Surely all parents want the best for their children so that they can be equipped for life, but good intentions are not enough to ensure this outcome!
We want our children to be responsible and independent – but we force them to perform and even do their schoolwork for them;
We want them to be happy – but we dwell on their ‘mistakes’ and tell them that they can do better;
We want them to be respectful and courteous – but we talk down to them by criticizing, lecturing, distrusting and punishing them;
We want them to have concern for others – but we show a lack of concern for them by lecturing, reprimanding, scolding, shaming and using them as servants.
There is tremendous pressure on children of all ages to achieve: socially, academically and physically. If their home environment is secure and safe, it serves as a solid foundation on which they can explore, develop and built their own lives.
Parents can raise happy, confident children by focusing on the following few guidelines:
1. Parents need to be aware of their own unfulfilled dreams and challenges in order not to project it on their children. If you wanted, but did not have the chance to learn to play a musical instrument, do not assume that it is necessarily what your child wants. If you did not have the opportunity to go to university, do not assume that it is the only way to be successful in the secular world.
2. Make it your task to get to know your child. Find out what their favorite color, music, actor, movie, game, friend, family member, style, holiday destination etc is. Do not make assumptions about your child’s life, but ‘check in’ with him/her.
3. Everyone has something they dream about, something they fear and are anxious about and something they feel ashamed about. If there is a trusting relationship between you and your child, he / she will share their concerns willingly with you. And more importantly: you will then have the opportunity to guide your child through challenging situations.
4. Be aware of how you communicate. In dealing with our children, we need to remember that we are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion. By accepting children as they are, we open the door for them to enter and trust you with their joy, their shame and their hope.
Listen, listen, listen. See the following as a letter to you, coming from your child:
You are NOT LISTENING to me when…
You do not care about me;
You say you understand me before you know me well enough;
You have an answer for my problem before I’ve finished speaking;
You finish my sentence for me;
You are critical of my grammar, vocabulary and accent;
You tell me about your difficulties, making mine unimportant;
You are communicating to someone else in the room.
You ARE LISTENING when…
You come quietly into my private world and let me be;
You really try to understand me even if I’m not making sense;
You grasp my point even when it is against your own sincere conviction;
You allow me to dignity of making my own decisions even though you think they might be wrong;
You do not take my problem from me, but allow me to deal with it in my own way;
You hold back your desire to give me good advice;
You do not offer me religious solace when you sense that I am not ready for it;
You give me enough room to discover for myself what is going on.
5. Be happy! There exists no greater zone of safety and wellbeing than being raised in a happy home. Children might in their adult years, forget the healthy meals and clean house, but they will treasure the happy times they had with their parents. Pain in our lives are inevitable, but misery is a choice. Happiness is a choice.
6. Fathers and mothers might have different ideas about parenting; different styles (autocratic, democratic or liberal); differences in opinion about matters pertaining the running of the household or differences between themselves, and the way they manage these differences, has a significant impact on vulnerable children. A golden rule is to never, never disagree in front of- or within hearing distance of the children as far as disciplining them is concerned. These differences need to be addressed in private. Children need to see their parents as a united front in order to feel safe and emotionally secure and it will counteract them wanting to play parents off against each other.
The importance of being a responsible parent (opposed to a ‘good’ parent) raising emotionally healthy, responsible children cannot be overemphasized. The investment in children is a long term one and the benefits to be reaped, will last in old age, and beyond the grave.
El-marie van Heerden
Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 04-2245736