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The Path to Good Parenting

It may be simpler than you think.

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Overwhelmed by the thousands of books on raising a child, many parents have been spooked into thinking that parenting is a difficult, highly complex job requiring great amounts of intelligence and sacrifice. Actually, raising a child should be a relatively simple matter -- most of the time. Its success depends more on common sense and self-confidence than sacrifice.

Being a good parent doesn't have to be an overly time-consuming and emotionally draining experience. Instead, it's a practical process that can tolerate lots of error and still turn out well. It all comes down to understanding the following parenting "Map."

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Three Basic Elements

Once you know your function, obligation, and purpose as a parent, the way is clear.

Function, obligation, and purpose are the three fundamental elements that outline the path to good parenting. If you can understand and apply each one, you'll free yourself from many of the labors of "parenting."

Function. Your primary function as a good parent involves deciding between what your children truly need and what they only want. In other words, separating the necessary from the unnecessary.

Unfortunately, children cannot make these choices on their own. To a child, need and want feel the same. As a result, children on average probably want 10 times more attention, toys, freedom, and so on than they truly need.

First, parents must draw the line and try to draw it clearly. It isn't easy, by any means, so just use your best judgment and a healthy dose of common sense. If you're torn, it's probably better to err on the conservative side.

Obligation. Once you are used to separating wants from needs, you can work on your foremost obligation of parenthood, which is to give your children all that they truly need along with a small amount of what they want. Doing this gives children the opportunity to figure things out for themselves without any parental help.

For instance, organizing time, occupying oneself, and solving academic and social problems are all situations children need to handle, for the most part, on their own. In the process, the child learns to persevere and be resourceful, the two keys to success in any endeavor. If you give excessively to your children, they not only don't have to figure anything out by themselves, they can't. You're doing it all.

Just take a look at the number of toys that today's average child receives. Most have more than 100 by the age of 5. And yet these same children will complain of being bored. Why? Because they haven't learned how to play independently, occupy their time, or do a lot with a little.

Overall, the key to the obligation stage of parenting is a willingness to say "no" more often than "yes".

Purpose. Your purpose as a parent is simple: to slowly but surely help your children develop lives of their own.

Independence is a process, not an event that suddenly occurs. It's your job to get behind the process and nudge it along, encouraging your children to confront reality.

For instance, if your son says he can't solve a certain math problem, and needs your help, tell him that you think he can solve it. Let him give it a good try before you step in, and then do so only if he's truly stuck. Handling things this way will help him learn to stand on his own two feet.

The opportunity to figure things out, which comes by courtesy of parents who meet all of a child's needs and deny most of his or her wants, provides a child with incredible self-sufficiency. And that's the essence of self-esteem, which will lead your child to succeed where others will fail for lack of resourcefulness and purpose.

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