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Responsible Parenting

Bill Button


Bill Button, father of six, grandfather of more than twenty, and now a great-grandfather, is currently 83 years young. He’s been a school teacher, product designer and lifelong thinker and philosopher. Now Bill enjoys writing down his thoughts and advice for young people.

In my second year of teaching a 6th grade class of about 30 children in a suburban public school I had an experience I have never forgotten.

A couple came into my classroom with their son Rodney who was new in my class. We introduced ourselves.  Then the father said to me, “Mr. Button, if Rodney ever causes you any trouble, let me know about it and I will take care of it.” I glanced at Rodney for a moment and thanked his father. Rodney was a lively boy with a twinkle in his eye. But, with that kind of parental support I never had the least disturbance from him.  If Rodney was not paying attention, all I had to do was catch his eye or quietly say, “Rodney,” and there was no further problem.

How many of us take the responsibility of fatherhood as seriously as that father did with his quiet firmness and authority? How many of us let our children know that the teacher is there in place of their parents, and that we back the teacher up 100%. The child should regard the teacher with the same respect and obedience given to the parents. If a child does not love, respect, and obey his or her parents, then a teacher has a really difficult problem. The teacher must try to do the job the parents should have done: win the trust and respect which the parents ought to demand and deserve.

It takes a real man to be a responsible and committed husband and father. Raising children is a lifetime work of love and dedication. You don’t need to be perfect. You only need to really care, be willing to listen to others and to learn by your mistakes. Being a responsible husband and father is the most important work a man can do. Remember, any jackass can beget its own kind. But it takes a real man who cares and has self-discipline to be a husband and father.

Parental authority is established in early childhood by giving the child consequences if he or she does not obey. No violence can be used, only quiet unyielding firmness and positive approval of behavior we want to encourage. This is simple, but it takes time and attention.

Most of us parents do too much talking to little children, and not enough acting on it. Education is needed to develop the child’s reasoning, understanding, and consideration for others. Children must learn to listen and to respond the first time they are spoken to. One of the best examples of “real” education I have seen occurred at a large university daycare center that I visited. I noticed a group of toddlers sitting at a table eating their lunch, under the supervision of their caregiver. I remarked to the teacher that I was impressed that such young children sat so quietly in their chairs while they ate their meal. “Oh, that is easy,” she said. “It only takes them about two days to learn that when they move their chairs, they are finished eating.” That was an example of real education and real love, instead of a mushy permissiveness.

It is not easy to teach your child to trust, respect, and obey you. You must work at it from the beginning of the relationship. It is the most important thing in life that you can do for your children! You must do it quietly, firmly, and with love.

Unfortunately, being a good parent often receives little preparation or training. Most important is a foundation of love and reverence for all of God’s creation. That is the “rock” on which to build the child’s “character house”. The children of genuine parents have the best chance to grow up to be true men, women, and parents in their turn.

a father holding his young son
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