There seems to be quite a debate when it comes to the best way to rear our children. I have heard all kinds of comments and opinions from advocates of ‘gentle parenting’ to those who believe the problems with youth today stem from the lack of corporeal punishment. It can often feel very confusing to new parents who are wanting to raise happy, well behaved children.
Another interesting comment I have often heard throughout my nearly thirty years as a parent is the one of regret. ‘If I could do it all over again, I would do things differently.’ I myself would like to have done some things differently. When I first began having children, I had no real parenting role models so I raised my children partly on instinct and partly on books by parenting ‘experts’. Looking back at it now, I personally wish I had trusted my instincts more. I often tell new parents (even those adopting) to trust their instincts and to do everything in love. I believe that if we continuously ask ourselves what is the most loving way to handle every situation, we would make fewer parenting mistakes. However, the sad truth is that not everyone can trust their own instincts. Why? Because studies show that adults who have been raised by authoritarian parenting methods are often lacking the skill in hearing intuitively! This is especially true in those children who were not allowed to have their own voice or exercise any free will. Children raised in a militant style fashion are taught to do as their told and no questions asked. Is it any wonder that they grow into adults who turn to others to make their decisions for them? They have not learn to discern their inner voice and when they hear it, they do not trust it. They turn to advice from those who are smarter or wiser than they perceive they themselves are.
Parents are often authoritarian because what they desire above all is for their children to be well-behaved. Basically, they want their children to be like adults before their time. I remember being a young mother and fearing my children’s behavior in public because I felt their behavior was a reflection of myself as a parent. The sad truth of the matter is that it is often perceived that way. How often have we seen badly behaved children and heard some comment like, ‘She/He does not know how to control their kids!’ After having six children, I learned an important truth: all kids are different. Some behave well and some do not and it isn’t always down to parenting skills or lack of. Every child has different trigger points that can set them off into tantrums. One of our jobs as a parent is defining those trigger points and recognizing moments in which they can occur. This can be quite a challenge when your child’s temperament is different from your own or your other children!
I have known of families who impose strict regiments upon their children and guess what? They are some of the most outwardly best behaved children I have seen. But let’s not look at things at face value. Why are they so well-behaved? Is it because of fear of punishment? Is it because they feel they must earn their parents love? If that is the case, then they are learning through dominance and dominance does not make for transformation. Real transformation is from within and is not fear-based. I have seen some of these well-behaved children turn into violent, angry teenagers while others become fearful doormats. Don’t we want our children to be well-adjusted, spiritually strong, happy individuals who see the world as a friendly place?
In the case of religion, children who are raised by overtly strict parents tend to become dualistic thinkers. Everything is either white or black, right or wrong, good or bad. There is no room for tolerance in others. Because of the way these children are raised, they have not learned to question what they or others believe. Everything is set in stone because they were not given the tools to learn for themselves. Can you guess what their perception of God will be like later in life? Have you seen religious outlooks that are rigid and lack love and tolerance? I am not pointing fingers at any particular religion. It is more of an individual thing. You can have one particular church, synagogue, temple with individuals that are both tolerant and intolerant. Fundamentalism is not a religion, it is a sickness of the spirit. What kind of God do we want our children to know? A hateful dictator or a loving saviour? It is really true that a great part of how our children will be spiritually is down to how we as parents raise them. If we raise them in love and respect and allow them to have opinions, then they will be loving, respectful adults. Let’s discuss rather than dictate religious views with our children. Share your viewpoints but also allow children to share theirs and to explore their own beliefs. Above all, raise them in love.