Friday, 11 January 2013

Parenthood




"Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself" - Khalil Gibran

Family is at the heart of any society. Effective, positive and assertive parenting needs to be at the heart of every family. A child grows in the hands of adults, fully dependent for survival, protection and growth. Mother and father are naturally and instinctively the first people in a child’s life that not only make sure of their balanced growth but also preserve and strengthen the family’s intellectual, cultural and spiritual heritage through these children.

Education is indeed vital for a nation: however, education starts at home with good-quality parenting from a child’s birth. ‘Home is the best school’ goes the old maxim.

Parenting is more than parenthood. It is a conscious endeavor that starts from the moment a baby is conceived in a mother’s womb. It is the core duty of every parent and a basic right of every child to have such conscious attention. The task of parenting does not end with puberty or when a child reaches 21. It is a life-long commitment that involves physical, emotional, social and spiritual well being – from the womb to the tomb. Of course, the nature of parenting changes as a child grows from dependence to adult life. The reward of effective parenting is enormous and long-lasting. On the other hand, poor parenting or abdicating responsibility can bring devastating consequences for the family, as well as wider society (and the nation as a whole).

Parenting, in essence, is about preparing for the future, a one-time opportunity to set a child on the right path for life. The historic adage that the ‘Hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world’ is wisely remembered and practiced by successful nations.

The essential ingredient of parenting is love. However, as a child grows ‘blind love’ needs to be replaced by ‘tough love’. Children need opportunity and freedom, but for their balanced growth – to become ‘good human beings’ – they need consistent, rational and strong boundaries. Discipline in life is vital, far more so for children during their adolescence, a phase with challenging physical, emotional and social changes accompanied by critical behavioral issues such as insecurity, ego-centrism, lifestyle and attitude changes, changing eating habits and possible mental health consequences.

Parenting is also about motivating children to think positively and act constructively. The natural tendency of these people, who feel ‘cornered’, could be to withdraw from society. We must all guard against this possibility; otherwise to ‘protect’ their children they could isolate them within their own ghettos. This would represent a huge wastage of human resources and potential, as well as leaving a dire legacy for those communities in the future.

So, how do parents inspire their children when, in their own communities, social deprivation and educational achievement might be low, generation and culture gaps wide, social ills high, and the prison population many times their demographic proportion?

There is no magic wand to solve these issues, in either a mainstream society or in specific communities. There are common social ills that affect all young people, regardless of background: bullying, prejudice, bigotry, delinquency, antisocial behavior, drugs, extremism, violence, etc. The increasing numbers of domestic violence and family breakdowns in many developed societies presents an enormous economic and social cost. Politicians, faith and community leaders, the media and grass-roots activists must all address these issues, collectively, if societies – and the younger generation – are to prosper and to ‘belong’.

Yes – we must have a macro-level solution, with action from government, non-governmental organizations, community groups, civil society bodies and faith and community centres. But there can also be no compromise with effective parenting. There needs to be a grass-root parenting movement, with individual parents acquiring basic parenting skills and employing them with confidence. Confident parents are able to create a positive home environment and impart in their children, especially in their adolescence, the self-esteem and drive needed to succeed in life. 

Parenting is more than a family issue; a family cannot raise its children in isolation. It is about building communities, societies and nations. It is about giving children an inclusive vision of life and to prepare them to work for the good of all, to build a nation. It is about creating good citizens and good human beings.

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