Has PARENTING changed all that much over the past 50 years?
Along with many other advances in society, it certainly has. Now is a good time to look at the past, the present, and decide on a direction for the future. The practice of parenting needs some attention. What have we missed and how should we proceed?
The past thousand years has not been kind to children. Additionally, all child-rearing practices prior to this century included regular beating of children. Children were thought to be born evil and needed the devil beaten out of them – and many children perished as a result of this philosophy. In the last 100 years our view of children has begun to change. Has it been working? On the one hand we have children succeeding in school, creating businesses, and advocating causes. We also have kids killing others. Children are more capable of expressing their feelings and opinions, verbalizing wisdom and perception beyond our belief. Children are also displaying unprecedented disrespect and disregard towards parents and others.
It appears that we are at a critical point. Should we turn back and reclaim the past, or forge ahead with new ideas into the future? In order to forge ahead we offer one approach to parenting that may be new to you. If so, we need to focus on understanding its effect on children and our responsibility in giving them the full benefit of its potential. Let’s look at 4 aspects of this approach and see how we can improve the results:
- Children are born good. The change in belief from children being evil to children being inherently good comes from simply looking at your newborn baby and seeing the perfection, innocence and complete dependence their vulnerability creates. This is the basis for unconditional love and the concept “address the behavior, not the child”.
- Treat children and ourselves with respect. One of the greatest errors made by parents that are respectful of their children is that they forget respect for themselves in the process. It is important that we respect our children, talk with respect, listen to them, and acknowledge their feelings and ideas. To improve this we need to take good care of our needs by placing firm, loving limits on children’s incessant demands. The opportunity for growth is changing from only respecting the child to an idea of mutual respect.
- Nurturing our children. To nurture is to educate, rear and nourish. In the larger perspective nurture is “the various environmental forces, which combined, act on an organism and further its existence”. Various environmental forces? Could this be the answer to the mixed results we get in being a nurturing parent? The horrors our children are exposed to at such a young vulnerable age through media violence and the reality of the news are nurturing them. We must seriously consider the impact this has on our children and what we can do. There is no past wisdom to depend on; we parents must decide how it ought to be handled. We need to protect them from what we can by monitoring their exposure, and more importantly, being heavily involved in their interpretation of the things that they do see and hear.
- Providing loving guidance. The most important idea is our deep involvement in our children’s lives. If we spend time with our children when they watch TV, play video games, or spend time on Social Media we are much more likely to pick up on their clues that something is wrong. If a news report is scary, we need to be there to discuss it with our child and help them understand. Let us proceed with faith that we can become the kind of parents that hope and dream for our children, at the same time realize our limitations and challenges. We can inspire our children to believe in themselves by our compassion and loving guidance. Most of all we need to realize that we must spend a great deal more time influencing our children. The increasing distance between parents and children is generally caused by the parents focus on self-gratification, material wealth, and personal fulfillment. Today, parents are so often absent that they appear reluctant to assume the authority that is not only necessary to parent effectively but is also their solemn obligation to their children. When parents have reason – whether from something they’ve heard, seen, or just sensed – to question their child’s behaviour they are often immobilized to follow through lest the child accuse them of not trusting. This mentality reflects a belief that children are the equals of their parents, just shorter ; that children, whose every need is met by their parents, are somehow entitled to equal standing when it comes to their own opinions, decisions, activities, and privacy.
Since parents shoulder the entire responsibility for the life and continued well-being of dependent minor children, the parent holds the power. Trust is a very different concept as it relates to the child or the parent. When a child in a typical family talks about trusting a parent, he generally means that the parent will give or do whatever is promised, in spite of any, or all, intervening circumstances. A parent must be trusted to be alert and aware of the behaviours, emotions, activities and problems of their children. A parent needs to be responsive to the needs and events in the lives of their children. A parent must be trusted to discipline, teach, direct and even punish, when necessary, to help the children develop character.
It is important to notice that the things that make a parent trustworthy are not self-centered but child-centered. That is because the parent is responsible for the child, while the child is responsible to the parent.
