New Generation Parenting – Mathew C Ninan
The new generation parents need a new vision
Most parents of the young children of today are millennials. ‘Millennials’ is a sobriquet used for those born in the 1980s or early 1990s. They are people reaching adulthood and parenthood during this decade.
Millennials are very different from their forerunners. A privileged lot, they enjoyed more conveniences and comforts. They were pampered and naturally they expected certain entitlements. All these made them a little narcissistic or self-centred as well. Don’t be surprised if they are a little presumptuous and dismissive of others.
They have now become the parents of the Generation Alpha. Gen Alpha is born between 2010 and 2020 and so entirely of the 21st Century. There was a Gen Z generation between Millennials and Gen Alpha.
Gen Z are the ones who straddled the two centuries, being born roughly between 1995 and 2010. They were born into the digital world. They are dubbed digital natives. Most of us are at best migrants to the digital world. While we struggled to adapt, they took to it like fish to water. This is one major difference between the earlier generations and the Millennials and Gen Z.
Most of the young children of the present times are those of Millennials or Gen Z. So these parents need to take some extra care when handling their children. This does not mean that others have all been ideal parents. The point I am trying to make is that these young parents who were themselves a little ‘pampered and spoilt’, have to be a lot more careful and circumspect in dealing with their children.
A privileged generation, with entitlements which came to them unasked, they are apt to take things for granted. But reality is quite different. We have to encounter many hurdles and setbacks. Life is not always a walk in the park. It’s sometimes strewn with stones and thorns.
The Bible says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, he will not depart from it when he is old” Aristotle said, ‘Give me a child until he is 7, and I will show you the man’. St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) echoed the same sentiments when he said, ‘give us a child till s/he’s 7 and we’ll have her/him for life’. All these maxims point towards the supreme importance of sensible parenting. Young parents, therefore, need to take a few conscious decisions to be good and effective parents. It’s the most exciting challenge and heaven-sent duty cast upon us.
The most critical thing is patience: You need a huge amount of patience, ‘patience as on a monument’ to use a Shakespearean idiom, You can be firm with your children when needed, but you shall never lose your cool. When emotion gets the better of reason, some tend to be abusive and violent. Hold on! That’s the last thing you should do in front of your children.
Lead by your example: Do not expect children to do as you say, they will only do as you do. Actions speak louder than words. You need to walk your talk.
Values like punctuality, orderliness, discipline, tolerance and respect for others are to be inculcated by parents by practising these values. Honesty and truthfulness, love, kindness and compassion are virtues inherited by children from their parents.
If you want your children to be well-mannered, be a model of good manners in front of them. You do not need to talk about it; they learn it by sheer instinct. Children are good at copying their parents and teachers. So we need to mind our language and our manners.
Never be violent in words or in action: Never touch a child in anger. Violence breeds violence. Violent children come from violent families. Wilful violence is not at all acceptable in a civilized society.
Parents lacking self-confidence hurt their children physically or use harsh or abusive language. Physicalassault of children is against law in most countries including India. But it is not strictly followed in letter and spirit.
A confident parent will be able to regulate or control their children’s behaviour by their voice, body language and gestures. Children are quick to pick up signals and will soon sense their limits. There should be an unspoken contract between you and your children about how to behave and manage their affairs.
These privileged parents have no hesitation to lavish their children with gifts. This is not a healthy trend. Children do not value what they get, when they get them without yearning for them. They do not have an opportunity to experience what is called delayed gratification. There is no greater joy than receiving something after long anticipation. Children these days do not value their possessions because they get them unasked and often prematurely.
Technology has a huge influence on the present generation of parents and children. The use of electronic gadgets has taken a huge toll on the contact time in the family. Gadgets have robbed the conversation time in the family. Everyone is on their tabs or mobile phones even when they are together. Children’s social skills are hampered. Interpersonal relationships have taken a back-seat. This is very unfortunate.
Do not give your children whatever they want: Give them only whatever they need. This a golden rule for parents to follow. Make this distinction, and use your discretion in making decisions.
Someone said, today’s children lack Vitamin N. That is they never get ‘No’ for an answer. Parents readily say ‘Yes’ all the time. Parents compensate the time and attention they deny children by giving them whatever they ask for. With the result, children cannot take ‘No’ for an answer. In fact parents should say ‘No’ when that should be the right response. Children should learn to accept denial, failure and even neglect from the world outside. The training for all of this must begin at home.
What children need is your time and your personal involvement in their life. Nothing can make up for the timeand attention that parents owe their children. Parenting is not about supplying all their physical needs. It’s more about fulfilling their emotional longing for love and care. It’s their right.
Parents should find time to listen to their children. They have to spend ‘quality time’ with their kids. If you have no time to listen to your children now, a time will come when you will want to listen to them, but they will have no time for you. That’s a kind of ‘nemesis’ waiting for such parents.
It will be a sad day for you when your children grow up and fly away and you sit in your empty nest. You look back wistfully reliving their innocent childhood days’ and wishing to get them back. That is not to be. There is no second chance for parenting.
(Published in People’s Reporter, May 2022)