A life-long commitment of education and love
If one looks for one of the most difficult missions or tasks today it is beyond doubt that parenting falls into this category. Parenting can be difficult but at the same time it can be most rewarding. The role of parents is not made easier by the fact that no coaching is required to rear a child even though we live in an age of sophisticated technology and massive coaching programmes.
When a child is born, parents and other adults are expected to bring the child up to become a responsible, cooperative and empowered citizen that will eventually not only find a place in society but also contribute positively to it. Effective parenting is expected irrespective of the parenting abilities and skills of the parents. I have no doubt that the vast majority of parents do this to the best of their ability and with good intentions at heart. Perhaps here lies one of the reasons why sometimes things seem to somehow go the wrong way.
Over the years, societies change and so do their social norms and demands. It has been said that it takes a village to bring up a child. But when it comes to parenting, because of the lack of coaching programmes in the past, changes might not be in line with those of the rest of the community. It is easy for the new parents to copy or reject what their parents did in the past. In this way it is easy to adopt a parenting pattern that goes back a couple of generations. These patterns might have worked in the past but could not be so effective today. To illustrate this let us look at the social order of not so long ago.
Societies were trained to follow a hierarchical structure with the ruler at the top, who demanded blind obedience right down to the grass roots where the pattern was copied in families. Paternal domination was common. Control and power was exerted over all those deemed to be inferior. Children were supposed to be seen not heard. Wives were not expected to think or decide. Speaking of equality in dignity and rights was outrageous. Spare the rod and spoil the child was sometimes practised to extremes.
Mentalities have changed. Democracy is a way of life now, which of course requires a change to democratic parenthood and education. Let me make this clear, democracy does not mean permissiveness as happened in the 1950s or 1960s. Far from it. Democracy is an experience where everyone can have his/her say not necessarily his/her way. One could ask, Is democracy the order of the day in families and schools? Is it easy to change one's mind set? A lot more needs to be done to reach this goal but with the help of the right coaching programmes personal change can be achieve.
Today we might be more aware that the greatest human asset is freedom be it of will, thought, speech, choices etc. This freedom initiates self-development, progress and empowerment. Effective parenting instils in children high self-esteem, cooperation, responsibility, respect and social interest. Some include this teaching in Citizenship Education in schools. These abilities are inherent in each new-born child but they need to nurtured to be developed and at a much earlier stage than the teenage years. Parents and other significant child carers are the first educators and they play a very important role in this development in the first six years of a child's life.
During these foundation years a child tries to discover what pattern of behaviour contributes towards the feeling of significance and belonging. Children are so clever that they can change their behaviour according to the adult they are dealing with. They know what works with whom.
Another crucial point for parents and educators is discipline. Discipline is required as it gives security and guidance. It helps to enhance identity and significance as well. Of course I am not referring on the "old military style" of discipline based on fear and punishments. Nor am I referring to the other end of the spectrum where discipline is inconsistent, permissive or over-protective. Parents need to be both firm and kind. Positive discipline is the answer. In this approach neither punishments nor rewards play a part as they either backfire or have a short-term effect.
But, of course, each one of us can only give of what one possesses. Here comes the importance of life-long coaching, especially in such an important role as that of having an influence in the development of another human being. Parenting not only can be taught but should be taught and made available to all.
Today research in the area of child development is vast. This knowledge can be acquired and, together with the required skills, attitudes can be put into practice by all those parents who are ready to invest in their children.
One such school of thought that has contributed a great deal in the field of parenting and education of children is Adlerian psychology. It is also one of responsibilities of being a parent, or an educator for that matter, to seek out such programmes to enhance oneself and invest in the greatest job in the word - that of parenting and educating children, and contributing to the betterment of society.
Ms Callus is a counsellor, specialising in Adlerian psychology and in coaching parents and educators.