What would be an appropriate opening paragraph for this topic? Mothers and fathers parent their children in different ways as the children grow older. Using concrete and vivid detail, describe how a parent might typically handle a small child having a tantrum in a store, a teenager who has stayed out all night, and a grown child who lives at home and won’t get a job.

Expert Answers

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The introduction of any essay has three essential things which it must do:

  1. Capture the readers' attention or interest
  2. Set the tone for the rest of the essay
  3. Provide a clear statement of purpose.

The first two are fairly simple, and you are fortunate to have the third one nearly written for you. 

Let's start with the purpose statement, since it is so close to being completed. Also called a thesis, the purpose statement is one sentence which clearly indicates what the readers are going to discover in this essay, usually with three main points. You have been given your three points, so it is just a matter of phrasing them to match your intent. 

Consider the following options:

  • Parents change their parenting styles as their children mature. (This is a non-specific thesis which will allow you to address each of the three stages of life mentioned in the prompt and focuses on the parents.)
  • Because their childrens' needs and behaviors change over time, parents must make changes to their parenting styles. (A slightly more specific thesis which also focuses on the adaptations parents must make.)
  • Mothers and fathers are forced to adapt their parenting skills to match the needs of their kids as small children, as teenagers, and as adults. (A very specific thesis containing the three points you will be discussing.

Write a thesis which suits your style as well as the specific assignment you have been given. Just make sure you have one and that it is clear. The purpose sentence is generally located toward the end of the opening paragraph, but that is not set in stone. Put it where it seems most natural to you and the essay.

The other two things, capturing readers' interest and setting the tone, are not difficult once you have a these. Capture interest by telling a story (perhaps a short personal anecdote), sharing a pertinent quote, giving a startling statistic, or just plain start writing about, say, the relationship between parents and their kids or about the responsibility parents have been given to train and discipline their children. The only essential thing is to make certain that whatever you write leads directly and seamlessly to your purpose statement.

Tone will happen without too much stress if you write naturally and know your audience. Use a more formal tone than you might use when speaking to your friends if your audience is adults; if your audience is your peers, use a slightly less formal tone. Never resort to slang or the lowest form of language, even for an audience of your peers. 

An introduction is often the most difficult part of an essay to write because just getting started is sometimes intimidating or confusing. Once your purpose statement is written, you will undoubtedly feel better about writing the rest of the introduction. I have also attached a helpful eNotes site (below) to help you. Happy writing!

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