The job of raising children is a tough one. Children don't come with an instruction manual. And each child is different. So parents sometimes pull their hair out in frustration， not knowing what to do. But in raising children-as in all of life-what we do is influenced by our culture. Naturally then， American parents teach their children basic American values.
To Americans， the goal of parents is to help children stand on their own two feet. From infancy， each child may get his or her own room. As children grow， they gain more freedom to make their own choices. Teenagers choose their own forms of entertainment， as well as the friends to share them with. When they reach young adulthood， they choose their own careers and marriage partners. Of course， many young adults still seek their parents' advice and approval for the choices they make. But once they "leave the nest" at around 18 to 21 years old， they want to be on their own， not "tied to their mother's apron strings."
The relationship between parents and children in America is very informal. American parents try to treat their children as individuals-not as extensions of themselves. They allow them to fulfill their own dreams. Americans praise and encourage their children to give them the confidence to succeed. When children become adults， their relationship with their parents becomes more like a friendship among equals. But contrary to popular belief， most adult Americans don't make their parents pay for room and board when they come to visit. Even as adults， they respect and honor their parents.
Most young couples with children struggle with the issue of childcare. Mothers have traditionally stayed home with their children. In recent years， though， a growing trend is to put preschoolers in a day care center so Mom can work. Many Americans have strong feelings about which type of arrangement is best. Some argue that attending a day care center can be a positive experience for children. Others insist that mothers are the best caregivers for children. A number of women are now leaving the work force to become full-time homemakers.
Disciplining children is another area that American parents have differing opinions about. Many parents feel that an old-fashioned spanking helps youngsters learn what "No！" means. Others prefer alternate forms of discipline. For example， "time outs" have become popular in recent years. Children in "time out" have to sit in a corner or by a wall. They can get up only when they are ready to act nicely. Older children and teenagers who break the rules may be grounded， or not allowed to go out with friends. Some of their privileges at home-like TV or telephone use-may also be taken away for a while. Although discipline isn't fun for parents or children， it's a necessary part of training.
Being a parent is a tall order. It takes patience， love， wisdom， courage and a good sense of humor to raise children （and not lose your sanity）。 Some people are just deciding not to have children at all， since they're not sure it's worth it. But raising children means training the next generation and preserving our culture. What could be worth more than that？