someone who will comfort them in times of grieving, who will encourage them in times of doubt, who will stand by their side in moments of challenge and most of all will love them for who they are all the time.

No more, no less. Be there when they need you, keep your distance when they want the space (but make sure you are still watching out for them).

This also includes being willing to let them learn from their failures. Every child wants to be a rock star or a movie star, don’t let self-doubt stop them from trying. Encourage them and foster within them two strong beliefs:  “It is better to try and fail, then to never try at all.” and “Those who dare, win.”

Be there to cushion them when they fall and teach them to stand back up on their own two feet. Be the best friend they possibly could have ever asked for.

And start early, or they won’t believe you when they get older.

And that’s it. You can’t build a child’s life for them, you can only do as much as you can so that they are in a position to build the best life possible for themselves.

How you go about doing these things in the best manner is the best way to raise YOUR child. And can only be decided by you. No book will teach you how to do it, unless you yourself write that book about your specific child.

I might think of more as I grow wiser and less clueless about being a father, but I believe these will always remain the core principles of how I go about raising MY child.

Thanks for reading. Thanks even more for writing your opinion.

Regards,

DSW

aka The Clueless Father

June 20th, 2010

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