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Parenting – Helping Children to Enjoy the Experience of Childhood
Love, Protect and Shelter Your Child
The Role of Parents
Many children go through life without experiencing the joys of childhood. It is the responsibility of every parent to ensure that the children that they bring into this world have a chance to enjoy the joys of childhood as far as it falls within their power to do so. One understands of course, that there are unavoidable domestic constraints and social factors such as racial and class prejudice as well as different forms of discrimination and persecution over which parents have no control. Generally, however, parents play a significant role in the degree to which their children enjoy this important stage of life.
Often children grow up in normal home environments with supposedly caring and able parents and still they are unwittingly denied many of the joys of childhood by parents who, for various reasons fail to create the type of environment which is conducive to happy childhood. It may be that some parents are just too engrossed in their own busy work schedules to take time off for their children; some are obsessed with success and achievement and push their children over the limit to achieve success for their own glorification; some parents, for whatever the reason might have failed to achieve their dreams and try to achieve their failed ambitions through their children and the list goes on…
Parents should not be the reason why their children do not get the opportunity to experience and enjoy the joy of being children. Instead, it is our obligation to create the right environment for our children to grow up happy, trusting, secure and free until they reach the age where they can no longer be sheltered from the burdens and responsibilities of adulthood.
Some Pointers for Parents
Let children experience freedom
- There is a time for everything and as such children should be allowed to divide their time into time for work and time for play; time for seriousness and time for fun. Children who are not allowed to play when they are young never understand how to have fun and are likely to become difficult or disgruntled adults. This translates into dull coworkers, difficult supervisors, boring spouses and unyielding parents. The bottom line is that if you do not know how to have fun you mess things up for the normal people with whom you interact.
- Children should be encouraged to have friends their own age. They should be allowed to socialize and as they say ‘free up’ in order to grow into normal adults. Nobody wants to nurture a nerd so do not shackle your children and prevent them from doing the things that normal kids do. This is not to encourage permissiveness in parents, but to sound a note of caution if you are heading in the wrong direction with your children. My advice is that you loosen the reins gradually as they grow.
Let children live their own dreams
- Do not try to realize your dreams through your children. Do not force your potential businessman or artist into becoming the doctor or lawyer you failed to become. You had your time and they have theirs so if, for some reason, you were unable to achieve your ambitions do not force them on your children for they too will have their dreams. Children have different gifts, talents and capabilities and they should not be pushed to achieve what is not their ambition. Instead they should be assisted in discovering their innate abilities and given help in nurturing them. Parents should strive to create the enabling environment necessary for their children to pursue their dreams.
Let children be children
- Do not give children adult roles and responsibilities; they will have enough of that when they grow up. Do not force them into being miniature fathers/mothers/providers in your stead. While they can assist in taking care of younger siblings, that responsibility should not be foisted on them as their own.
- Do not burden children with your relationship, financial, workplace or domestic problems; they are your children, not your siblings, peer or friends. Adults need to find adult friends in whom to confide or alternatively, they can see a counselor or therapist.
Raise well- rounded children
- Bright children should be encouraged to excel. They should be provided with the appropriate tools, amenities and environment as far as possible. However, they should not be made to feel that it is their duty to excel academically at all costs and at the expense of other aspects of their development. Rather, they should be encouraged to balance their time so as to be able to participate in non- academic activities such as sports, youth groups, service clubs and committees. This will be good for their overall development.
- Slower children must be encouraged to work hard and they must be given necessary assistance and support; however, they too must be allowed to participate in social and extracurricular activities for they too need to become well rounded adults. Often, it is through such participation that children discover their true life’s calling.
- Anchor your children in the faith. Pray as a family so that they will grow up knowing the Lord. Help them to build a relationship with the Lord and to keep it alive and burning at all times. In my culture we refer to the Lord as Papa God and it is a truly wonderful feeling when a child can be secure in the faith that Papa God is watching over him/her and keeping him/her safe. This double security which comes from an assurance of parents' love and God's love contributes in large measure to a child's happiness
Let Them Join Groups and Committees
Never give up on your wayward child
- Do not give up on the child who is difficult or who seems bent on choosing the wrong path. Some children find their way more quickly than others; some learn only after several mistakes. Ask yourself, “if I, the mother/father give up on my child who will he/she turn to for support?" This is not to say that you should condone bad behavior; rather you should admonish, chastise and punish with an attitude of love. Children notice when they are being reprimanded for their own good and even if they do not turn around, they recognize within themselves who corrects them out of concern for their well-being and who does not really care. Parents must continue to work with children who are bent on being difficult for somewhere along the way, they may stop and take heed, then your efforts would not have been in vain.
- Also, sometimes the child who is the problem child of the family turns out to be loving, affectionate and kind and probably the one who will look after the parents in old age. I know of this young man who was a notorious gangster; always in conflict with the law, causing no end of pain and embarrassment to his family. Eventually, the young man got executed by a rival gang. The community was divided in its response to the situation. Those who were not closely acquainted with him felt that he had got what he deserved while those from his immediate neighborhood especially the elderly and the children were in deep mourning for they felt that they had lost a kind and loving neighbor. Understandably, his parents, although they had seen it coming, were totally devastated for secretly, he was their favorite son.
Reprimand Them, but Also Comfort Them
Be there for your child
- Do not give your children away or leave them for others to raise. If you must leave them it must be as a temporary measure until you are able to do better. I know of parents from my part of the Caribbean who migrated to the USA to in search of a better life. Indeed, they were able to provide for their children an improved standard of living, but such children grow up without really knowing their parents and without experiencing their love. Without resident status the parents are unable to return home for visits and without a visa the children are unable to visit them in the USA. Thus, the children grow from one stage to the next – graduation from preschool, primary school and college with no cheering mother/father to show pride in their success. This is bound to have a negative effect and different children respond to this in different ways.
- Adolescence is one of the most difficult stages of growing up and sometimes, parents have difficulty understanding their own children. If a parent cannot understand his/her child, can a grandparent or other relative, no matter how close, be expected to understand and empathize with the child’s growing up vagaries? The wonderful thing is that we as parents can continue to love our children and show them that we do despite the fact that we may not quite understand what prompts them to behave badly. Every child needs this security!
- In my experience children who have grown up with little material things, but much parental love turn out to be sound and secure adults as opposed to those whose mother/father left them in the care of relatives, friends or others to go away to make a better life for them.
- Support your children when they are pursuing their dreams. Your encouragement might be what will propel them to succeed. If they are into sports attend their important matches, if they are into singing, music, dancing attend their concerts or competitions, if they are into art and writing attend their exhibitions and promote their work… be their greatest fans and let them see that you are proud of them. Children excel when their talents are nurtured and their efforts appreciated, particularly by their parents.
Parents must ensure that children enjoy childhood
Children are a gift from the Lord, a blessing to parents and society. Hence, all children should be given the opportunity to enjoy that stage of life during which they can be a blessing to those around them. Parents must on no account be the ones responsible for denying their children that right.
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