Children have never been very good at listening to their elders. But they have never failed at imitating them – James Baldwin.
If there is one thing that stands out for me as I interact with parents, it is this – parents want the BEST for their children. That’s how we are intrinsically wired as mammals. Within the core of every parent is a wired ability and desire to nurture, to protect and to influence positively.
And it is always refreshing to experience how that plays out in the sessions I have with kids. Children have an amazing insight when it comes to describing their parents. Out of the purity of their hearts, children are able to pick out the purity and good intentions of adults in a way that we as adults have long lost the ability to do. Most children and teens in my sessions are brought in because they are getting into trouble or are already into too much trouble, either at home or at school. However, in the context of an accepting environment, they are still able to make very insightful and positive observations about the very people with whom they seem to be getting in trouble with.
My mum prays for me, and that makes me feel good. My dad works very hard to provide for what we need. My teacher is kind. My grandma is very loving. My uncle loves to hang out with me.
It never ceases to amaze me how insightful children are. So here’s my pointer for today – whether or not you are intentional, your children are always learning from you.
The beauty – and tragedy – of this is that the unintentional lessons are the ones that stick the most in a young, impressionable mind.
Listen. Your children are constantly taking psychological notes as you interact with them. These notes form the basis of the belief systems through which they view their world and will make future decisions. They learn about good ol’ African hospitality when they see you cheerfully bustle around the kitchen to make a meal for the unexpected guests who just arrived. They learn about wise spending when they see you write down a shopping list and stick to it when you take them shopping. They learn about courtesy when they see you give way to the driver who is trying to ease into your lane. They learn about patience when you stay calm as the clerk at the cash register fumbles about with a faulty barcode. They learn about respect for authority when they watch you deal with a situation at school in a diplomatic way, even when it’s obvious the school made a mistake. And when you say hello and thank you to the security guard at the mall. They learn about taking responsibility for their actions when you apologize TO THEM after you realize you were wrong about something. They learn about being accountable when you keep the promises you made – TO THEM. They learn about time management when you show up on time at the parents meeting in school, and they learn about commitment when you stay through to the end of the meeting.
Hospitality, wise spending, courtesy, patience, respect for authority, taking responsibility, time management, commitment and accountability. Perfect antidote for Affluenza.
You want your kids to have these qualities? Forget about the schedules and the rewards and the pointers and the tips. Forget about the ‘dos and don’ts’ of effective parenting. As important as those are, they need to come from a core. And for me, the core of effective parenting is ‘parenting yourself’. If we can’t get this part right, we will not get the rest of it.
Does this sound like hard work?
It is because it is.
But then, so is having to deal with a 25 year old ‘Ethan Couch’ with an inflated sense of entitlement.
If you haven’t yet, check out my post on Parenting 101. Please share with me your views here, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you.
Dr. Carolyne is a psychologist, lecturer and parenting coach. She is passionate about parenting, emotional wellness and quality education. Her mission is to walk with parents going through different spaces and phases of their parenting journey; by empowering them through coaching and counselling, in order to equip them to parent with purpose and confidence