How to be a Supportive Parent

Support is a gift, wrapped in unconditional love and undivided attention, slowly opened one day at a time.  With the gift of support from a parent, a child will grow straight and strong, able to withstand the gale force winds that inevitably come before a calm, sunny morning.

“The first duty of love is to listen.” -Paul Tillich.    Listening is a solid first step toward being supportive.  Small children talk incessantly and parents adapt to the onslaught by tuning out.  Is it any wonder teenagers clam up?  Through observation and experience they have learned that parents are too busy to listen to fears, hopes, dreams or what Sponge Bob said to Patrick.  An attribute of a supportive parent is caring enough to listen, and listen, and listen….

“Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.” -C.S. Lewis  Since failure cannot be avoided it should be embraced head on as a life skill to be mastered, not unlike math or reading.  Life’s first failures are embarrassing and frustrating but with proper guidance they can be viewed as a call for redoubling one’s efforts or a warning to change paths.  When not properly supported, failure erodes self-worth and confidence like acid on skin; it teaches nothing but is excruciatingly painful and leaves lifelong scarring. 

“Do the thing we fear, and the death of fear is certain.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson    Fear murders more hopes, dreams and desires than death could ever hope to.  It is easily recognized by such comments as, “I can’t… it’s too hard… I’m not good enough”.  Fear is natural and necessary but it is during these times of natural fear that children need someone to believe in them more than they are able to believe in themselves.  That is the job of a supportive parent.  It is essential that parents do not allow a child to quit on themselves.  Encourage them, chastise them, give a hug here, a kick in the butt there, put them on the beach and burn the ships.  Do whatever it takes to get them through the fear but do not allow children to give up or not try, simply because they are afraid.

“Hide not your talents, they for use were made.  What’s a sundial in the shade?” -Benjamin Franklin    Children often have nasty habits of being bossy, stubborn, manipulative, or noisy.  However, a supportive parent does not dole out punishment for such behavior.  They merely turn to a friend and comment on what excellent potential the child has to be a CEO, politician, attorney or musician!  Children are born with natural gifts that if recognized and encouraged, convert from being the annoying traits of today’s childhood into tomorrow’s successful adulthood.

Providing much needed support to children really isn’t difficult.  Listening, teaching a child to persevere after a failure or stand up in the face of their fears only takes a moment.  Support is a pure and simple gift that should be given generously, every day.