Families are building blocks of society and parenting is a blessed privilege but also a serious responsibility. In Today’s World which is consumer oriented, lawless and sexually permissive, parenting has become a challenge. Too much exposure to audio and visual media from an early age coupled with ineffective parenting has made children selfish, self indulgent and seeking instant gratification. They are given to impulsive behaviour and are easily frustrated.
Because the family is a training ground for preparing children to take their place in society as responsible adults, parents need to periodically assess their styles of functioning. They must have a progressive outlook while adhering to old world values. Child rearing principles are changing as the world changes and parental roles will also change as the child grows. From disciplinarians they grow into mentors and friends. It is good to bear in mid the Biblical adage –
“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6.
No one can boast of being a perfect parent. It is through trial and error that one learns how best to mould the character of a child, depending on his personality. Love, patience and negotiating skills form the foundation of good parenting. Teaching respect, responsibility and resourcefulness should be the aim.
The love of parents is instinctive and must be unconditional. It is best expressed in the way a child is nurtured. Patients should not be ashamed to show emotion. A child is never too old to be given a hug. Open affection between husband and wife is most reassuring to the child. He will have confidence that he is safe and secure in their love and that they are always available to guide him. Good communication between parents and child makes for bonding. Only when there is a healthy relationship between them can discipline be inculcated.
Discipline is for the positive good of the child. Guarendi says “Discipline is one of the most loving and durable gift a parent can give a child.” A child needs boundaries and discipline teaches him to respect authority. Obedience should be expected at all times. Praise for good behaviour is important. But he should also be taught to accept ‘No’ for an answer. Discipline provides a structure for emotional and social growth. He learns to live by the family code of ethics and develops self confidence and responsibility for his actions. Discipline however must be consistent. Correction must be done in a positive way and not by punitive measures. One must be kind but firm in enforcing rules. The child should know that discipline is like “a garland to grace his head and a chain to adorn his neck.” (Proverbs 1:7-9)
Overindulgence and mollycoddling can stunt a child’s personality. It will rob him of his problem solving skills. It will destroy motivation and make him slothful. There are many reasons why parents become over indulgent. Both parents may be working and feel guilty of not spending enough time with their child. They may be divorced and compensate by giving him too many liberties. They may be anxious parents who want to overprotect their child. So they give into their whims and demands. Some parents find a way of fulfilling their own needs through their child. Helicopter parents don’t allow their child to grow up and make their own decisions.
Permissive parents on the other hand let their child do what he likes. They are non-directive and non-demanding. Anything that the child does is okay with them. Parents are so caught up in their own lives that they have no time to play an active part in the life of their child. Such a child is insecure and lacks direction. He knows that his parents won’t bother about what he does. There are no guidelines or limits. Such a child is confused, makes wrong choices and will drift into delinquency.
At the other extreme are authoritative parents who are control freaks and impose strict rules that have to be followed. They are critical of everything that the child does. They destroy his self esteem by making disparaging remarks. There is never a word of praise. Threats and punitive measures are inflicted for minor faults. As a result, the child becomes a nervous wreck, living under a cloud of fear. But as an adult he may develop an anti-social personality leading to frequent brushes with the Law.
Because “children are a heritage from the Lord” (Psalm 127:3) parental authority should be united and consistent. Parents cannot make contradictory demands. They need to be good role models and the home should provide a loving, caring, stimulating environment. They should speak freely about their faith and their relationship with God. Moral values are to be instilled in the child. “The way to raise a moral child is to be a moral person,” says David Elkand.