I can remember growing up in the 1950’s and 60’s. It was a different time then. Family meant everything. Not just the nuclear family which consisted of my mother, father, sister and brothers, but the extended family as well. My aunts and uncles, grandparents and cousins three deep from both sides. They were all instrumental in my development. Even dear friends of the family were significant influences.
Family gatherings were especially memorable. Each Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day, we would gather for a picnic. Fried chicken, barbeque, potato salad, melon and German chocolate cake abounded as did the debates and endless discussions between my father the instigator and other family and friends.
Each Thanksgiving we assembled to give thanks and to eat turkey, dressing and deserts of all types, shapes and sizes. My grandmother made the best homemade rolls the world has ever seen. Cut open and slathered with butter (not margarine) and grape jelly her rolls were a meal unto themselves. Christmas morning we would wake, assuming we could sleep at all and run for the presents under tree. They didn’t last more than a few weeks. But it hardly mattered.
We didn’t have a lot of money and none were perfect. My father was brilliant but so self centered as to have little or no use for personal discipline. Many were the times he erred in judgment. We also had our share of relatives with emotional, financial and chemical abuse issues. One uncle in particular stands out having lost his battle with the bottle.
But despite our many faults and shortcomings or maybe because of them, my siblings and I, as well as all the other children in the extended family were well loved and well protected. In a world where too many parents are not parenting their children Blackacre humbly offers the following rules for raising Johnny.
Rule# 1: Love your children. Love is so much more than what you say, exceeds mere feelings and is far greater than an emotion. It is therefore not enough to tell your children that you love them although the song “Never Too Much” by Luther Vandross quickly comes to mind. Love is what you do, love is action, love is conduct. Thus, while saying I love you is great, you must demonstrate to your children in real, material and measurable ways that you cherish them.
Rule # 2: Raise your children. There is a real and material difference between loving a child and raising one. To many parents, both male and female confuse the two. Consequently, their offspring end up coddled, immature and irresponsible.
To be a parent is to be a teacher, a mentor, a taskmaster and at times a drill sergeant. A parents must teach their children right from wrong, mentor them as to what it means to be a real man or woman, train them in the social graces, instruct them to be responsible and respectful of themselves and others, inspire them to grow and learn, show them the power of love, charity and kindness and instill within them an appreciation of the arts and beauty.
Equally as important, parents must inform their children that life is neither fair nor easy. Children must be taught how to handle the cruel vicissitudes and disappointments they will surely encounter. They must be instructed to be nobodies fool and they must be taught how to fight the bullies and thugs who would attempt to misuse and abuse them. Finally, parents must persuade their children that no matter how badly it gets or how far they might fall, that they must never, ever, ever give up.
Rule # 3: Hold your children accountable. Give them rules to follow and make sure thy follow them. Don’t let them stay out late a night, smoke and swear or hang out with the wrong crowd. Give them chores and demand that they accomplish them. Praise them when appropriate and punish them when necessary. And always remember that you are their parent not their friend.
Rule # 4: Protect your children. Shield them from harm from both within and without, from themselves and from others.
Rule # 5: Demand excellence and success of your children. Let them know that you value education and that you expect them to earn good grades in school. Let them know in no uncertain terms that mediocrity is never acceptable.
Rule # 6: Be an example to your children. Like love, it is not enough to merely tell them what to do. Children are very observant. Even when they are not looking, they are watching you and they emulate your actions. Parents must therefore demonstrate by their own conduct how they want their children to think and behave.
It is therefore vital that children see their caregivers get up and go to work every day. It is equally important that they see their parents support and respect one another. It is even more crucial that they see their mother and father persevere and excel.
One of my proudest moments as a parent occurred when my son participated in a grade school function. He dressed in his little suit, dress shoes and tie for the occasion hoping to make a favorable impression. All of nine years old, he looked in the mirror, straightened his tie and proudly proclaimed “now I look like a real man.”
My son acquired this sense of dress and appearance from his father who went to work in a suit and tie every single day. I realize that some work does not require dress attire. The salient point is not a question of wardrobe. The point is instead that parents must not only set but must model the proper example for their children.
Rule # 7: Make the raising of children the number one priority. In the final analysis family is not about the adults in the household. Family is instead about the children. As such, parents have a fiduciary responsibility to always act in the best interest of the child even when doing so conflict with their best interest.
These solemn responsibilities can not be abdicated to others, not the government, not the schools, not the grandparents, not the boys or girls club and most certainly, not the police. Thus, the raising of one’s children into responsible, self sufficient adults is not only the parent’s primary responsibility it may well be their only responsibility.
As always, your comments are appreciated.
Submitted by Leo baron Hicks, Founder and CEO of the Blackacre Policy Forum, LLC