Understanding Parental Responsibility

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Children may be a gift from God, but even gifts require work and care to preserve their usefulness, beauty or productivity. For most parents, children will be their greatest work in leaving a legacy for others to remember them by. Despite the importance of raising children, many parents don’t take their parental responsibility seriously enough, making it difficult on the child.

Ideally, both parents should assume equal responsibility in raising a child. Children need a loving mother and father who are willing to do all they can to raise them in a loving environment. Parent responsibilities actually begin when the child is conceived, as the baby will need to be taken care of for the entire pregnancy in order to grow healthy and strong. Once the child is born, parents are responsible to meet their physical, mental and emotional needs.

Many western and European countries have put parental responsibility laws in place to ensure parents comply with their parental duties in preserving the welfare of their child. Parents who fail to uphold their parental responsibility in these countries could have their child taken away or be subject to punishment by law. Unfortunately, children are the ones who suffer most when parents fail to give them the care they need.

What are the Responsibilities of a Parent?

Parent responsibilities, by law, may vary from country to country. In most cultures, however, parents (or their immediate family) are expected to provide for their children physically, mentally and emotionally until they reach the legal age of adulthood in the country where they live. Responsible parenting covers a wide spectrum of duties to include:

  • Raising children in a safe and loving environment
  • Providing children with their basic needs
  • Ensuring children get a quality education
  • Teaching children good morals and values
  • Helping to build a child’s confidence and self-esteem
  • Disciplining children in an appropriate and effective manner
  • Establishing a loving relationship with their children that will last into adulthood

Parents in different cultures may vary in their parenting methods and objectives. However, these essential elements of responsible parenting give parents an idea of what to shoot for when raising the little ones in their care.

Raising Kids in a Safe Environment

It is a parent’s responsibility to raise their children in a safe environment that’s free from physical, mental or emotional abuse. Babies and young children need a safe home environment that allows them room to explore and grow. Older children need a safe, clean and healthy environment where they can socialize with their friends. The home environment should be a safe haven where kids feel comfortable and have good experiences with their family. Parents should make an effort to raise their children in an environment where they are protected from danger and harm.

Providing Children with Basic Needs

Responsible parents will ensure their child’s basic needs are met to include healthy food, clean water, safe shelter with ample space to grow, medical care and basic clothing for protection. Loving parents will go well beyond the basics to ensure the health and happiness of the loved ones in their care.

Giving Kids a Quality Education

A good education is a must in the world today as it opens doors for a more successful future. Responsible parents will ensure their children get the best education possible within their means. Monitoring and supporting their child’s education is an important part of parenting responsibilities. This includes checking to see children are doing their homework, making progress in their studies and are well adjusted and happy in their school. Showing interest in their child’s educational future is one way parents demonstrate to their kids how much they care.

Teach Children Good Values

Moral education is another aspect of parental responsibility. Parents who fail to teach their kids moral values are more likely to see their kids get into trouble due to their having little sense for right and wrong. Under the Parental Responsibility Act, Canadian parents can be held liable for any damage their children cause to other people’s property due to lack of supervision or care. It is important kids grow up with a moral compass, learning such values as honesty, respect, patience, compassion and responsibility as this helps build a foundation for children to grow into responsible adults.

Help Build a Child’s Confidence and Self-Esteem

By being encouraging and supportive of their child’s interests and goals, parents can help build their child’s confidence and self-esteem. Every child is different in his talents, abilities and skills. Rather than comparing their children with others, parents should accept and respect them for the individuals they are and take pride in their respective achievements. This helps kids to feel good about themselves and grow with a positive outlook on their future.

Discipline Children in an Appropriate and Effective Manner

Through discipline, children learn self-control and the difference between right and wrong. For discipline to be effective, it needs to be age appropriate, fair, structured and consistent. Disciplining may be one of the hardest aspects of being a parent, but it’s also one of the most necessary in helping children develop a healthy respect for others and the laws of the country where they live.

Establish a Loving Relationship with Their Children

Parents are responsible for establishing a loving relationship with their kids in order to sustain the family unit. This can be accomplished by spending quality time with their kids, being approachable and establishing an open line of communication. It’s a parent’s responsibility to help establish a close knit family that will stand the test of time. As children grow into adolescence and adulthood, they will value having a loving family upon whom they can depend.

Custodial Parent Responsibilities

Although ideally both parents should assume equal responsibility in raising a child, sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. Legal separations or divorce could result in one parent retaining custody of their child. Sometimes single parents face the challenge of meeting custodial parent responsibilities on their own; other times, they may share these responsibilities with their ex-husband/wife under a mutual agreement. The following tips can help custodial parents avoid problems in the responsibilities they share:

Visitation: If the non-custodial parent has visitation rights, it helps to develop a visitation schedule to make it easier for both parents to spend quality time with their children.

Child Support: Because custodial parents are responsible for supporting their child, courts require that ex-spouses help with child support payments to reduce this financial burden. Custodial parents should develop a system to keep tabs on this support to ensure they have the finances to meet their kids’ needs.

Matters of Importance: In joint custody cases, parents should consult together before making decisions on important matters that affect the child. Such decisions could deal with medical matters, moving to a new location, etc.

Best Interests of the Child: A child’s welfare is the most important aspect to consider in a child custody case. Parents should do all they can to ensure their child enjoys a loving and stable home environment, despite their living apart. By taking their child’s best interests into consideration, parents can come to a mutual agreement on what’s best for his or her care.

Parental Rights for Fathers

In most countries, mothers have automatic custody and parental responsibility for their child upon the baby’s birth. If a couple is legally married, both parents share in this responsibility. As many couples today are opting to start families without being legally married, fathers may wonder “What are my rights as a father?” and “Where do my responsibilities lie?”

In England and Wales, fathers automatically have legal rights over their child if they are married to the mother at the time of birth or are named as the father on the child’s birth certificate. As such, they can help make major decisions in their child’s life until he or she reaches adulthood. Such decisions include:

  • Helping to decide where the child lives
  • Giving consent for medical treatments
  • Helping to select a school
  • Choosing religious upbringing
  • Providing consent for marriage before the child reaches legal age
  • Applying for legal paperwork for the child or a passport

If the mother dies, fathers with parental responsibility stand a good chance of becoming the legal parent or guardian of the child, even if they are not legally married to the mother at the time. Unmarried parents can also share parental responsibility of the same child, although it could become difficult if they don’t agree on major aspects of their child’s upbringing. Even if parents don’t always agree on every point in raising their kids, they can come to a peaceful compromise where their differences don’t adversely affect the child.

It’s a sign of maturity when parents can put their differences aside to do what’s best for the child. Older children and teens will grow to respect parents more if their parents accept their parent responsibilities cheerfully and do their best to provide a loving and caring home environment regardless of personal preferences and opinions.

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