It’s time we taught parenting better

It’s time we taught parenting better

It’s time we taught parenting better

Do parents have an inalienable right to treat their children as they wish? Clearly not. Many organisations, governmental and social, keep an eye on children in danger of bad parenting. Children’s rights are protected to varying degrees in different parts of the world. When those rights are badly compromised the state or an authorised private organisation steps in.

It is right that parents and children should get along within their own home cultures. It is equally right that bad child cultures be stopped.

The skills needed to handle today’s world well are very different from those required fifty or a hundred years ago. A gentle, semantic approach to learning and life may still be an ideal. In practice the pace of change, our demands that children experience all they possibly can as early as they can, the wishes – often needs – that both parents work, all contribute to a different home life from the placid, steady one we might regard as ideal.

We are starting to recognise that children need a balance in their lives. Top scholarship is valuable and has been a major contribution to rapid economic growth and social stability. We also realise that art, sensing, interpersonal skills and feelings, all contribute to a fulfilled life. Without them we become the robots and automatons we dread. The same is true of discipline. Personal order and motivation are excellent bases for shaping a good life. But questioning authority, challenging assumptions which have clearly not created the most successful of worlds – these, too, are essential if we are to enjoy our time on earth.

Most people are going to become parents, many, grandparents. A few fortunate ones like me, great-grandparents. At no time in my life was I ever taught anything about being a parent and, in the absence of my own parents through death and war, I had few role-models on which to base my ideas. Apart from feeding my children I was an appalling parent.

Children and parents have somewhat pre-determined relationships. It is built-in that children leave home and forge their own way in the world. This comes about by clashes, usually mild and transient, sometimes deep and lasting. It is the natural order of things that child / parent relationships swing from close to remote and back again. But nobody has that explained to them. Many heartaches would be avoided if they did.

We do not want to raise perfect parents. Consistency is for cows, not humans. Individuality is the enchanting human characteristic that makes the world an exciting place. Learning to grow up while we are actually growing up is part of a life cycle. We have already shortened that part of the process too much. We understand enough about the human psyche to help the next generation think through their purposes and understand their options.

Our education system needs to address these matters, too. Education is widely blamed for imbalances in society. While acknowledging that educators as a group are somewhat conservative, the biggest drag on better education today is parents, not teachers. When parents blame society for the pressures that create excesses of theory, qualification and competition they should look in the mirror for the culprits.

As a species we have not yet found our purpose beyond survival but we have the tools to achieve any purpose we want. Like all tools they can be applied for good or ill. What we should be handing on to future generations is not cleverer mobile phones but clearer purposes to make our species the noble and rewarding success it can be.

We need to be better parents to do that.