The world has a lot to say about parenting nowadays. From Dr. Spock to Dr. Phil, from the Super Nanny to our own families, a plethora of experts scold us with a never-ending barrage of advice--most of it conflicting. The newspapers and magazines scream at us about the needs of children and the latest unbiased study, while the publishing companies profit from the confusion by churning out numerous books on parenting every year. Slick ad campaigns report that parents need only buy the latest educational toy, or enroll their innocents in the newest educational program to guarantee academic success and future happiness for their children.

Meanwhile, parents are stressed and confused. According to CBS News, 54% of parents with 2-5 year olds admit to feeling worried about their children’s academic progress, and more than 90% think that starting early is the key to success. Parents are enrolling toddlers into rigorous academic tutorial programs in record numbers, and routinely over-schedule their youngsters with play-dates, lessons, sports, and classes, all in hopes of giving their children some sort of advantage.

Whatever happened to childhood?

Homeschoolers are not immune to these phenomena, either. We see what is going on around us, and often feel the need to compete with our neighbors--no matter how hard we try not to. Many of us feel pressured to prove ourselves to our own extended families, as well. To make things worse, the push for early learning has now trickled all the way down to the curriculum suppliers; some are now providing academically based curriculum for children as young as two years of age. The result of all this? Parents who wonder, What is best for my child? Am I doing enough? What does my preschooler really need?

My answer: Preschoolers need what they have always needed. Preschoolers haven’t changed. Preschoolers need their parents.

Everything your preschooler needs to know can be taught simply through good parenting. Now, what I mean by good parenting, is warmly responsive, loving and consistent care, balanced with discipline (Moore’s Home Grown Kids).

The simplest definition of good parenting I’ve ever heard is from Anne Ortland, who says, "Good parenting is simply becoming what you should be--and then staying close enough to your children that it will rub off." She challenges us further by asking, "What will you become, so that your children will do great things for God?"

Mrs. Ortland’s quotes neatly summarize what the Bible says about discipling our children. Proverbs 23:26 says, "My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways." Luke 6:40 says, "The disciple [we could insert student, or child here] is not above his master [parents]; but every one that is perfect shall be as his master."

I believe this is the greatest challenge facing Christian parents today; becoming what we should be and setting a proper example for our children. I’ve heard it said that when our children are misbehaving, we should always look to ourselves first--because our children are like a mirror, reflecting with their behaviors all we do and say. Good parenting is just as much about controlling ourselves as it is controlling our children--remembering that as much is caught as is taught.

Besides becoming who we should be, and discipling our children, there are specific things good parents can do to help their young children learn and mature:

Remember what your children need most--YOU. More than the newest learning toy or curriculum you could buy, your children need both quality and quantity time with you. Preschoolers spell love T-I-M-E.

Provide for your children’s emotional needs by allowing your children to become closely attached to you. These attachments are normal and healthy for young children. In fact, children who are strongly attached to their parents grow up to be confident, independent, and emotionally stable.