--Original published at Rachel Bickelman's PSY 105 Blog
There are the stereotypes of parents ranging from tiger moms to helicopter parents and these forms of parenting are often viewed as overbearing and unhealthy for both children and their relationship to their parents. Though I do not believe there is a generalized “best” way to parents, as children are unique individuals and thus need their needs met in different ways, there do exist bad methods of parenting. I will discuss what I think is the ideal way to raise children.
In order to raise a child to grow up happy, healthy and a productive citizen, it is important to foster a trusting environment of love, care, acceptance, understanding, and encouragement. The first year of life is extremely formative and influential on physical development (i.e. motor skills), emotional health and even mental health. I know this because when we began to foster my (now adopted) younger brother, he was only 18 months old but had developed severe mental illnesses due to a lack of psychical, mental and emotional support in his first year of life. Since the foundation for the three main categories of health are heavily established during the first year of life I would ensure all these needs are met to their maximum potential. To do so, I would provide the infant with plenty of safe stimulation in all forms of their senses, sight, sound, touch, and taste to develop each aspect of their health. I think love and acceptance is important to teach too, thus I would exemplify this behavior as early as possible. Finally, teaching the infant that the parent will be a constant figure of love and support will carry over through life.
Though I believe children should be able to pursue their own interests I also think boundaries need to be established, such boundaries are in place to keep the child safe but allow them to explore their passions. These boundaries would be loose though and discussed with the child so they do not feel that the parent is a dominant figure to facilitate a system of open communication. Thus, the child would understand why the boundaries were in place. I think its important to have boundaries so that the child will learn how to be safe and moral and ethics but including open communication allows the child to form their own thoughts, discuss, and understand that these rules and boundaries are in place to keep them safe and healthy. Rather than forcing a child to finish their vegetables, explaining to them why they must eat healthy and its importance rather than a harsh command with no explanation. Parents should have their child’s best interest at heart and the child should know this. Of course, there must be rules intact but teaching the child the logic behind them rather than pressuring them to follow rules without explanation is important and I believe it would help them to develop curiosity and their process of thinking. By building a foundation of expectation through open boundaries, meaning children would learn right and wrong and understand why, would help them in the future to make choices they believe are just or right.
Communication is key in mental and emotional health and facilitating a relationship between parent and child will allow the child to share their feelings and avoid feelings of alienation, subordination, or intimidation of the parent. Through honest communication, encouragement, and a relationship built on a foundation of love and acceptance, I believe a child would grow up happy and healthy. Open and honest communication also means that the parent and child would be frequently interacting thus helping the child’s social skills and strengthen their familial bond. This way, the parents know their child, their personality and know how to best be trusting and supportive of them and vice versa.
Balance between physical, emotional, and mental health through a system of communication and love are important aspects I believe are necessary for children to grow up happy, healthy and productive citizens of society. Curiosity and exploration through open boundaries and the understanding of right and wrong are also important. Facilitating open communication and simply knowing that the parent will be a constant figure of support and love for the child’s endeavors is what I believe would result in a happy and healthy child.