What number do you call when you catch your two year old son eating rocks? 911, poison control, or all of your buddies to brag about how manly your son is? These thoughts raced through my head last week as I caught Gabriel throwing back stones as if they were Tic Tacs. In fact, many questions flashed before my eyes at that moment. “How did he get out of my sight? Am I a bad father? Does mom need to find out?”
Mom did find out, and all of my questions got me thinking about an even deeper issue. How much freedom should I give my child? This question is at the heart of a lot of parenting choices. There isn’t an easy answer to this question, every child and every situation is unique, and yet it does seem that there are some guiding principles that might help us along the way. I think the solution to this problem lies in the idea that we have to be balanced parents.
When I think of how I’ll raise my son, I try to learn from my own parents. I hope to imitate what they did well and learn from what they did poorly. From good examples, and my own mistakes, here are a few things I’ve already learned:
- The first and most important thing is love. Children always have to know that they are loved, unconditionally and totally. Period. Love covers a multitude of errors, and that goes with parenting too!
- Children need rules and discipline. It’s not loving to let children physically hurt themselves, and it’s also not loving to allow children to hurt themselves by making bad decisions. Children need to be taught right from wrong and consequences to behavior when they are young, so that they can grow into mature and moral adults.
- If your child is eating rocks. Too. Much. Freedom. If there is one thing you take from this article, I hope this is it.
What about you? What lessons have you learned in parenting? Who has been an example to you?