The most important thing you'll ever do

Have you ever looked back over your life and wondered what you’d achieved?

Or, if you’re young, looked ahead to what you might accomplish? What would you examine? The money you’ve made; the jobs you’d done? Would you think about your friends and family and the love you have for them?

I propose that the very most important thing that anyone does in life is to parent their children.

When we think about that parenting, we often think of those worrisome teen years and all the decisions about what to allow and what limits to set. Or, we might remember the trips, the family dinners, the fun playing with our ‘tweens’. Yet, research shows us that one of the most critical times for child rearing is from birth to school age.

Those little brains are learning every moment who they are and how they should think and act.

They are learning to speak an entire language, finding out how to move and explore, and discovering the world. They are realizing that there are rules to how the world works and how people interact. But most importantly, they are learning who they are and how to think of themselves.

And you, their parents, are the person who sets the stage. You let them know who they are.

You decide what experiences they will have, create the references for what life is and who they are. Your reactions teach them what to believe about themselves. In no other setting will you ever have that much power. And only you can decide how to use that power.

No one has ever created a manual for each individual child (wouldn’t that be wonderful). And no one seems to agree on just the right way to raise children. But there are a few things that will make a difference, no matter what way you choose.

First, read to them. It sounds simple, yes. But it can make more difference than you could ever imagine. Research shows us that children who have been read to daily prior to starting school have much better rates of success than those who don’t. And such a simple way to make your children more successful.

Ten minutes or more a day, starting when they are tiny, will make more difference than you could ever imagine.

The second technique is to monitor your own temper. Children whose parents are calmer and manage their own anger will grow to be more successful adults. While this sounds simple, it really isn’t for many people—especially for those who aren’t used to dealing with small children who come into this world impulsive and needy.

If this is a challenge for you, there is a lot of help available out there.

Stop by the KIDS Hub, next time you’re in Meijer’s, for resources that will help you find the support you need, and help you learn to set realistic limits in a calm, reasonable way.

Of course, the best way to raise healthy, happy children is to hold your love for them close to your heart, and find ways, every day, to let them know how much you care.

This column was

submitted by the Great Start

Collaborative.