We welcome all of you back to school after a hiatus of two months. I am sure you have utilized this time to relax and rejuvenate yourselves and are ready to take up the post vacation period with renewed vitality and vigour.
Almost all parents are too busy these days and probably always were. Throughout history, mothers and fathers have worked exhausting hours in fields and factories, had far more children than most of us do today, had none of the conveniences we consider essential , and yet faced fewer parenting problems as compared to parents today. An interesting observation and one wonders why? When thinking of ways to support children’s well being the idea of boundaries, rules and the consequences of breaking them, along with the notion of exerting authority over children would to many seem a contradiction in terms – or a throwback to the 1950s . In the recent trend towards so called positive discipline, parents have been encouraged to be friends with their children to provide them with choices in many matters and to negotiate more.
Yet the result has not been what we expected. An indepth research in this matter clearly shows that although paved with the best of intentions, this permissive approach has actually been highly counter productive. Without clear boundaries and clear figures of authority children develop a sense of entitlement, self centredness and they are also less happy, secure and socially viable.
The chants of ‘put children first’ grow louder day by day thereby setting in severe confusion in the equation between the parent – child and teacher – child relationship. ‘Children first’ , no doubt should be there but not at the cost of effecting parenting . We are confused : unable to confidently distinguished between being authoritative and authoritarian – the former being discarded completely in the fear of turning the latter. There seems to be an unconscious misperception that authority and sensitivity, love and compassion are in some ways mutually exclusive and that by exerting authority we, in some way, diminish the caring we want our children to have and the love and trust we want to feel from them.
Some parents have difficulty in setting and enforcing limits and boundaries for their children, unconsciously deciding that being their friend is more important than being their parent. But if you stop a while and think: friends are equals so when parents try to be friends it sends a confusing message . When our children break our rules, misbehave , we’ll need to enforce the right behaviour , but our children won’t understand the sudden change of role. This constant oscillation between the friend and the parent role (with the parental role coming into play mostly in negative circumstances) creates inconsistency in our role as parents and undermimes our children’s feeling of security . Being a parent doesn’t necessarily turn one into a foe….it need not be an adversarial relationship, but simply one in which we make it clear who is in charge. This gives our children a solid, secure base from which they may explore the world. Despite what they say , do or portray , our children are after all just children and don’t know how to ‘do’ life yet. If they feel that no one is in command and behaving like a parent, they’ll often challenge our (lack of) authority, trying to provoke us into rising to the bait.
A top priority, for all parents is promoting their children’s healthy , happy development. Rivalry, jealousy, hostility, anger, tendency to throw tantrums , be manipulative with emotions are all characteristics which no one wishes to see in their children and these can be dealt with correct role play.Although our society may have ‘moved on’ children’s needs have not , and they never will: clear boundaries and figures of authority alongwith discipline and consequences are a basic health and well being requirement for all children across time and space.
It is time for a wake up call to all parents to learn to be assertive and authoritative without being dictatorial and didactic .
Here’s wishing you a successful year ahead.
Mrs Urvashi Warman