There are two important principles that parents by example usually teach their children when they are young – trust and respect. Children are taught that they must trust their parents and respect the decisions that they make on their behalf. These principles become the foundation for future parenting when those children grow up and begin their own families. I am amazed as I listen to my own children who are now grown and married with children of their own when they are explaining to my grandchildren these values of trust and respect. It is reassuring to know that my instructions and discipline did not fall on deaf ears, but that gentle, caring coaching actually worked.
When my children were very young, my goal as a parent was to reinforce and foster their independence and sense of self-reliance by assigning meaningful and measurable responsibility. I knew that I would not always be around to tell them what to do or how to do it, so they needed to be able to figure out some of life’s challenges for themselves. They didn’t always do things the way I preferred, but at least they did the best they could. I preached to them that the most important thing was to “always do your best because that is all anyone can do, and that is enough.” As they have matured, they are now sharing this same concept with my grandchildren.
I remember learning this Bible verse when I was a teenager: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6. Because parenting is such a big responsibility, it is also one of the most difficult experiences in life. When children grow up into adulthood and begin to experience life for themselves, there is less coaching and guidance for parents to share. Still, it is gratifying to hear your son or daughter ask you for advice or seek your counsel when they are feeling challenged. As I approach the second half of my life, I no longer take for granted their need for my attention. I am happy to listen to their stories, and enjoy hearing about their parenting frustrations and praise reports with their own children.
When it is time for me to leave this earth, I have the assurance of knowing my adult children will be OK and that those principles of trust and respect are the legacy that I leave behind. When I can no longer make important decisions for myself, at least I know that my children will honor my wishes and will do the right thing on my behalf, because our bond of trust and respect has been based on solid, open communication as well as kindness and caring.
Marti Lindell is an advocate for Seniors Aging in
Place and connects seniors to the services they need to
live independently in their own homes for as long as
possible. Contact her at 317-797-9598 or by email at: