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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Fun And Parenting

Not An Oxymoron
By Silvia Uribe

While having breakfast and overlooking the peaceful blue Santa Barbara Ocean, my friend Samantha and I were talking about how much fun being a parent could be! Chatting under the shade on yet another glorious day at the California central coast, we agreed that it all depends on whether we set clear rules, expectations, and boundaries for our children.

It may sound a little too confining, but out in the world, children will have to play by the rules that the school, or the workplace (depending on their age) imposes. So, setting clear rules since the time they're little, not only benefits them and prepares them to be functional in the future, but it makes our job as parents way easier. Rules teach them discipline, and discipline is the ingredient that they will use to make magic happen for themselves time after time.

They need discipline for studying, for working, and also for socializing. No one really wants to hang out with an obnoxious person who doesn't know how to comply with the basic rules of society. When teaching discipline, we should be able to convey that honest mistakes are acceptable to give them balance. When we tell our children to apply themselves, pursue their dreams, and never give up, we're giving them the perfect recipe for discipline and persistence, mixed with a pinch of encouragement.

But beware! If we want them to learn discipline it is we who first need to be disciplined and consistent as we are raising them. Remember, our children's job is to grow up, play, and test the limits. Our task as parents becomes particularly more complex in their pre-teenage and teenage years, when they feel they're all grown up, when they have a know-it-all attitude, and when they want to fit in their group by conforming to "everything" that the group says and wants.

Many parents fear these years. However, my friend and I agreed that these are precisely the years that are most fun of all. Trust me, there's nothing to fear; we just need to stop treating our children as three year olds in teenager bodies. It is then when we need to raise the bar and expect more from them. Of course, they will challenge us, but the thing is, they will need us more than ever! You know, a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen and a mouth that won't repeat their secrets. If we've done a good job previously, they will only need firm reminders of how things should be, of what's expected of them, and about the fact that we trust them to do what's right.

What they need from us is emotional support through this difficult stage in which they feel insecure, weak, unloved, unaccepted, and curious about e-very-thing! Our job is to help them become stronger. This is the perfect time to be the strong and loving parent figure (not another friend), and at the same time, build the kind of trust that lasts forever! Plus, it is truly enjoyable to witness their blossoming process.

It is not uncommon for Latino children to live at their parents' home after they become adults. But today, with our country's difficult financial situation, this has become a general trend, it seems. Unfortunately, I've seen friends that do not establish clear boundaries and acceptable behaviors for their adult children when they move back in, and of course, disaster happens! This situation frequently nests abusive behaviors on the children's part, and an uncomfortable environment for the parents.

If it is true that the words fun and parenting together are not an oxymoron, they are not synonyms either. We all know this! The parenting path sometimes looks long, at times lonely, and frequently, too complicated. But those of us who have raised children know what a joy it is, in the end, to see them become the best they can be. It is then when you will look back and laugh at the tears you cried, and at the battles you fought, like Samantha and I laughed. Then you'll see with satisfaction that it was fun and worth it.

Here's our wisdom capsule: if you have young children, make them your number one priority and devote to them all the time they need (no excuses). Enjoy each and every step of your way; celebrate the ups and learn from the downs. Teach them to be disciplined, and respectful of themselves, you and others, and show them that they can trust you. Be consistent with your rules, and don't be petty in demonstrating them your love. Children who grow up with love cannot turn out to be bad human beings.

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latino perspective.

Cross-posted at

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