Parents today have so many pressing calls on their attention that it can be crucial to remind ourselves exactly what we are about. As in any other enterprise, and this is the most important one, the clearer we are about our basic tasks the more successful we will be.

As parents, we do not have a clod of dirt on our hands that we must mold into a decent human being. Instead we have a human spirit determined to grow and manifest her or his greatness. Our task is to create a healthy environment where this can take place.

Because of our superior age, knowledge, and experience, we can create that healthy environment as long as we are not distracted by an endless array of other “shoulds.” Like a bigger house, more cars, a better school, a more up-to-date phone, a better position on the team, a better job or income for the bread-winner, and so on. Not that these aren’t important, they just need to be held in their proper place of priority.

So what is a healthy environment for our child? Let’s take the school-age child, for example. She or he needs exactly what we want too for ourselves: the freedom to do meaningful work, to get the rest and relaxation we need, and to have the place and time to play and have fun.

If we keep these priorities in mind, scheduling becomes easier, setting reasonable rules becomes easier, and encouraging contribution to the chores of a home also becomes an integral part of family life.

But we, as the parents, must understand that we are the rule-makers in our own home. Too many parents today assume they are supporting their children by letting them have absolute freedom. If this worked, nature would not have put us in change for 10 to 20 years, depending on your culture.

To give just one example of a need for parental limits, a recent study, which included thousands of people around the world, demonstrated that when you go to bed is much more important for getting the rest you need, than what time you get up.

For parents that means setting a bedtime which is 8 to 9 hours before the child must get up, and this is up to you.

When I was a child, my pre-school teacher asked my mother why I was so easy-going and never got cranky in school. Mom told her that she didn’t really know, but that we were sent outside to play every afternoon for a couple of hours and were tucked into bed at 8 every night.

Today, parents must shut off video games, smart phones, and initiate a real conversation eye to eye to create a healthy environment for proper sleep. But it is worth it.

I had many family counseling clients who were amazed that parenting issues like bad attitude, poor school performance, and “laziness” were often completely eliminated by seeing that the child had enough sleep.

In my book The Seven Secrets of Successful Parents, you can find the other eleven basic needs of children, besides good sleep.

As many have said before, freedom must be coupled with discipline. But not discipline of the children so much as self-discipline of the parents. Set a good example in your own life, be gentle but consistent and persistent, make a healthy environment a given in your home, and parenting will be a whole lot easier.

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