In today’s guest blog, Cape Kid and kidkind foundation Hero Award Winner Frank Piacenti reflects on the way his parents raised him, identifying what most powerfully shaped who he is today. We are thrilled to share this wise young man’s perspective on parenting – it’s sure to make you stop and think.
It’s hard being a kid today. Without much experience in the world, it’s easy to feel lost or overwhelmed with all the stress put on a child’s plate. Between the spheres of academics, home, extracurricular activities and social life, kids can often lose sight of what is really important. Unsurprisingly, this can lead to some negative side effects: bullying, unkindness, or even just the simple inability to discern right and wrong. What’s worse, these issues have only been magnified by social media, a growing outlet for our children to virtually interact with each other in today’s evolving world. Now, I’m not a parent quite yet, but I can imagine that most must stop and think once in a while, “Am I doing a good job parenting my child? Have I raised them to understand how to handle and deal with these problems?” This question is probably as daunting and stressful for parents as it seems.
To be clear, I do not think that children who may struggle with these problems are bad kids, nor do I think their parents have raised them incorrectly. Through my experience with my own parents, I’ve come to realize that parenting is much more of a give and take. If parents do what is right themselves and love their child as best as they can, then most often their child will never need to worry about such issues in their lives.
I grew up in a loving household. My parents were strict on grades and required that we were home for dinner most school nights. They would never hesitate to read a book or watch a movie with my sister or me when we were younger. Sure, they maintained order (I wasn’t even allowed to walk to a friend’s house down the street until I was 11), but I never held it against them; I always knew they just wanted what was best for me. They were strict but fair, teasing but loving. Most of all, they led by example; they did what was right, no matter what the cost. It wasn’t always perfect; nobody’s childhood is. We had some disagreements along the way, and sometimes I strayed from what they taught me. After a while, though, I would always find the path again, often with a little push from my mom or dad. A couple years and two more siblings later, I’m out of the house and on my own adventure now, always looking back to the basics they taught me. Ironically enough, I’m not sure they realized just how much I was learning from them. The interaction was enough; I followed their examples and continue to today.
My advice to parents, from the humble mouth of a childless college freshman, is this: Do what you think is right. Show your kids you will do what is right, no matter the cost. In the long run, setting that example will be the most effective tactic in encouraging your child to do the same. Remember the process is a give and take. A parent can’t just say how important it is to be kind and then yell at co-workers on the phone. Children learn much more from example than from preaching — they’re excellent imitators. My 8-year-old sister, who loves to rant about politics (just like my dad), is my favorite example of that. She’s learning just as I did, and all other children do. I can imagine she’ll succumb to some of the traps the world offers along the way, but I’m sure if she follows the example of my parents as I did, she’ll learn to overcome those obstacles by always and unquestioningly doing what is right.