Parenting Calls for Being Tough, But Fair

A continuation of the review of the book The Code of the West.

Parenting can at times feel like life on the frontier (although, let’s be honest here, I’ve never lived on the open range).  But, I can imagine a bit of what it may have been like: unknown dangers lurking over the next rise; moments of struggle; moments of intense pride; challenges that require all hands on deck; and times when it is unclear what needs to happen next.

Parenting is like that for me.  There is no set playbook, and as a matter of fact, I suggest tossing the playbook out the window.  It’s almost as if children read it before they get here, and make sure they throw us challenges and successes that go against everything we may have read in advance.  There is a ton of good that comes from the unknown.  The growth is unparalleled, and the times of surprise and wonder far outweigh pre-reading the script.  If there is one thing I am learning that is a constant on this parenting journey, it is that the fifth principle of the Code of the West is the one constant that keeps me firmly rooted.

Principle #5: Be Tough But Fair

Every age our daughter approaches is a new one for us.  We have never done this before, and while I remember being a kid, parenting one is very different from being one.  Add into the mix the digital age, and the landscape of parenting looks a lot different than the neighborhood my friends and I roamed.

The one principle that is a constant, however, is to be tough but fair.  The circumstances for every parent and child are unique, but being tough and fair consistently is what makes the difficult moments survivable.  I do want to touch on the word ‘tough’.  Folks will define that differently, but I don’t define tough as mean or abusive.  I define it as setting clear boundaries and expectations.  Honestly, we don’t have too many “rules” in our house, but we do expect respect and kindness.  If our daughter crosses a line in those areas, we are quick to let her know.  She doesn’t get a pass because she is tired and just had a fight with a friend (those are her go-to excuses, by the way).

Every day and every age is a new one.  What worked yesterday won’t necessarily work tomorrow, but the one principle that does work is fairness.  Children are learning the concept of social justice when they are under our care.  Social justice is built upon a bedrock of fairness, and an understanding of common humanity.  We are all in this together, and when we strip away status, money, class, race, and religion, we are all humans with hopes and dreams.

If you find yourself questioning what’s fair in any given situation, all you have to do is ask, “How would I want to be treated?”


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