For some time now the work that goes into raising children has been altered dramatacially from what it used to be. Centuries ago children were seen as less worthy beings that were to be treated as slaves, used and abused and simply discarded. Even up until less than a century ago children were to be seen and not heard. Their opinions were shunned and their whole existence was demeaned. Over the past few decades however researchers, doctors and therapists have placed far more emphasis on how important raising a child is and how utterly careful one needs to be when communicating and disciplining children. Hence the abolishment of corporal punishment in most countries. In fact more emphasis has now been placed on the importance of listening to children with regards to body language and behaviour as opposed to listening to words. New approaches such as music, art and play therapy have replaced the traditional talk therapy when it comes to children simply because they are far more effective in assisting the child to communicate their underlying feelings. Children are sensitive creatures and with this sensitivity there also comes a huge array of factors that influence their behavior.
For one thing they are programmed to please, not from birth, but by their parents, teachers, society and the likes. Sure we want respectful and well behaved children, but do we want robots that cannot think for themselves, or that get shut down when they do decide to take initiative for themselves? No I don’t think we do. Children are the future and this is why we have some governments today that are trying to control the world around them instead of trying to raise a country. These politicians were once children, possibly domineered by parents who had no other strategies but to create little replicas of themselves. This example is evident in the passing down of names. Or the common phrase: “Because I said so!” Why do parents want so much for their children to have their surname. Is it a matter of possession? Well children are not to be possessed but to be guided into their own light as Kahlil Gibran so beautifully describes in The Prophet.
Another thing we are doing is programming our kids to enjoy unhealthy food, hence creating a goldmine for cancer researchers and pharmaceuticals. We want to treat them so we take them to McDonalds or we can’t be asked to take on the monster of teaching healthy eating habits and so we blame it on the media. Not that I’m against junkfood, I love it every now and again, just as I was taught to, but I know with each bite I take that the little devil inside is saying “nahnahnahnahnahnah I won this one”. If we really wanted to be good parents we would take it on fullheartedly and filter the media, or explain the good and the bad without creating the negative consequence of ‘if you do this I am going to make you feel like I don’t love you’, but with the cosequence of ‘if you do eat all those sweets you probably will have a stomach ache afterwards’. Leave them with the impression that the choice is theirs. Once they understand that and it becomes evident that their choices are their own, they will start to make better choices. If they continuously feel like you are the one in charge, they will never take charge of their lives. Even if they don’t make better choices, as a parent you should be there to give them the truth about what to expect, living them unconditionally and providing the guidance that allows them to bounce back up not crawl into a ball and want to go to sleep forever. There should be no message that relays a loss of love and probably dissappointment, but the disappointment should be in themselves and should come as a consequence of their own actions, not due to our inability to see our own worth as parents and feel inadequate and so we make our children the brunt of our disappointments. We make our own decisions and mistakes and as adults these decisions have consequences on the world around us. Being a good parent means rising to the occassion and with that we teach our children to rise too.
We are often trained to go for everything that’s bad for us and fear what is really good. The fear of God for instance or authority. ‘Oh there are the police, put your seatbelt on’. What happened to genuine love? God is a loving God, who will forgive again and again, that’s if you truly feel remorse. Right? Wrong, that’s not what religion teaches. What do you teach as a parent? Teaching children remorse instead of fear or shame will get them much further in life. Do you teach your child to love you or fear you? Do you convey to them that you will be there to love them no matter what or do you scorn them with every mistake creating bitterness in them? Now I am not preaching to you or trying to judge you because we all make mistakes and heck I have found myself making a few too many, but I do continue to try without getting down on myself. Its the nature of parenting. Trial and error. All I am saying is that as a parent we should take an honest look at ourselves and our approach. If you feel you cannot convey messages without fear perhaps it’s time to get some outside help. We were all taught something wrong from our parents or our experiences. No one is perfect. Allowing fear to be our greatest tool as parents however ca become your worst nightmare. Fear is only good for one thing and that is to reap more fear and selfdoubt. It is equal to abuse and can create children who use bullying as a means to get what they want on the playground. That can only lead to having children with a low sense of self worth, causing further unhappiness and disregard for others feelings.
When your child knows that they can confide in you when something goes wrong without the fear of being ridiculed, you’ve won half the battle. I’m not saying do not discipline, as this is of utmost importance, but teach consequence with love not fear. For example when you try to coerce your child to put that seat belt on they need to know it’s because it is called a safety belt and that it is supposed to keep them safe, and it’s because you love them that you do that. Or ‘don’t you dare hit your brother again becaue I will smack you’. Even if you don’t really intend to, you are teaching your child one, to fear you, and two that smacking is okay, because mom says she’ going to do it’. We cannot use actions we wish to stop ad a means of prevention, it just leads to a catch twenty two situation. Now its all good to preach and not do, but you should know full well that when you are not doing something, then your child won’t do it either and vice versa.
It’s an easy job to get a child to 18 and say ‘hey I did it, I got him that far, its his turn now’, but what happens when they don’t know how to take control of their lives thereafter, do you really think you can wash your hands clean? If they are incapable, they’re just going to keep coming back, sponging off of you and society and the like. You may have raised them but have you taught them to truly rise?