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Owen Coughlin Jr.
Owen Coughlin Jr.
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You Can Only Control So Much

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Though I have yet to fill their shoes, it seems to me that summer must be a stressful time for a parent of young children. School is out for the summer, the kids are prowling around the house and yard like wild animals, and until they become teenagers, telling them to get out and get a job is both unethical and illegal. With their own life to lead, their own profession to manage, and a declining energy level dwarfed by their children’s, how is a parent supposed to keep up with their kids all season and assure their safety?

In her July 2010 article for stltoday.com, Aisha Sultan addressed the issue of keeping children out of the hospital during the summer and outlined the five most common summer injuries they suffer and how to avoid them. The top five causes of injury? Falls, bicycle accidents, motor vehicle accidents, burns, and drowning. Predictably, Sultan cited parental vigilance as the best way to deter their occurrence, but the fact is, parents cannot always be there.

Bottom line: kids are going to be kids. For the thrill of it, they’re going to attempt to do things they shouldn’t do, they’re going to make mistakes, and they’re going to disregard their parents’ advice on a regular basis. There’s always the chance that I’m a unique case, but I can honestly say that, as a kid, going out of my way to do things my parents explicitly directed me not to do was something of a pastime, just as it was for my friends. This isn’t to say that we were bad kids. We were just young, ignorant, and in search of excitement. Though I did a lot of stupid things (and still do), I’ve reached age 21 with all of my limbs and most of my teeth intact. For this, I thank my parents’ guidance.

While considering this topic, one of my father’s favorite lines comes to mind: “You buy them books, you send ‘em to school, and they eat the erasers.” To me, this seems a perfect description of parenting. You can tell your kids what to do and how to act, but at the end of the day, they’re going to do as they please. So, offer them the best advice and direction you can, keep an eye out when possible, and set the best example possible.

Teach your kids how to ride a bike and drive a car while doing your best to explain the rules of the road; send them to swimming lessons when they’re young and work with them on their technique; show them YouTube videos of lunatics accidentally blowing off their hands with firecrackers. And when they leave the house to go out gallivanting with their friends, hope that they remember these things.

While I realize that no parent wants advice on how to raise children from a college student, being fresh from my own childhood, I can tell you that trying to exert too much control over their lives is only going to push them away from you and what you want them to do. Instead, guide them to the best of your ability and be there to help them learn and recover when they fall or make a mistake.