Parenting in the 21st Century

As a parent to 2 children of ages 10 & 11 respectively, I have come to appreciate raising kids and the many sacrifices that parents have to make. On the other hand, I am also privileged to have experienced some of the rewards of being a parent. The fact that you have a family to cherish, love and influence is a great blessing and not to be taken for granted.

I am however not sure if our predecessors found it this challenging but I beg to argue that they didn’t. The challenges faced by the older generation may be unique to them, nevertheless, I still think that raising kids in the 21st century is super duper challenging and complex.

Our issues in the 21st century are nothing to do with colonization or World War 1 & 2 even though the wars we fight now are more powerful and subtle. And although we are spoilt for choice in regards to: where and how we educate our children, which food we allow them to eat and which clothes or latest gadgets they can have, parents have never been as stressed out as they are in the 21st century. This may be as a result of the fact that in an average home, most parents are away for most part of the day and the need to maintain a moderate standard of living is placing enormous pressures on women to work for long hours. Whilst it is great for women to be able to pursue their careers, they however find themselves caught up in the middle of trying to be an excellent mother, wife as well as excellent colleagues at work.

Fathers also are working very hard and sometimes away from home to ensure that they can cater for their families and continue to provide the comfort and extras needed. On top of this they are relied upon to take on additional domestic chores in this century like never before. My dear husband and brothers are typical examples of 21st century fathers.

But in all of these, I ask myself what the most important things are in raising God-fearing, confident, law abiding and well rounded kids in the 21st century? We already do so many great stuff for our kids but are they the right mix of things to do or are we missing anything out? I don’t know about you, but I sometimes wonder if I am doing the best for my kids and positioning them as best as possible in a world that recognizes only successes but not efforts.

Without having to add more to what you are already doing as a parent I believe that we need to ensure that whatever we do includes or reflects the following:

1.   Recognise that you are the best coach your child will ever know and your role as a coach must be a holistic one, from being a spiritual coach to being a career coach. They need you to help them translate all the puzzles of the big world to things they can relate to and they need you at a time when it makes a lot of difference. They need your support and advice on handling rejection to handling success.

2.   We need to ensure that in our quest to expose our kids to things that will stretch their minds, that we create the time and opportunity for them to learn about and to seek God for themselves. One of the greatest legacies we can leave for our children are spiritual values. They need to be taught about God and encouraged to seek him wholeheartedly when they are young. The bible states that children are a heritage from the Lord and the fruit of the womb is a reward Ps. 127:3. However God expects that we teach our children about him and His ways. Besides when your children are taught by the Lord, great will be their peace and can I add that great will be your peace also.

3.   Live by example – when I was growing up, one of my neighbors used to tell his kids to do as they were told and not to do what they saw him do. To an extent, there may be more people in this boat than care to admit. Do we live our lives in such a way that our children can follow in our example or are we ashamed to even admit to some of the things we do when they are not there? The thing is children are smarter than we think and do know if we are authentic or pretentious. On a day to work one day, I muttered out the word ‘idiot’ to another driver who in my honest opinion I thought deserved it but immediately the word left my mouth, my son said “ mom, didn’t you say we are not to call people such names” You can imagine how ashamed I felt. I didn’t even bother covering it up but admitted I was wrong. Children learn from what we do more than they do from what we say.

4.   Avoid making up for the deficiencies in your childhood when raising your kids – Although it is a good thing to draw from one’s past experiences in order to be a better parent but it is important to be able to strike a balance when doing so. For example, a parent who when growing up suffered rejection from his parents may want to over protect his/her kids to make up for what they went through and so that their kids don’t have to ever experience the same treatment. While it will be good for such parent to draw from this experience to raise their kids with love but if taken to the extreme, they may fail to set appropriate boundaries that are healthy for them.

5.   Realise that every child is unique and therefore needs to be dealt with uniquely. Just as every product designed comes with its operating manual, every child has a design blue print which God wants to share with us as parents when we seek Him on behalf of our children. It is therefore important that we do not treat one child in exactly the same way we would treat another. Children have differing needs and also have different love languages and therefore we as parents need to learn to speak the love language of each child. Don’t force your children to be who you wanted to become but failed. Instead help them to discover and develop what God has placed in them and called each to do. Don’t kill their dreams even if it does not align with yours. They will have to live the reality of their dreams and so it needs to be theirs, and not yours.

6.   Avoid abusing your positional authority– we need to ensure that whatever decisions we are taking in regards to our children’s lives is ultimately for their best interest and not ours or just taking a position to win an argument or to irritate your spouse. The question to ask is whether or not the decision will impact negatively on the child (ren). It is good to always weigh the options especially when both parents do not see eye to eye on the matter

In talking about this, I must mention how parents discipline their children. It is a good thing for both parents to have a unified approach to discipline but I recognize that there are times when each parent will have to do so independently. In this instance, it is important that we do not overreact and even though one parent may think a form of punishment is okay such as smacking or hitting, they need to consider social and psychological factors before doing so. Again referring to point number 5, you need to know your child and what form of punishment works best. Hitting is definitely not one of them!

7.   Finally, Be there! You can’t actually raise your children to be champions if you are not there i.e. physically or psychologically. If you are present but not engaged, it is as bad as not being there and you will be setting a bad example also. Moreover, it is like robbing the children of the life they could have. Children need guidance, love, protection, provision and good role models. When they see their parents functioning as they should, it helps them to develop properly and helps with their understanding of who they are. But when they have an absent father or mother, a part of them will be missed and may lead to hurts, pain and can affect their ability to become mature and well rounded in the future.

I am cognizant that there are some children with absent fathers/mothers. In this instance, I can only hope that they will find good role models amongst their relations and friends and if you are a mother of a child with an absent father or vice versa, please ensure that you actively surround them with good role models male and female alike.

There is no such thing as a perfect parent but we can strive for greatness and allow God to use us to build the next generation in the way only He can. Once you have done all you can, just trust God and give yourself a pat on the back as parenting is not an easy job. It requires a great deal of sacrifice. Refuse to compare yourself to your next door neighbour who you think is perfect. You just focus on being the best parent only you can be to your children.