Behaviorally and functionally speaking, how long do kids stay kids? The question should be, how long should parents let kids stay kids? Rather what role do parents play in their kids’ maturity process?
My seven year old refuses to make her bed. The reason? I’m too young. Who, I demand to know, has told her she’s too young? But the question lingers with no answer, perhaps it was me who encouraged her to loiter in her babyhood for more number of years than necessary. Perhaps, it is her perception of herself that is doing it. Whatever it may be, how healthy is the concept of a prolonged childhood, or an irresponsible manner of growing up, one that entails no duties and expectations from a child, because she is TOO YOUNG???
Many parents believe that smothering a child with love will make loving and caring individuals out of them. How true is that? In my assessment, a child who has seen nothing but all accepting, encompassing love never learns to be responsible for his or her actions. He or she grows up being forgiven and accepted for everything they do… now how healthy is that?
Of course, severely admonishing or frightening toddlers is also out, but then, at what stage in childhood should children be made to understand that they are no more babies, and that they are on their way to growing up, and will, one day be as old as Mummy and Daddy too. Experts insist that thrusting adulthood on the child isn’t healthy either. So they should be allowed to come to terms with the fact of their growing up, in a manner they are comfortable with. Then, what is the role of parents? We cannot be just bystanders, watching as if from the sidelines.
Today, most of the parents of pre-teens, are struggling with their own mid-life crisis biological or professional. It is a cultural fact of our times that becoming parents is not the top item on our list of life’s priorities. A paying career, a professional standing, maybe a house and some money in the bank are the factors that come first. Later, we plan for kids. It goes without saying that unlike the parents of fifty years ago, our distractions from the path of parenthood are many.
Women, particularly, are not keeping the sole aim of life as a happy family, a good man to marry and ‘lots’ of kids. It is, but natural that the process of bringing up a child is no longer one that was best left to nature. Today, bringing up a child is a professional’s job, too much or too little of anything, to early or too late, everything rebounds. The parents of our generation are walking a constant tightrope of prudence, am I being too lavish? Or too strict? Or too lenient? It is difficult to imagine that fifty years ago, parents had a natural instinct to guide them, in bringing up their kids. Today, we seem to be doing it only by the book.
Maybe that’s what our problem is. Many of us have handed over our toddlers, who are barely potty trained, to the care of playschools or trained kindergarten teachers. We have assumed that a trained teacher will be able to guide our children in a manner we won’t. Too much to expect? What can a complete stranger give to your child that you can’t? Not traditional wisdom, this is common sense, the instinctive development of a child is not on love alone, agreed, but it is equally true that a child learns to emulate the adults he or she interacts with the most.
As they grow up, they learn that the love and affection they get is their birthright, they will get it, come what may, but they also have to do certain other things to become as good as Mama or Papa. This is not forced maturity, this is self awareness, I want to be as well turned out as my Dad; or I want to be as tidy as Mama. Often the earliest ideals carry an individual through a lifetime of stressful demands.
What then, is the secret of bringing up a child well? Its simple, the parents have to be role models. A child, who sees her Mom or Dad doing their work everyday, all the time, will learn to appreciate the value of doing one’s work early on in life. Sloppy, irresponsible or uncaring parents cannot be role models for great, well behaved and responsible children. This will not be forced maturity, merely awareness, and then she will need no scolding and reminders to be good at managing her life.
To make sure the child grows up and behaves sensibly, we have to grow up and behave sensibly first. A pampered mother, spoiled by choices will bring up only a sullen and disrespectful young child, who thinks the world was formed to cater to his or her needs. The mother then has no one, but herself, to blame for the way the child’s future shapes up. All learning (including the alphabet) begins at home, and we, as parents, need to realize this before the die is cast. We cannot bully a child in becoming a perfect child, when we ourselves are less than perfect parents. It’s a perfectly natural symbiosis.