If you are a Generation X (born around the 60s and 70s) parent like myself, you probably worry how you are going to parent your children in the midst of the chaos and the fast-changing times.
An audio clip went viral on social media recently, of a mother narrating how she discovered that her son, about six years, had been sodomised countless times by bigger boys in the same gated community. She was heart-broken and pleaded for help. In the same week, a video trended of a young football coach, who sodomises the boys he coaches.
It is easy to fear for our children in such circumstances and hoover over them on one extreme or let them loose without any restraint on the other.
But we can find a middle ground, where we are equipped enough to some degree to equip them to face and surmount their own challenges.
This will call for us to learn new parenting ticks and discard some old ones that have been rendered obsolete. The 21st Century child (born in or around 2000) faces some of the following challenges;
Rapid technological changes and the desire to keep up with the latest is so demanding on our children that it occupies much of their time and attention.
The desire to fit in with the crowd is most prevalent in this generation. Absentee parents, who are chasing the next buck, leave their children with no one to cover their back.
Moral questions such as homosexuality, which lead to identity confusion. Poverty, where more than half of the world’s children live in poverty, according to some research. Family breakdown, single parent families are common lately and are all affecting children from such families emotionally.
I am under no illusion that this article is able to fix all your parenting problems. You may need deeper and more professional help, but here are some seven skills you may need to parent effectively in this century:
Technology is good, but excessive exposure is detrimental to children. I know many parents are “digital converts” while our children are “digital natives” but we must keep ahead of them or at least be on the same pace, if we are to protect them from information overload or overexposure.
Parental controls on TV will go a long way to limit potentially harmful exposure to channels we do not approve of. We can also familiarise ourselves with their favourite applications and monitor their online activities. This is so much work for a parent, but who said parenting was easy?
The old notion that “children should be seen and not heard” is outdated. Our children need to speak and we parents need to listen to them. If we pay a deaf ear, someone else will listen to them and they could be a child molester living next door.
We need to spend time with our children, not necessarily overindulge them, but get to know them at a personal level. A relationship with your child is your primary responsibility. Ask them questions and listen to their answers.
Learn their love languages (quality time, words of affirmation, physical touch, receiving gifts or acts of service). Get to know their learning styles; acoustic, spatial, visual, or kinesthetic and their temperaments (choleric, sanguine, phlegmatic or melancholic).
A parent who calls their child, “stupid”, or “possessed” or other like bad words should call themselves the same because “everything produces after its own kind” according to what some religious scholars have called the “Law of Genesis”.
How about you adopt calling them “intelligent”, “beautiful” or “gifted”? It adds everything to them. Science tells us that the brain responds to social approval in the same way we respond to monetary rewards ((Bhangi and Delgado 2015). A wow, a high five, or a positive affirmation, can engender good feelings in a child.
I know I will take a stab for this point of view, but frankly not every act of your child’s rebellion and immaturity must be met by the brutal force of your palm, or kick or cane. You do not have to be leftwing to agree. Sometimes you have to negotiate with them or understand their point of view. You will be shocked at how wrong you are and how right they are. Your aim here is to guide them to weigh the various options at their disposal and be able to make the right choices in their life.
According to the psychology of money, “Saving is the gap between your ego and your income.” The current generation should save for the next generation to build on.
If we do not save for our children now, they will have nothing to build on in future. The government is trying to popularise economic empowerment interventions, but ultimately, it is not responsible for our children; we are.
A modern parent needs to recharge their batteries every now and then because they run out often from the rat race we have subjected our lives to. Do you exercise regularly to keep your body and mind healthy? Do you read some books to keep you informed? Do you take evenings out with fraternities?
Take some time off from everything else (work and family) to just love on you, and you alone. It is not selfish. It is self-care. You do not want to be a parent martyr.
A massage, pedicure, swim, or any indulgence in a healthy hobby will leave you refreshed, happy, healthy, and ready to give your best to your children.