Are they happy? Do they have a good bunch of friends? Are they doing okay in their studies? Are they happy? Do they have direction, motivation, hope? Are they eating well enough? Sleeping fine? In good health? Are they well liked? Are they happy?
Having children can seem like such a huge responsibility sometimes.
We live in times when we parents expect a great deal of ourselves. We understand the powerful influence that good parenting can provide, whilst not always being sure what constitutes good parenting exactly. We can be confused and overwhelmed by all the conflicting books and theories out there – telling us to play Mozart to the baby in the womb, sign to them as soon as they’re out, sleep them in the bed, beside the bed, in the other room, feed on demand, breastfeed for six months, a year, until they wean themselves, teach them to read young, wait until they are seven, take up a sport, a musical instrument, a foreign language, talk openly about the facts of life, wait until they ask, let the school cover it, allow them a sip of our drink at a party, a drink with family at a meal, ban all alcohol, leave home at 18, at 21, whenever they feel ready…
Not only do many parents put pressure on themselves to get it right, like there is some sort of right that we could ‘get’, but culturally there are great expectations on parents to provide more for our children. More quality time, more after-school activities, more tutoring, more toys, more nourishing food, more, more, more. Many drive themselves hard (and their children) out of fear that their child might miss out or fall behind.
It can all seem a bit confusing at times. We live in a culture where parents are expected to focus on providing the best for their children whilst often needing to work many hours away from their children to be able to afford this ‘best’.
Often parents feel the necessity to work for many hours outside the home, leaving others to raise the kids. Day care for the few-month olds, nursery for the babies and toddlers, school for the children – many of our children are in the hands of others for huge chunks for their waking hours. We expect those carers and teachers to nurture and nourish and mediate and socialise them.
Culturally we have slipped into a belief that children can be moulded and adapted, tended and taught, to become the acceptable adults that we wish them to be. Some would even go further to say that parents and teachers must mould and teach children to become decent adults. The underlying assumption being that they are not decent human beings yet and neither will they become so if left to their own devices.
We adults are guilty of a huge disrespect. Often we are not respecting or trusting the integrity of our children’s personhood. We behave towards our children as if they are a work in progress – our work in progress. By attempting to take responsibility for who they are, we take away the possibility of them taking responsibility for themselves. We send them the message: ‘You are not okay as you are, but listen to me, and I’ll show you how to become someone that is okay.’
Culturally this is expected of parents. It is not considered normal or wise to allow our children to determine for themselves how to live or how to be. Society does not support the idea that we could trust our children to turn out all right, without requiring lots of input from us adults. Children do not grow up trusting themselves because we don’t trust them. This is damaging to children and places them at risk. We are raising children who do not trust their intuition, do not know their own mind, do not know how to make healthy and wise choices. How many adults are striving to learn how to trust their intuition, know their own mind, and make healthy and wise choices?
I am not advocating a parenting-style that lacks loving involvement. And I do not think children actually like overly permissive parenting; or to be burdened by too much choice or too much responsibility for their overall well-being. I believe children do well when we have high expectations – expecting honest, age-appropriate responsible behaviour from them. And especially when we are able to model this rather than merely prescribing it.
How would life be different in your home if you trusted more in your child’s internal wisdom and an innate desire to be the person that they are?