“I’m not ready to be a parent.”
“I don’t want to be a parent yet.”
“I wonder if I will be a good parent…”
These are perhaps the first thoughts that most people have when contemplating the possibility of becoming a parent. These are usually fleeting thoughts that never take serious root until we find ourselves in a very serious relationship or we discover that we are going to be a parent whether we like it or not.
There is a popular misconception in our society that people do not need preparation and training in order to become good parents. The idea that we can be good parents just because we can reproduce does little to guarantee any kind of successful parenting. But this idea, nonetheless, is well-ingrained in our collective psyche.
It is unfortunate that most people do not really prepare themselves to be parents. My experience in the field of social services for 25+ years has taught me that good parenting happens when the following four criteria are fulfilled:
- A person recognizes and admits to themselves that they are ill-prepared to parent and do not have all of the answers.
- That same person is willing to seek help in purging the personal issues they may have (anger problems, chemical dependencies, past physical or emotional abuse, abandonment, etc.)
- He or she personally prepares themselves to be a parent through classes or some form of parent training.
- He or she places parenting and its many facets above all of their other goals and objectives. In other words, parenting and their children come first.
Most of us can readily accept that we don’t have all of the answers when it comes to parenting. But very few of us really act on this knowledge. We get busy with our careers and tell ourselves that we really don’t need help. This might be true. We may be able to make our way through the parenting maze without damaging our children in the process, if we’re lucky.
Others of us have come from backgrounds that were not very good. We were the subjects of bad parenting. Our parents may have been alcoholics, addicts, abusers, or just plain neglectful. In the majority of cases, we will repeat this process of bad parenting if we do not seek help in dealing with our internal issues. There is a cycle of bad parenting that is passed from generation to generation unless there is some form of intervention to stop it. Seeking help for our issues of neglect, abandonment, abuse or whatever will greatly influence whether this cycle of bad parenting will end with us.
Additionally, most of us do need some form of parent education classes or training in order to be good parents. Just as a person will go to college to get the knowledge and training necessary to be an teacher or a doctor, so to should we seek the knowledge and training to be good parents. We should be informed about the developmental process, about what to look for, what to do and what to promote in each stage so as to help our children be the best that they can be.
How many of us can honestly say that we will put parenting our children above all of our goals and objectives? Will we allow our careers to get in the way? Will we allow ourselves to become involved in an extra-marital affair that could ruin the family? Will we put away our selfish desires and place our children first?
Many of us will turn out to be average parents at best. And we are to blame if we settle for being average parents. Each of us should have the desire to be the best parent that we can be.
We need to be able to give up some of our pride and admit that we don’t know all that we need to know to be the best parent for our children.
We should do all that we can to get the necessary preparation for parenthood.
We should take the time and personal energy to deal with any personal issues that we may have as a result of our parents. If we don’t take this step, then we are likely to repeat our parents’ offenses.
We should be willing to place our children and our responsibility as their parent above all else in our lives.
I believe that our children are a gift from God and that they deserve our very best. They deserve all that we, as parents, have to give. Why not give them our very best?