As a parenting conversationalist, it always gives me pleasure to ask people why they have children
Different reasons are often given that do not include the fact that making children is a rite of passage. No one states that making children is to serve continuity of the human race. We often get to this point after either follow-up questions or after debating.
For most people, having children is a subconscious decision made because many others have done so.
Many people’s reasons prompt me to wonder why we have children. Well, the reasons do not matter as much as the fact that parenting is a valuable time in life and the best thing that ever happened to many.
Unfortunately, at the later stages – mostly starting from 12 – parenting becomes confusing, agonising, frustrating and conflicting to many, with not a single parent ever having mastered how to navigate it stress-free.
As a working mother of four, I have had a relatively easy parenting life.
Actually, immediately I typed the word easy, a lot ran through my mind. How can the sleepless nights, cries from parenting frustration, the moments of regrets for having children, the hatred towards the man who made me a mother, the denial of the realities of parenting, the times in hospital, many moments of near collapse and times when I lived in hiding because I wanted to be a good parent, and many other difficult, frustrating and not so pleasant times be seen as easy?
I have no response for you, because being a parent is both exciting and challenging. Exciting to look forward to a new human who is your own replica, and challenging in trying to make it possible to bring the person up as a well-adjusted human.
Life is engineered so that parents are responsible for helping their children positively navigate it by providing them with the necessary wisdom, knowledge and information that will empower them to be good, upright and successful human beings – as defined by society.
We do not have individual definitions for success, and no matter how hard we try to be unique, certain societal norms have to be accomplished before we are deemed successful.
As soon as a child is born, parents have to start considering the values that they need to have acquired to survive and be successful in this world. These values may be basic, in-depth or just normal. We teach these values both consciously and subconsciously, but for the most part, the well-adjusted children are those whose parents are conscious in what they learn.
These are the most important values that you as a parent have the vital job of instilling in your children:
Family: the first value that a parent should input in a child – and that usually comes naturally anyway – is a sense of family. Teach them about the immediate family and expand their knowledge of family members as they get older.
Naming: start by teaching them about their own names, yours and your partner’s, any helpers or caregivers and all other immediate family members or those considered as family. Name the things around them as well.
Honesty: this is one of the greatest lessons to teach children. Note that a majority of honest habits are invisible and transmitted by unspoken words. For instance, you can lie to a child that you are happy, but you look visibly miserable. What you have done is honestly taught your child dishonesty.
Gratitude: children who are grateful do not feel entitled. Deserving of something does not make you entitled to it. Teach your children appreciation and gratitude.
Manners: long before children learn to meet other people, they observe how their parents meet others. If you do not apologise for being late for example, do not expect children who do.
See good: give your children reasons to have eyes that identify kindness and never take good people as if they may never lose them. They should cherish good people and good times.
Self-love: the love for self is the route to many happy days. Self-esteem, accepting others and willingness to teach and learn makes a pleasant life.
Compassion: we only help others if we know who we are. We help better if we have feelings and respect for them, and if we are educated enough to know so. Teach your children how to help you and others. Forgiveness comes naturally for the compassionate.
Decision-making: if your children have the willpower to learn what is right and wrong and to know what they want and do not, they can easily lead a fulfilling life.
Self-worth: teach them the importance of self-esteem because once they believe in themselves, they can change a lot for others and the world at large.
Food: We may just be what we eat. So, help your children to treat food with respect and dignity.
My spouse and I failed in this domain. We let our children eat what they could. The only good we did is that we eat less than 1% of canned foods, and less than 1% takeaways. We buy less than 1 % precooked or chopped items. Today, we are trying really hard to regulate their meals. It is never too late though. We are refocusing on nutritious meals and moderate quantities. You can too.
Consequences: teach your children that actions attract reactions. Use this example; grabbing is common with children and parents focus on telling them not to grab. Few parents tell them the consequence of grabbing and expect manners from the sky.
Forgiveness: children cannot be compassionate and respectful without being forgiving. Forgive them so they can forgive themselves and others.
Respect: for a couple who constantly shouts at each other, the child will shout at everyone. Respectful children will respect people irrespective of statuses and they will respect laws. Respectful people are kind, obedient and orderly. They easily develop all other characters without effort.
Listen: children who are taught to listen also know when to speak because they would listen and say the right things at the right time. They turn out to be responsible communicators as well.
Compete and not compare: meaning they should benchmark without thriving to defeat others. Growth for self-growth is the most important and healthiest path your children can focus on.
Accept losses: children who are taught to celebrate wins and concede to lose grow up balanced in emotions. They learn to celebrate others and to fix their mistakes.
Inspire learning: if you teach your children to respect education, and that knowledge is power, they will take learning as a life-long trip. They will enjoy it also.
Be inquisitive: learning is different from asking questions. Children who say yes to everything are gullible and extremely dangerous to themselves and their society. Teach them to question why things happen the way they do.
Appreciate: good memories, good times and share good things. Life is made up of what we can remember. Teach them to value good things and times.
Finance: money is almost invisible today. So, from when they are young, teach your children the power of earning, spending, sharing and keeping for future use (saving and investment). You will be glad that you did.
Time management: I once read a research outcome that successful people are always late. When I told this to my then seven and nine-year-old, they told me that ours is a successful family because we are always late. Boy! It took me years of hard work to get that off their minds and to make my children understand how precious time is. I had to teach them planning, organising and prioritising skills.
Responsibility: responsible children learn what is right and wrong and will do the right thing to safeguard their interest and that of others. Teach them responsibility alongside the ability to take authority and be accountable for their choices.
Dream: big and small and be realistic at all times. Give them lessons of dreams and allow them to dream. Dream with them by helping them accomplish their dreams.
Good life lessons that children master ought to make them able to know that as humans, they deserve everything that they worked for. That they deserve you and themselves. They deserve to be treated respectfully and fairly by all. They deserve to make and lose friends. They deserve to make mistakes. They deserve to love and be loved. They deserve to encounter challenges. They deserve and should share gratitude. They deserve to put themselves on lifelong learning journeys. They deserve life.
For you, parenting becomes easy when your children master values needed to position them in life.
If you ask me, the single most important lesson that a child’s most qualified psychologist and communicator should teach them – no matter their age and stage – is to be able to notice and call things by names. Identity … Identify.