Some (maybe a lot) of people are not going to like what I have to say. And frankly, I'm not at all sorry if I offend you.
Parents, it is time to start being parents. You are not your child's friend. You are not there to give into their every demand. Your job is not to spoil them with every material thing they ever wanted. Your job is to be their parent - to grow them up in a way to help them become a respectful, independent, curious-minded adult. Is it easy? Hell no. Did anybody ever say it was? Nope. Get over it.
This isn't something you can start when they reach a certain age. It begins the moment they are born - even before that in many ways. From the instant they come into the world, it is your job to teach them how to eat, when to sleep, when not to sleep, how to move, how to discover, how to talk, how to read, how to be kind to others (which I am fully aware of how difficult this is at age two, trust me), how to respect others and the world they live in, and so many, many more things. They aren't always going to like it, but that's part of being their parent, not their friend.
Why is this so important? Why do I get so fired up about this topic? Because my husband busts his ass at work everyday to try to teach the youth of America...and most days he might as well be banging his head against a brick wall. They don't care. They have no respect. They have zero curiosity for learning. And even less drive to achieve anything with their life. It is so sad. I remember the frustration I experienced in my two short years of teaching high school. When I quit to become a stay-at-home mom, I vowed to myself that I would do everything I could to make sure my kids never turned out like so many of the students I taught. Every time Justin comes home with stories of blatant disrespect and ignorance I am reminded of why I know that I made the best decision of my life and I now have the greatest "job" in the world.
But back to my rant...
Parenting isn't easy and it's not about you. You are going to have very little time to yourself. You no longer come first. If you do, you're doing something wrong. (I fully acknowledge we are all human and need some time to ourselves - and that it is important to schedule time for this - but don't expect to get it everyday or all the time.) (Yes, dad at chick-fil-a this morning, I am talking to you. Put away the damn cell phone and come into the play place with your son. Other parents shouldn't have to be the ones telling your child not to push and how to act.) So, put away the computer while your children are awake, set aside the phone, and turn off the TV. Let your children know they are your priority in their waking hours. This wasn't near as hard in past generations as it is today because all the forms of technology weren't there. Regardless, make an effort to show your children that they matter more than everything else. Read to them. Play with them. Make things with them. Take them to the park. Take them on walks. Discover the world. Discover your yard. Talk to them and ask for their help as you run your errands or push them in the stroller. No toddler needs to spend 2+ hours a day in front of the television, for ANY reason. You need time to get things done around the house? Train them from the beginning to take naps and go to bed early. But don't let the television become your baby-sitter. This is so detrimental to their development and curiosity.
Build block towers with them. Do puzzles together. Don't just hand them singing, light up toys and expect them to entertain themselves for extended periods of time. Don't constantly buy the next "best" toy because they are constantly demanding something louder, brighter, and flashier. Think about the long term effect this has on them for when they are in school (and how much money you're going to blow on batteries in your lifetime). How is a textbook going to hold their attention if they never fell in love with reading as a child with fun, imaginative storybooks? How in the world could a teacher lecturing or writing notes on a chalkboard hold their attention if they never learned at an early age how to focus on a task - such as building with blocks or completing a puzzle? How can they have curiosity and drive for learning if they didn't use their imagination in countless hours of play as a child? All of these skills that they will need in middle/high school and beyond start at the beginning.
When children get older (especially high school), this is such a vital time to be their parent, not their friend. I fought my mom so much on what to wear, when to be home, grades, when to study, how long to study, how to spend/save my money, and SO. MUCH. MORE. But you know what? My parents were excellent parents and they didn't let a few arguments get in their way of raising an independent and intelligent daughter. I already anticipate many arguments, especially with Summerlin, but that doesn't mean she's getting her way and I'm going to back down and just be buddy-buddy with her. I am not always going to take my child's side when he/she gets in trouble at school. They will respect the school, their teachers, and the rules. If they get in trouble at school, they can expect to get in even more trouble at home. (Which is a sidenote I could really go off on about kids/schools/parents today - getting in trouble at school means so little when the parents don't care at home. It really makes a teacher's tough job even tougher.)
I know everyone has reasons and excuses for why they don't have time for these things. And I know some families do have it much tougher - especially if you're a single parent. But I think every parent can get creative and find ways to engage their children, teach their children, and parent their children. Don't compensate for your struggles by buying them fancy toys and chucking them in front of a TV or video game. The more time you spend with your children, the more they will also learn about how to treat others with kindness and respect. Speak to your children with love and kindness. They are watching you and learning from you.
Am I a perfect mother? Of course not. Do I always know what I doing? Hell no. Do I lose my cool and yell at times? Oh, you better believe it. I know I am FAR from a perfect mother, but I do my best and I keep my eye on my children's future and the people I want them to be as adults. Just please, remember to look to the future. It makes figuring your way through the present much easier.