It was a normal day, but one that would forever change my friend's parenting. We had finished dinner, and I (Dr. Cloud) was visiting with my friend, Allison, and her husband, Bruce, when she left the dinner table to do some chores. Bruce and I continued to talk until a phone call took him away as well, so I went to see if I could lend Allison a hand.
I could hear her in their 14-year-old son Cameron's room. I walked in to a scene that jolted me. She was cheerfully putting away clothes and sports equipment and making the bed. She struck up a conversation as if things were normal: "I can't wait for you to see the pictures from our trip. It was so much—"
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"I'm cleaning up Cameron's room," she said. "What does it look like I'm doing?"
"You are what?"
"I told you. I'm cleaning up his room. Why are you looking at me like that?"
All I could do was to share with her the vision in my head. "I just feel sorry for Cameron's future wife."
Allison straightened up, froze for a moment, and then hurried from the room. I walked into the hall to see her standing there motionless. Not knowing what to say, I said nothing. After a few moments, she looked at me and said, "I've never thought about it that way."
Nor have most of us. We parent in the present without thinking about the future. We usually deal with the problems at hand. But one goal of parenting is to keep an eye on the future. We are raising our children to be responsible adults.
Parents interact with their children in a way that comes naturally to them. For example, Allison was by nature a "helper," and she gladly helped her son. Others have different parenting styles. Some, who are more laid back and uninvolved, leave their son's room alone. Those who are stricter inflict heavy punishment for a less than regulation-made bed.
Certainly, child rearing requires many different interventions. There are times for helping, for not getting involved, or for being strict. But the real issue is this: Is what you are doing being done on purpose? Or are you doing it from reasons that you do not think about, such as your own personality, childhood, need of the moment, or fears?
Remember, parenting has to do with more than the present. You are preparing your child for the future, and a person's character is one's destiny.
Learn more about how to instill the kind of character in your children that will help them lead balanced, productive, and fulfilling lives in Boundaries with Kids.