The problem is that children don't arrive with an owner's handbook.
Which is tragic, really, considering the fact that they are embarking on the most important task of their lives. After all, the success of their children depends, to a large part on their success as parents. And the success of each generation, of the neighborhood, even of the country and the continent, depends, to a large extent, on the success of that generation's parents in raising them.
Most parents get by. Their kids grow up and also get by. They live average lives in average communities, and raise the next generation to do the same.
But in an increasingly complex society, is that good enough?
First, we see our society plagued by problems such as crime, prostitution, homelessness, drug abuse, poverty and broken relationships. In most cases the reason is not hard to find - those tragic adults grew up in tragic homes where "good enough" parenting was sadly lacking. Why? Because, by definition, half of all parents are doing a "below average" job in raising their children. And those children will, most likely, grow up to then do a below average job in raising their children. And so the cycle of depravation goes on.
Suppose, just for a moment, that we could do raise this general standard? Suppose that, before these damaged and deprived children, they could learn some new skills, new ways of understanding the parenting process so that they don't have to just repeat the mistakes of their own parents? Wouldn't that benefit us all in the long run?
Second, in a multi-cultural, complex society we need ever better leaders. Men and women who are "whole" - not bogged down by insecurities, hurts and fears that result in corruption, hidden agendas and selfish ambition. We need leaders, in all areas of society, not just politics, who have a capacity for love, generosity, compassion and tolerance. From where do such qualities come? From growing up in secure, loving, and confident families, that's where.
Third, don't we, as parents ourselves, want to give our own children the best possible start to life? For them to grow up happy, confident, and skilled in social relationships? Don't we long for them to be able to avoid the mistakes that we made?
But how can we teach them all that unless we ourselves have been taught? And if all that we have been taught comes solely from what our own, fallible, parents passed on, and from what we have, by chance, picked up from movies, TV, and our friends and neighbors, is it not surprising that the raising of our own children becomes a rather hit-and-miss affair?
Yet the whole notion of learning to parent seems anathema. We won't let people operate a car, a gun, a boat, a scalpel, even an electric saw without proper training - but we are quite happy to let them operate a child for 18 years with no training whatsoever! Is this some kind of collective madness? We don't say, "let everyone drive a car without a license, but then if they have an accident we will require them to get some training". But that is exactly what we say when it comes to having children! In most people's mind, parenting classes are only for "welfare cases".
Isn't that just shear madness? In every other area of life we pay good money and invest many hours of time to get the training we need to learn new skills. Yet when it comes to raising our own children, we think we can just make it up as we go along?
Most mothers, these days, take ante-natal classes to prepare for the birth of their new baby. Why? Because they want to give their baby the best chance of a safe and successful birth. But that was the easiest part! Far more difficult is knowing what to do with this child for the next 18 years! But no-one seeks preparation and training for that!
Isn't it time that this changed? Isn't it time that we made a more deliberate, and systematic, effort to better equip parents with the parenting skills and advice they need?
So what about yourself? How much effort have you made to learn about child development or the right way to inspire and motivate your own children to greatness? Do you know the right and wrong way to use punishments and rewards? How to correctly teach responsibility? Wouldn't it be worth the investment of a few dollars and a few hours to get some new insights into this?
And how will your children learn good parenting skills? Should they just watch what you do and copy that?
It seems to me that something that crucial for the success of individuals and of society should be systematically taught in school, right alongside the other essentials for life, such as reading, writing and math.
So, next time you watch the news and see yet another tragic shooting, murder, suicide or rape, ask yourself how different it might have been if that person's parents, and grandparents, had had some decent guidance on the challenging task of raising their kids?
Then go and get yourself a parenting book. Read it. Discuss it with your friends. You might be amazed at what you discover!
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Dr. Noel Swanson's website provides free expertwww.good-child-guide.com/parenting/”> parenting tips and advice - just sign up for his newsletter and get a free chapter of his book, The GOOD CHILD Guide. You can also meet with other parents on a www.yesparenting.com/forum/”>parenting forum.
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