As many of you know, I’m a fan of acronyms and acrostics because of my time in the military. Sometimes it can just be a lot easier to communicate something through a word that stands for all of the other words. Such is the case when it comes to parenting. There are so many things I have to say about good parenting, and somehow they tend to fit nicely into acrostic packaging. Today I’m going to focus on STRATEGIC Parenting, the characteristics that every great parent should have. If you don’t have these traits, aim for developing them.
Supportive – Just because you’re the parent of a child doesn’t automatically mean you’re supportive. Some of us were blessed to grow up with parents who looked out for us and encouraged us in our efforts, but there are lots of mothers and fathers who just criticize all the time, never lend a helping hand, and never utter an encouraging word. Sure, sometimes my kids have bad ideas, but they’re creative. I let them know that I appreciate how much thought they put into the idea, but direct them in how it may be better put into practice. My oldest son wants to be an inventor. I have to balance being supportive and not letting him destroy everything in the house by taking it apart. Being supportive doesn’t mean you never tell your kids hard truths either. It just means you’re not out to put them down and you’re thoughtful with your words.
Tough – Maybe you didn’t think you’d see this characteristic make the list, but it’s vital to parenting. Being tough as a parent means several things. It means not letting your kids walk all over you and being strong enough to set boundaries. It means being resilient when things don’t go the way you expected so you can set an example for your kids. It also means protecting your family and taking a hard stand against anyone or anything that could threaten them. Being tough requires mental discipline, physical stamina, and emotional stability.
Ready – The motto of the Boy Scouts of America is “Be prepared” and I share in that mentality. There are plenty of scenarios that can play out before we have children, and a ton more that can happen after we take on the role of parent. We will always fail to our highest level of preparation. That means that before we find ourselves in a predicament, we need to have already planned for such a thing to happen. When we’re unprepared we can freeze, but when we have already readied ourselves and our family, we can remain undeterred by the events of life. Nothing is really an “unforeseen circumstance,” just one we haven’t prepared for. Plan for events like natural disasters, have a bag packed and ready to go in case of evacuation, keep fresh batteries in your flashlights, always have a rally point in case of separation in public places. Plan and be ready.
Attentive – There are far too many distractions in our lives. Every few minutes, there is something that could potentially call you away from paying attention to your loved ones. But we only get so many days, so many hours, with these precious young ones. Soon they’ll be grown and gone and we’ll have missed out. They will have missed out. Kids need the attention of their parents. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ever let them go play on their own. I’m not advocating for helicopter parenting, but let’s be honest, a lot of us are a far cry from every being accused of such a thing. We’ve got to put the phones down, spend time face-to-face with our kids, and really listen to them. They crave our attention. Let’s not starve them of it. Priorities.
Tender – It may seem contradictory to list both tough and tender among the traits that parents should possess, but I assure you they’re both important. As much as we need to lay down rules and boundaries and enforce them, as much as we need to be resilient and steadfast, we also need to be caring and reassuring. Kids need discipline, but they also need to hear that we still love them after they’ve received it. They need boundaries, but they also need hugs. They need us to be leaders, but they also need us to be there to listen. No matter how hard a day we’ve had, my kids always hear that I love them before bed and get hugs. They all know that I’m available to talk about anything whenever they need me, even though I’m the same person who makes sure they follow the rules. Tough and tender parents have kids who know boundaries and know love.
Empowering – I’ve already said I don’t advocate helicopter parenting. I believe that kids need they support of their parents to really achieve. Of course, we can’t let them go do every wild thing they may want to try, but within set boundaries, we should let them be free to explore and use the talents they were born with. Some of the most successful people on this planet had parents who took a role in their dreams, encouraged them along the way, and helped them to develop their skills. We can all be that for our kids, but it’s so easy to crush their dreams because we think what they want to do is impractical, impulsive, or just foolish. We’ve got to remove our egos from the equation and look at things from a different perspective.
Generous – Don’t read this trait and think that I mean we should give our kids a ton of stuff. Not what I’m saying at all. Kids learn from watching our example, and all too often what they learn from us is how to be selfish and stingy. I love watching families who serve others together. I love when I see a kid light up at the sight of their mom or dad giving a gift to someone else or volunteering their time to help someone in need. Generous parents result in generous kids. If you want to break your kids of their selfish mindset, model generosity for them. Let them see you write a check to a charity and tell them what it’s for. Let them see you volunteer and include them. We’re all born with selfish hearts. It takes practice to become generous.
Intentional – Good parenting doesn’t just happen on its own. One thing every good parent has in common is intentionality. Every good parent tries to be one. When we’re in a constant state of reaction, we never really get to interact with our kids in the best ways. When we prioritize our family, set aside time for just them, and make it a point to really engage, everyone benefits. Everything doesn’t have to be planned out on a calendar, but we have to be proactive in parenting in order to succeed because life is full of things waiting to fill in the gaps. There’s always something we could be doing rather than being available for our family, but with intention we can make sure that no one is left behind.
Committed – One of the major problems I see today in families is lack of commitment to each other. There are so many moms and dads out there who prioritize anyone and everyone but their own household. How easy it is to say yes to things that take us away from our families, but how harmful that becomes. One little thing here, one little obligation there, and before you know it your kids won’t speak to you. Do you ever wonder how it is that some families grow so far apart? It’s not overnight. It’s small little things that chip away at their commitment to each other. Commitments are taken lightly nowadays. This isn’t true, though, in STRATEGIC Parenting.
These are not all of the traits that great parents exhibit, but they’re some of the most important ones. What do you think? Did I miss some really important ones? Am I off the mark here? Join our STRATEGIC Parenting group on Facebook and join the discussion with lots of other like-minded moms and dads.