The times are changing and so are the challenges of parenting. The 21st Century may have brought to us many technological advancements saving our time, reducing our efforts, making things easier and more comfortable. However, there is no gadget yet devised that can make a parent’s life less stressful. This piece will dive deep into exploring the real pressures of parenting – tips on how to alleviate them.
Parenting is certainly challenging nowadays as nuclear families have become the norm in most places around the world. And in a majority of houses, both parents pursue careers that take them away from home for a larger part of the day. Compared to previous centuries, more and more women are entering the workplace as education for girls is on the rise and women are either augmenting the family income and/or realizing their potential. Apart from that we also see a significant rise in single-parent families.
In this fast-paced scenario, a different set of parenting skills is needed to match steps with the changes. We cannot bring up our children in the very same manner and use the same techniques as our parents did. They did their very best for their time. We should do what is best for our time.
Different Styles of Parenting
One constantly hears of how parents possess different parenting styles. Here are the ones that have been observed:
1. Authoritarian Parenting: In this, the parents’ word is law and children have no say in any decision to be taken. Those who adopt this style are strict disciplinarians who demand complete obedience from their children and can be aggressive and dominating
2. Authoritative Parenting: This involves being reasonable and having a set of rules which consider the children’s opinions too. It is a positive way of parenting which pre-empts problems and tackles issues sensitively and sensibly
3. Permissive Parenting: Leniency, friendliness and very few or even no rules are applied to children to follow. Good behavior is not enforced and bad behavior is not discouraged (unless it gets out of hand)
4. Uninvolved Parenting: Neglect arising from a lack of knowledge of the children as the parents are distant and disconnected from them. This could be due to being a part of a dysfunctional family or some mental issue or bad habits or substance abuse on part of the parents
5. Helicopter Parenting: Overindulgence and excessive interference in every aspect of children’s’ lives. Constantly hovering over children and smothering them in what is misinterpreted as love and concern. However, this may stunt children’s development.
Of course, these are categories and we keep falling into one or the other at different times depending on the circumstances.
The Parenting Journey
Whether we are authoritarian parents or permissive parents, we should always be aware of the needs of our children at various developmental stages. Children from 0 to 6 years of age are blessed to have parents who are their first teachers. As 90% of the brain develops by age 5, these are very crucial years and children imbibe strong values from their parents. From age 7 to 14, parents can be termed as coaches who are supporting them in their endeavors, making them more and more independent. During the High School and College years, young adults wish to break out from anything that limits their growth and are learning to become their own people. Parents assume the roles of guides matching strides with their children and giving them life lessons along the way. After turning 21, the young citizens are ready to claim their place in the world and parents are the supporters who encourage them from the sidelines to make their mark in a brave new world.
Let us look at how we can be ‘cool’ parents. The parents who raise children that we ourselves, as well as others, would be proud of. The parents who are considered fortunate. The parents who do not have to worry constantly about their children’s physical, mental, psychological, spiritual health and wellbeing. The parents whose children embody 21st Century learning skills such as critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication among others. Successful parenting is also about raising self-sufficient, independent individuals who are compassionate and good human beings.
What Can Ee Do to Make Our Children 21st Century Citizens?
Quite simply, we should take time out of our busy schedules to be with our children at least for an hour every day. Quality time is significant. We can spend as much time as possible with our children but it should be time that helps us to get closer to our children, to connect with them, to celebrate their lives, to support them in their dark hours.
We must endeavor that our children are well balanced, independent, mindful, tolerant, and knowledgeable enough to make a wise choice. It is in our hands to mold them into becoming excellent examples to other young people. If they are encouraged to be humane and to work towards making our world a better place for all and especially to focus on making ‘India shining’, then they will surely work to make our country glorious and our world beautiful.
The concept of one world is to be introduced and fostered. Let us teach them to keep away from bias and not polarise them. Make them believe in the oneness of the world. This is epitomized in our Indian ethos: Vasudhaiva Kutumbakan as practiced by our great nation is our cultural heritage and our gift to the world. Not only should we teach them about the importance of familial bonds in our nuclear family, but also our extended family and the other families in our city, our state, our nation, and our world – irrespective of caste, creed, religion, color, language and all other such social, economic, communal, linguistic and political barriers.
Atithi Devo bhava is another ancient Indian aphorism that makes our country unique. Reverence as a host should be extended by them to visitors in the form of relatives, friends, people from our own and from other countries of the world (again the spirit of oneness is to be emphasized). Treating the guest honorably should be a practice inculcated from a very young age.
Respecting others becomes as important as respecting oneself if one follows the ‘oneness’ philosophy. It is not just guests who should be respected, but also the domestic help, community helpers, neighbors, acquaintances and all those who we meet and know and even those who we don’t meet or know. Exhorting our children to respect their school and teachers and other staff and classmates also goes a long way to making them appreciative of those who play a pivotal part in their lives and this also improves their interactive skills.
Some firm rules (after negotiating with children) should also be in place regarding the use of technology, pocket money, and managing finances, time spent friends, curfew hours, homework and assignments and exam revision and more such related aspects.
Let us teach them to pray, to be generous and empathetic, to love the environment, be risk-takers, be doers, be curious, be lifelong seekers of the truth and readers and lovers of art, theatre, music and science and math and all other subjects that will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives.
When the Going Gets Tough
When things go wrong and we realize that despite our best efforts we are unable to see eye to eye with our children, or when we are at loggerheads with them due to some reason/s, then let us not feel pressurized, stressed and depressed. There is always a way out and reconciliation is just a small effort away.
Here are Some Options that could be Considered
- First and foremost, give them our time and attention. Discuss the problem with them. Listen to them. Show an intention to understand their perspective.
- Try to understand their perspective. Understand their perspective. Give them space and respect their thoughts and feelings. Vent out our feelings in a controlled manner. Take them out. Go where they wish to lead us. Bend. Blend. Negotiate. Renegotiate. Come together. Reconcile
- Be a part of Parent Circles with other parents who may be like-minded, of our age group, share the same interests, come from the same backgrounds or those who may be totally different from us – the biggest connection is that we are parents.
- Join social media groups and forums like the parent communities and parenting groups on Facebook and WhatsApp. Encourage each other, collaborate with each other to help nurture the next generation. Discuss with each other. Share tips and experiences. Talk about people, places, ideas, resources that are needful.
- Seek the help of experts such as counselors and child psychologists. Participate in Q and A sessions, attend symposiums and workshops on good parenting skills. Schools have counseling departments; arrange meetings with teachers and resource persons. Talk to people who can shed more light on the problems you are facing. Speak to family, friends, relatives. Ask our parents!
We may or may not get on the spot solutions or quick fixes but hopefully, these should help ease our troubles. Let’s extend our hands out for help and support. Sometimes our children will be our saviors and at other times we can survive due to the kindness of strangers. We too could help others in the same way whenever possible. Let’s be ‘cool’ parents!
This piece has been contributed by Ms. Naghma Shaikh; AS Level English Language Teacher- JBCN International School, Borivali