As a Notre Dame alum, I’ve heard a lot of aphorisms from former football coach Lou Holtz. One that has stuck with me through the years and has guided my parenting is his advice to “know your mandate.”
Those three words are a touchstone for me when I’m uncertain about parenting, which is to say, pretty often. He referenced them when it came to coaching football, but in any job and especially with parenting, it is so important to be clear on what your job is.
There are some parenting mandates that apply no matter how old your child is. Chief among them are loving your child unconditionally as well as conveying and communicating that love to them.
Other mandates fall under the umbrella of parenthood as long as your offspring is a child and living under your roof include:
– Within reason, keeping the child safe;
– Encouraging healthy behaviors and choices;
– Making sure the child is educated;
– Helping kids see failure as an opportunity to learn and improve; and
– Teaching the child to be respectful, responsible, empathetic, and a generally good person.
Everyone may see their mandate somewhat differently, but in the hierarchy of needs, these are at the top for me.
Of course, there’s a long list of other things I feel are important and want to do or accomplish as a parent. But I think keeping the mandate short and sweet is important. That, however, becomes more a challenge as kids age.
Now that I have a teenager, I feel that my parenting mandates have increased and become a bit broader, including:
– Assisting kids in discovering their passions;
– Encouraging teens to challenge themselves and to take reasonable risks;
– Promoting good citizenship, both as a citizen of the country and of the world;
– Educating about the importance of asking for help;
– Teaching them to be good drivers, smart consumers, and all the other foundations needed to prepare them for the adult world;
– Helping them discover their voice and understand their strengths so that they can build on them;
– Conveying my values but encouraging them to ask questions and determine what is true for that; and
– Empowering kids to make a differenceppo and help them find ways of doing so.
As important as it is to know what your mandate as a parent is, it is also important to know what the mandate does not include.
– I am not my child’s friend;
– I am not my child’s sole entertainment committee; and
– I am not responsible for my child’s happiness.
That’s the thing about tweens and teens. They’re capable of being responsible for themselves. Whether or not they choose to be, however, is a different story.
Making good choices often leads to greater happiness. That’s a tough but hugely important lesson for kids. It’s that learning process that can be painful for all involved.
Being clear on your job and what your ultimate goals are makes it easier to stay the course. Not easy, but easier.
Knowing your mandate allows you to see how your child’s discomfort, disappointment or unhappiness fits into the larger picture.
Another reason to know your mandate is that when you do, it’s so much easier to block out all the noise, which is feels like there is an awful lot of these days. Whether it’s the media or your next door neighbor or your kid’s peers, their input isn’t important – unless it helps you meet your mandate.
The phrase “you do you” is a great one, and it’s easier to do that when you’re crystal clear on what all that encompasses.
I’d love to hear your perspective. What do you see as your mandate as a parent?
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