4 Tips on How To Parent
by Deborah Godfrey
Has parenting changed all that much this millennium? 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 on how to parent and how should we proceed?
The past thousand years has not been kind to children. For most of the past millennium the phrase “Children are meant to be seen and not heard” was literal. 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. Many children perished and continue to do so as a result of this philosophy. I do not think children did the awful things they are doing today, however the adults grown from these practices certainly did. Though there were no school shootings, there were witch-hunts, public torture, killings and rampant domestic violence led by the adults and observed by the children.
In the last 100-200 years our view of children has begun to change. The prevailing philosophy of some (certainly not all) is that children are born good, and that with respect, nurturing, and loving guidance, they can become well rounded, responsible, successful adults. This is a new concept, never before tested in industrialized society. Has it been working? The results appear to be mixed. 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 anger, 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? If we choose to continue pursuing this new philosophy of parenting, 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 the new parenting philosophy and see how we can improve the results.
1) 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”. Anything “bad” or “evil” is a result of the child’s reaction to events in its environment or biochemical unbalances in their system. When our children misbehave, it is important to remember the goodness in them is temporarily distorted and that they are discouraged. Discipline from the viewpoint, “I love you and I know you are a good person, this behavior is inappropriate, here is a better way”.
2) 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. I believe this error is one of the main reasons for the disrespect we see in children. YES! It is important that we respect our children, talk with respect, listen to them, and acknowledge their feelings and ideas. However, if we do this without taking care of our needs, it creates children that think the world is here to serve them, and they become utterly disrespectful of others in the process. 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.
3) 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. I think that 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.
4) Providing loving guidance
The most important idea for the emerging parenting philosophy to succeed is our deep involvement in our children’s lives. We must guide them through their childhood with time, patience and dedication to their emotional health. If we spend time with our children when they watch TV or play video games, 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. When they act out in frustration, we need to take the time to look more deeply into their discouragement and help them sort through what is wrong.
Let us proceed with faith that we can learn how to parent effectively and 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 in order for this new parenting philosophy to work, we must spend a great deal more time influencing our children. This is the most important task we will accomplish in our life, let’s do it well!