Parenting today seems harder and scarier than ever before with the pressing work demands and busy family schedules, the attractions and distractions of electronic media, and the real threats to older children and adolescents of school violence, substance and alcohol abuse, and other risky behaviours. But the greatest joy in this world are also children. Without children this world will be ruined. Children hold within their beings the amazing propensity to delight and enthral and can also be a never ending source of joy and wonderment. Sadly, children are among the worst sufferers in modern times particularly due to abuse and neglect. They suffer in peacetime and in war, in the change of season and in natural catastrophe, at home and in the community; but are soon sidelined and forgotten, the silent sufferers in the march of time.
Today’s world is a morass of confusing messages and troubling images that stir up a maelstrom of emotions in the very young. As your little ones grow, you may often be ridden with uncertainty and self-doubt. How on earth can you protect them from the harsh and insensitive world around them; how are you going to instill in them the values of love, obedience, respect and positivism to hold them in good stead when much of what they are surrounded by is diametrically opposite!
Movies, TV, video and computer games, advertising, music, troubled peers and lately the Internet individually and together contribute to a growing moral pandemonium that can have a catastrophic effect on children. Many of the influences your children are exposed to not only fail to teach wholesome values, but actively encourage wrong attitudes and behaviour. It is not surprising then, that the news is increasingly dominated by headlines of children having committed terrible crimes, often without any apparent pangs of conscience or remorse. Their parents are increasingly being blamed — and in some cases even held legally responsible — for their children’s delinquency. Ironically, though, while parents are being held accountable for their children’s conduct, they are consistently being stripped of their moral right to exercise their discretion as parents to remedy recalcitrance and discipline their children.
What kind of adult will (s)he be? Will (s)he be kind or cruel? Will (s)he build or destroy? Will (s)he wound or heal? And above all, when (s)he is gone, how will (s)he be remembered —with fondness, respect or abhorrence? Parents hold the answer to some of these questions; for they are the sculptors who knead and mould the personalities of their children during their formative years giving them shape and definition to carve a niche for themselves in the community.
Contemporary times thrust an onerous responsibility on 21stcentury parents of nuclear families. The greatest pride for any parent, I suppose, is a child with proper upbringing, and on the flip side, the greatest sorrow a wayward child. It is imperative, therefore, that parents equip themselves with whatever skills necessary to raise their children in a manner that prepares them to take on all that the world throws at them without breaking stride.
Listed below are some of the essential qualities of a good parent:
- Total Acceptance of the Child. Your children need you to accept them as they are, not as you want them to be. Accept them unconditionally as a gift and a blessing from God. Shouting and forbidding, each time they do something wrong, will only make them rear back and defy you. Talk over the matter gently, see their point of view and guide them to the right path.
- Enhance your child’s self-esteem. Self-esteem refers to how a person feels about himself. Children with high self-esteem tend to be happier and more confident than children with low self-esteem. Progressive parents promote their children’s self-esteem through praise and appreciation and by being fully involved in their lives and letting them know that they are highly valued.
- Let your children know that you love them. The cornerstone to successful child rearing is love, that wonder salve that can heal the most mortal wounds! The miracle of God’s love, the love you have for your children, their love for you; and the love that they will in turn learn to have for others. It is the lessons rooted in the subconscious of their formative years that will eventually steer your children through life, helping them make the right choices, taking the right decisions and treading the righteous path. Love will steady them through the tumult of growing up and be an antidote to the negative influences they encounter. Love will give them purpose and passion; steadfastness and direction; grit and determination.
- Spending Quality Time with your Children. Parents who love their children demonstrate their love by spending quality and quantity time together. One unknown author says, “In bringing up children spend on them half as much money and twice as much time.” Orlando A Battista says, “The best inheritance a parent can give to his children is a few minutes of his time each day.”
- Be a character role-model for your children. One of the most powerful teaching tools parents have is modelling the behaviour they want children to learn. Children tend to model behavior that they witness in their parents (positive and negative). Children need a moral compass to guide them when they face difficult moral choices. Parents are to help children to develop a sense of right and wrong that serves as a foundation for a sound moral character.
- Disciplining Your Children: From infancy, children need proper guidance and discipline. Parents play a vital role in teaching their children proper behavior by setting and enforcing healthy limits. Proverbs 23:13 reads, “Don’t hesitate to discipline a child. It may save his life.” Discipline is loving firmness. It is direction. It is pre-empting of a problem before it arrives. It is an active love. Sometimes, you have to be unkind to be kind. Not all medicine is sweet, not all surgery is painless.
- The importance of listening to your children: Children whose parents are actively involved in listening to their children’s desires and problems are more likely to achieve academic success than children whose parents are not bothered to listen. Young children are full of questions. If you don’t listen to their queries, how will they get the right answers? You need to listen with your eyes as with your ears. Paul Tillich opines that, “the first duty of love is to listen.”
- Grooming your Children in Behaviour and Manners. It is by politeness, etiquette and charity that society is saved from falling into a heap. Teach your children personal hygiene. Make sure your kids learn to address elders by saying “Yes, Sir”, “No, Sir”, “Yes, Ma’am” and “No, Ma’am” etc. Remember, manners and etiquettes are revealed most at the dinner table. They need to practice them at home. Fine vocabulary, a bit of wit and a sense of humour can make the conversation lively. Tell them to be considerate and ready to help all, particularly ladies and whenever, a mistake is committed, tender an apology.
- Motivating your children. Motivation is what makes children do things. Motivate your children and you’ll be surprised to see how fast they are capable of success! Motivation brings out the best in children and with it; even ordinary children can do extraordinary things.
- Developing Your Child’s Talents: It is the responsibility of every parent to identify and nurture the talents of their children. Most of the essential life skills that children need to survive are learned within the home. Parents have a great opportunity to teach their children valuable skills that will enable them to grow up to be healthy and productive adults.
- Saving your Child from Peer Pressure. Remember your children are going through a lot of peer pressure. Mostly to do something evil like smoking, drinking, taking drugs etc. Their peers become more important than you. So you need to develop a good relationship. The stronger your relationship is with your children, the less likely they are to follow bad examples. They may not come to you for help, you need to go to them.
- Ability to solve your child’s problem. Problems are inevitable; good parents anticipate them. When you find your child moody, aloof, remember that he is having a problem. Make time to discuss his problem, spending enough time to listen to the problem. Consider some of the options before you to solving this problem and give it time-frame for healing and watch the way to recovery. He needs your support and encouragement, especially at this moment.
Conclusion: Dear Parents, little children don’t understand everything that’s going on, but they trust you that you understand, that what you say goes, and what you say is true; they believe in you. That’s why it’s so important to handle their hearts prayerfully and with utmost care.