Parent’s biggest responsibility is well-being of children

Published 9:09 am Saturday, September 11, 2010

Maryanne Law, Families First

QUESTION: Sometimes I get overwhelmed with my responsibility as a parent. I worry that I’ll learn something important too late.

Maryanne Law

ANSWER:  The top priority in parenting is being committed to the well-being of our children. It is really essential to be aware of our children’s development over the weeks, months and years and to intentionally think through the important issues as our children grow. Every dedicated parent experiences a sense of inadequacy along the way. It helps to regularly review some of the truths of effective parenting.

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Children ultimately make their own choices. Every child has free will. Any child may disappoint us. Caring, committed parents have children who do not comply with all of their preferences.

If you think you’ve largely failed so far, it is never too late to start doing what’s more effective. I am continually amazed at the relief older children show when parents are equipped to use newly learned, helpful relational skills. I have also seen families stabilize because grandparents have learned healthier and more productive ways to deal with feelings, boundary-setting and problem-solving,

Modeling is the bottom-line. Actions speak louder than words. Children hear what we say and believe what we do. Example is the most powerful teacher.

Parents are the first teachers, but not the only teachers. As our children grow older there will be other adults who, because of their special talents or positions of influence, will be able to break through to them with truths in ways we cannot. We are wise to encourage our children to be around other positive adults.

A nurturing family is more important than education, money or status. Adults who respect and affirm each other provide an atmosphere of security for the children growing up in their presence. Children who are secure tend to think better and make better decisions.

Children forgive and forget much more easily than parents do. If our children know our goal is to be fair and loving, our relationships will survive the inevitable parenting mistakes. It is always appropriate to re-connect with a child, saying, “It didn’t go well a little while ago. I wish we had done it differently or said it differently.”

Parenting is an example of on-the-job training. We need to pay attention, look for good role-models ourselves, value a good sense of humor and keep learning.

If you would like to talk with a parenting specialist about the challenges in raising children, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Línea de Apoyo at 877-434-9528. For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599. Check out

Maryanne Law is the executive director of the Parenting Resource Center in Austin.

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