Family is your foundation
By Joe Scarlett
Our life is shaped by family influences: First by parents and siblings. Then by relatives and our friends’ families. We grow with our nuclear family. Then we move on as independent human beings. Some of us begin our own families. And the cycle continues.
As adults, successfully rearing children becomes our most important responsibility. We begin caring for infants and then watch these little ones turn into real people who can talk, learn amazing things and, of course, get into some mischief.
As parents we do everything we can to put our children on a path to become successful. With most of the human brain formation occurring in the first five years of life, our nurturing, communicating and teaching are critical for young children. As our children move through school, constructive parental coaching and counseling are also vital to continuing academic growth.
Tips for engagement in early childhood & school
Read your child at an early age. This is a proven component of strong early childhood development.
Become a partner in education. Visit the schools your children attend, meet their teachers and volunteer where you can.
Set aside homework time. But remember to help where you are really needed without being a crutch.
Set boundaries. For example, be sure cell phones are put away during homework, dinner and important conversations.
Don’t criticize. Find the balance between getting involved in your children’s daily lives without outwardly judging them about every move they make.
Model the behavior you expect. Young people are always observing our actions. If we use bad language they will simply repeat those same words — and often when we least expect it. If we scream at our spouse regularly or throw things in anger, children see this as normal. And they won’t hesitate to do the same.
Build mutual respect. This is an essential building block of solid family relationships. If we are polite our children will follow suit. Set the right tone for your family, whether that means teaching your kids to say “Yes, Mam,” or encouraging them to look people in the eye.
Create some constants. You can help build values and character by regular attendance at church and enrolling your children in Sunday school. Family dinners can also build strong bonds. One of my fondest childhood memories were from engaging and educational conversations around the dinner table each night.
Navigating the teen years
No doubt, some of the most difficult times are when our children become teenagers. They now “know it all” and we are not as smart as we used to be. Try to listen, be supportive and have good conversations about what they want to discuss. Follow my three Ps: Don’t pry. Be patient. And persevere. If you have been good parents for the first 13 years, your kids will turn out just fine.
Parents should also help young adults think seriously about their futures. Find ways to expose your teen to a variety of careers. For example, many organizations host student tours. When your children make a career suggestion, help them investigate it online. Show your interest.
“Follow your dreams” is timeless advice. But those dreams can come crashing down if a career isn’t practical or doesn’t pay enough to live in the real world. Be realistic in your vocation advice. For example, if your child wants to be a professional athlete explain that the odds of making it to the big leagues are very small. Help your young athlete focus on a solid backup career.
Stay engaged — no matter your family circumstances
In this day and age, broken families and single-parent households can make building a strong foundation a great challenge. If you are in this situation, don’t give up. Do your very best to develop the strongest relationships you can. Take the leadership role in the family. Don’t let circumstances slow you down.
While it’s tough in our modern, busy lives, there’s no substitute for spending quality time with your family. Try scheduling simple family events — a dinner out, a visit to the park or a movie — to keep it a priority. From time to time, put a weekend trip on the calendar. To get everyone onboard, engage the whole family in the planning process.
Bigger adventures can also make for meaningful family memories. For example, when my son was young we went to a major league baseball game every summer for 15 years. Likewise, my wife and daughter built the strongest of relationships on several trips to big cities. They were fabulous bonding and teaching times.
Whether it’s a big trip or a little hug, spending time with family and demonstrating love is important to overall happiness. Family will always be your foundation.
Joe Scarlett is the retired CEO of Tractor Supply Company
For more on leadership see joescarlett.com
Or write Joe at Joe@joescarlett.com