Parenting is a complicated task, it seems. Go to any bookstore and you'll find yards and yards of "how to" titles, dealing with children of every age from in the womb to out on their own. There are systems and methods to fit every sort of parenting style, and it can all get very confusing.
But so much of parenting comes down to teaching. We are our children's first and more important teachers. The lessons we impart last a lifetime, and many can be taught by no one else. So, it may be worthwhile to spend some time thinking about what we need to teach.
Teach them to know us. I place this first, because even before a baby realizes that they are separate from their mother, they are beginning a relationship. They need to know who we are, and what they can expect from us. This means that we as parents need to give our children a firm sense of boundaries and limits. When this is done combined with love and nurturing, children thrive. They know what to do to please us, what to do if they want to rebel, and what lies in between. From this knowledge comes security, and it is the firm ground they need to in order to learn about themselves.
Teach them to know themselves. Every child is unique, with their own talents and abilities, and one of the joys (and irritations sometimes) of parenting is to learn about these from our children. We may have hopes and expectations, and they may meet them, or surprise us. Children can be a wonderful opportunity to learn about many interests which would ordinarily not be part of our lives. In our home, we have learned about cooking, drama, radio, rock bands, trains, surfboards, bicycles, electronics, art and any number of other subjects, and all this from only two children. A part of our job as parents is to learn each child's strengths and weaknesses, and to help them grow and develop within and beyond those. There is no blueprint for this.
Teach them to know others. We all live with other people, and the mark of a successful mature individual is the ability to co-exist and develop meaningful relationships with others. As important as our own needs feel to us, the needs of others must matter too. Striking a balance between these is a learned skill, and the learning begins very young. Toddlers and preschoolers learn to share, grade-schoolers how to settle conflicts. Teens have to navigate the beginnings of how to stand on their own and yet learn eventually to pick a mate. To accomplish all of this is no small task, and it requires a sense of loving appreciation of the strengths and weaknesses of others, and the ability to accept within limits the range of behavior that others can exhibit.
Teach them to know God. Every family has their own heritage in terms of religious belief and practice. Some may not have much sense of connection with God, or may not feel that their values stem from any particular religion. I'd like to suggest that, as we examine what it is that we want to teach our children, we also ask ourselves, "Where does this particular value come from?" "How will I answer my child's question of, 'Why is this so?'" There are lots of values and "rules for living" that are easy to explain and easy to live by. But when we get to the harder questions, the ones that make us feel like seeking easier, more comfortable answers - these are the times when it is very important to have a sense of why we believe what we believe.