A responsible parent will use any and all means to gain the information needed, if the child is off-track. However, daily snooping in their child’s things is wrong, destructive to the relationship with the child, and indicative of some problems of their own that needs attention. When parents are not compulsively bugging a child for no good reason, and the child complains about “their” things and “their” space and “their” privacy being invaded, the child needs to learn that the possessive pronoun “mine” is not completely accurate. All that children have, including their own lives, is by the grace of their parents and God.
During the developmental stage of 2-4 years of age, children are supposed to push boundaries, manipulate, and tease. Children are supposed to do this. Avoid adding your emotions to your children’s. Kids have enough of their own emotions without parents adding theirs to the mix. Children need parents to remain calm, loving and firm.
Our children also have this need to belong. Early childhood is a time when our children are learning how to belong. Our job as parents is to help our children feel significant, important and worthwhile in a positive, meaningful way. Initially infants and young children find their place in the family. We also want our children to find an important and positive place in their world.
Instilling a feeling of social interest in our children is crucial in parenting today. Raising children today is no easy undertaking. Parents need to help their children gain a feeling of belonging and significance, along with a care, concern, and contribution to others.
PARENTS ARE BLAMED, BUT SELDOM TRAINED
Parents are often blamed for the mistakes of their children, but very few parents ever receive formal training for the most important role of their lives: helping their youngsters to become responsible, confident adults. An even sadder fact is that many parents do not realize the need for formal training to enable them to become effective parents. Most parents either do exactly what their parents did, or the complete opposite because they hated so much what was done to them. Parents need to utilize parenting strategies or tools that have proven to be effective and positive.
With our busy lives, we often look to short term, easy answers for everything. We have fast food, computers, the latest gadget or gizmo to save us time, money or stress. Many of these new ideas are great and do make our lives easier. The area of raising our children, however, is quite a different matter.
Many parents today feel overwhelmed by the culture and more helpless than their parents. Being a successful parent today is much more demanding than it was twenty or thirty years ago. The reasons for this are many: youngsters are exposed to a more violent society with weakening sexual morals; many hours of “inappropriate” television, internet sites, magazines and newspapers; drugs and alcohol are more available; the divorce rate is higher; more mothers are working outside the home, and; our society is more mobile resulting in less support from an extended family. Children used to look at ministers, teachers, neighbors and heroes as leaders. Now they look to the latest movie stars, unreal heroes, rap groups and other celebrities pushing sneakers as their role models. Child-raising is harder. It’s not just that parents have less time to spend with their kids, it’s that they have to spend more of their time doing battle with their own culture.
Most parents look upon the teenage years with a tremendous amount of fear and anxiety; anticipating rebellion and worry about their teens becoming victims of our society. A solid foundation for parenting teenagers is laid in the early years of a youngster’s life. Successful parenting requires skills or tools and those skills can be learned. A key time period for parents to begin to refine their parenting strategies is the time immediately preceding the teenage years. All parents can benefit from learning some new skills for relating to teenagers. Your task as a parent will be much easier and you will feel more confident in your role as you acquire new tools or strategies.
When adults have trouble doing home repairs or creative arts, they will readily consider whether or not they have the right tools. However when dealing with youngsters, it is easier to blame them when things do not go right, rather than look at ourselves. Most parents lack the tools to go the distance in parenting.
As well, parents also bring hidden factors with them from their childhood. These hidden factors will interfere with their ability to apply the parenting tools consistently and effectively. Hidden factors can also cause parents to become over emotional and too angry when dealing with their youngsters.
There is a story about the guy at the river who kept swimming out to save people who were drowning. After several rescues a large crowd had gathered but at the next cry for help, he simply walked away. When the crowd encouraged him to save this person, he replied, “No! I’m going to go up stream and teach them how to swim.” Whether you are drowning at this point or need to learn to swim (learning parenting strategies), don’t delay in acquiring parenting tools. Don’t delay in learning how to deal with your hidden factors effectively. Some parents are doing well now, when the waters are calm; but do you have enough skills and tools to deal with your youngsters when the waters become rougher?