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A Child Needs A Mother And A Father

This piece originally appeared on now-defunct news and column website LezGetReal.

A child needs a mother and a father. Children with a mother and a father statistically do better in life. This is the Conservative mantra on social family issues and it is irrefutably backed up by the data. It’s completely correct, as well. However, Conservative political groups fail to point out one key piece of how they’re presenting this information: mother and father are roles, not genders…

The core of these roles are a push and a pull. They build confidence and a sense of being loved. The mother pulls the child in, nurtures, protects the child, and coddles the child. The mother says, “No, that’s dangerous.” The father pushes the child out, toughens the child up, throws it into the world. The father says, “Oh, s/he’ll be fine.” Through this constant push and pull, the child grows up feeling cared for and confident to jump into life. Two men, two women, and every pairing in the beautiful spectrum between can embody these roles, even dividing the various aspects however works for them. The roles are the key to this dynamic of parenting, not the genders of the parents.

This is not to say that a single parent (which I am) cannot successfully raise a child on their lonesome. This is not to disparage people who were raised by one parent. A model system is not an only choice. Myself, I try my best to mix both elements of push and pull and to provide an example of both types of social interaction that my child will absorb and process in his way. This is merely to point out how Social Conservatives, when they bother to actually use data, twist evidence to suit their ideology. So, the next time an ideologue tells you that a child needs a mother and father, you can simultaneously agree and disagree, pointing out that their use of the evidence is simply a shallow skimming of the truth behind the complex dynamics of effective parenting.

Parenting for the Samurai

   I enjoy reading Hagakure, The Book of the Samurai… “the hidden leaves.” I was pleased to come across this passage in a reading:

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Good Parenting: Setting An Example

   One of the most important aspects of properly raising a child is teaching by example. You can tell your children time and time again what and what not to do. You can explain the why’s and wherefores until your tongue falls out. You can punish, scold, praise and celebrate until your arms fall off. It really makes very little difference by way of teaching a lesson. What reaches your children more successfully and efficiently than anything else is example.

   Toddlers are mimics. They constantly observe us very closely then try to emulate what we do. If we typically grunt when doing a task (such as picking up an item we just dropped accidentally), the child will then begin grunting in the same scenario. Life is new to them and we are old hands at it. They look upon us as the ones who know how to do everything. So, to get a handle on this outside world, they watch us and learn.

   If you want to raise a morally solid, emotionally developed and well adjusted child, you need to be these things yourself. You must strive to be who you want your child to grow up to be. Our children are learning how to live by our example. Let’s make it a good one.

Recommended Reading

Three Simple Steps To Being A Good Parent

…or, How not to be a bad example for your children.

   As a parent, I make a lot of decisions throughout my day. Being a parent changes how you make decisions from the ground up. Where once it was okay to think of your own benefit first, it is no longer. A child is 100% dependent on you to both care for them and assist them in their development. Every decision you make, even the ones for yourself, have to include your child in your considerations. That can seem overwhelming, at first. Fear not, for there is an easy way to go about it. Here are three very simple questions to ask yourself before making your final decisions:

1. What will my child think of me down the line?
   Anyone with a teenager can attest to the power of grudges. Teens, in their rebellion, will often look for whatever they can use against their parents to get what they want. The teen years are a rough time of severe change in both their bodies and emotions. Doing one’s best to uphold a positive image in the eyes of one’s children is a big help in this arena.

2. What lessons will my decision teach to my child?
   Children are sponges and they learn far more by example then by spoken lesson. If you tell your child to conduct themselves one way and go against that in your own life, they will learn the latter. Your decisions and actions will be the real lessons they learn growing up. Before making your decision, ask yourself what your child will learn from it. If you wish to teach your child an ethic, moral or any other lesson, live by that lesson yourself.

3. How will this decision affect my child?
   Being the ultimate custodians of our children, our decisions and actions affect them directly. Before making a decision, we need to ask ourselves if the actions and outcome will either benefit, harm, or not effect our children. If the decision has no affect on your child, (ex. Should I eat turkey or ham on my sandwich for lunch?) then it is neutral and you can think only of yourself. If the outcome of your decision will harm your child in anyway, you should choose another route. If the outcome of your decision will benefit your child, you are doing the right thing. This is the most important of the three questions!

   With these three, very simple questions, you have a solid, effective means of decision-making in the way a responsible parent should. Remember: to put your wants over your child’s needs is pure selfishness. It is simply bad parenting to choose your own satisfaction over the happiness and prosperity of your child. With our society facing so many problems, we need the next generations to be as prepared as possible. This all begins at home. Good luck with your own responsible parenting.