The first thing that comes to my mind while thinking about parenting is safety and security that parents are duty-bound to instill in their children, followed by teaching children to be honest, responsible, independent and have balanced use of heart and mind. Let’s look at these elements in detail.
Should we fear or respect God? I am not at all comfortable with the phrase: God-fearing. I prefer God-respecting to God-fearing because there is no love where there is fear. As our children grow up, the first thing we usually do is to instill fear in them by telling them to be God-fearing. If children are to fear God, whom else should they not be fearful of? As a parent who wants to instill safety and security in his/her children, the parent’s first priority should be to teach children to not fear God but respect Him. God-respecting should give way to God-fearing. Once this holy-fear is replaced by holy-respect in the ecosystem of upbringing, children will be respectfully daring to question and learn without fear.
As a parent, what feeling should I be able to evoke in my children? The answer is obviously not fear but safety and security. How do I do it? By dealing them with love and respect.
Children will be grown up with the virtue of honesty inherent in their character provided that they do not learn dishonesty from their parents. It is almost but impossible to preach honesty to children when we show dishonesty or lie in their presence. For example, if you understate the age of your children to avoid spending on entry pass for a park and that your children witness this blatant lying by you, then you are unknowingly teaching your children dishonesty — a few bucks are saved but a BIG damage is done. A cloth that we use to remove dirt from a place should be dirt-free and clean; otherwise, we shall be inadvertently adding some dirt from the cleaning cloth to the place to be cleaned while removing the targeted dirt. A parent should have a clean hand like this cloth to mould up children who will be honest.
With social media having one of the biggest influences on how people think, hence, react, modern-day parenting faces a very difficult challenge: how to prepare our children to differentiate between fake and real information? The unabated flow of realistic-sounding fake information streaming down on social media unknowingly makes even an adult to take them as real. However, a conscious second-look at them reveals their fictitious identity. Teach children to have a second-look at information before reacting to them.
Being responsible and independent are two quality attributes that are closely inter-linked and mutually inclusive. After I stopped having mother’s milk, my mother started to spoon-feed me. And she stopped spoon-feeding me when I was grown enough to hold a spoon — I remember me, from the age of 11 years, washing and ironing my own cloths; helping my sisters in the household works; cleaning the plates after food; etc. I fondly and richly pay homage to my parents for allowing me to hold the spoon when I was ready to do so, and because of this upbringing, I was able to negotiate the difficult paths in my life and reach where I am now.
In order to make children independent and responsible, parents ought to stop spoon-feeding once children are grown enough to hold the spoons — grown enough to be independent and responsible. Independent is in-dependent, i.e., being independent means one is relying or depending on abilities and capabilities present IN oneself. Let me dwell a bit on being independent and responsible
In his best selling book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” late Stephen Richards Covey, one of the finest writers of motivational books, talks about three things: dependent, independent and interdependent. He explains that a dependent person does not use his/her skills but banks on others for fulfilling own needs; and an independent person uses abilities and capabilities to navigate through life. He suggests that an interdependent world is better than a dependent or independent one. Interdependent is a mutually beneficial relation between two independent people as either benefits from it, and it is not possible to have an effective interdependent relation between two dependent-natured persons or between a dependent and an independent person as being interdependent is a two-way relation. He summaries by saying that be independent to effectively present in an interdependent world.
When we break down responsible into two words, we get response and able — able to respond. Responsibility is the ability to respond to problems and issues that come up in life. Parents should not respond for the problems that children ought to be responded by themselves once they are able to hold ‘the spoon’ by themselves, rather parents should assist and train them to respond in the correct way. A parent doing homework for the child is spoon-feeding while a parent sitting with and assisting the child to learn the way to solve the homework is making the child to hold and wield the spoon. It is disturbing to note that modern-day parenting is more of spoon-feeding than letting child to hold the spoon.
The world does not have much patience to give space and time to your children to train spoon-holding. Home is the best place for a child to get ample opportunities to train itself to master holding the spoon. Mastering of holding the spoon means child having ample opportunities to be independent— to depend on herself/himself through usage of its inherent and acquired skills — and responsible — ability and courage to respond to various problems and issues. This courage is drawn by a child from its faith to depend on its own abilities. You can not make your child responsible without allowing it to be independent as they are mutually inclusive. And if you deny this opportunity to your child by keep on spoon-feeding, you are preparing your child to fail in the wild, wide world.
A dilemma many face while taking decisions is whether to use heart or mind. Well, it depends on the situation and the role one plays. However, we need to teach our children to not lose their heart to mind but to mind their heart, too.
Parenting is like training someone to become captain of a boat inside a comfort zone, which also involves controlling the rudder that decides direction of sailing, with the trainee on the captain’s seat. The comfort zone is the home, and parents’ presence during “the training” gives sense of safety and security to handle the rudder. Controlling the rudder means channelizing child’s energy and attention to the right, fertile ecosystem of growing up, which includes exposing child to the world of science and books that builds up knowledge — a prerequisite to be independent and responsible; teach them to be courteous and sensitive to human sufferings; sensitizing about virtues and vices; and imbibing the importance of physical fitness because a healthy mind resides in a healthy body.
Absence of such shepherding/training called upbringing from parents may lead child to sail the boat through uncharted territories, possibly resulting in mishaps, sometimes in shipwreck. It is equally imperative and important that we should hand the control of rudder over to child once she/he is grown enough — independent and responsible — to handle the rudder by herself/himself.