Do you remember when you were growing up how much you wanted to be “big”, to be an adult, to be able to go where you want to go and do what you want to do? As girls, we dressed up in Mummy’s high heels, threw the scarf over our heads and pretended to have hair down to our buttocks. We watched in awe as our fathers drove the car or as our mothers cooked meals. Who did we want to be like? If we think hard enough, there were definitely many points in our lives when we wanted to be just like our parents! Then, at some point, things changed- we started to look outside our homes- everyone and everything became more attractive and started to influence us. How we dressed, how we felt about ourselves, who we chose as friends, etc. How do we as parents of today maintain that level of influence with our children as long as is humanly possible?
In Sociology, socialization of us as human beings is described as being carried out by social agents, with the family spoken to as the most influential agent of socialization during childhood. Outside of the family the other most influential social agents include of course school, peers and mass media. Today, social media is probably more influential than traditional media such as television and radio. Our children need the family, led by parents even more than ever before. There is significant competition happening in the world today, as so many forces (many of them negative) are now competing for control over our children’s lives. This makes it critical that as parents we find innovative and consistent ways to maintain positive influence over our children’s lives.
One of the most important ways that we can maintain a positive and dominant influence in our child’s lives is by being actively involved in your child’s education and school life. Research has shown that when parents are involved in their child’s education its shows through improved grades and test scores, higher rates of homework completion, improved attitudes and behaviours towards academics and school, and children are also more likely to be actively involved and interested in co-curricular and extra-curricular activities. Additionally, it has been my experience as a child, and now as a parent of a young child, that being actively involved in my child’s education also has personal benefits. Teachers and the school look out for the children of involved parents. Somehow, it makes teachers and administrators happy to know that these parents are a part of the team, and they approach the education and nurturing of your child as such.
In order to maintain influence over our children’s lives, it is also critical to lead by example. It is becoming a very disappointing trend lately for adults to chastise our nation’s children about very negative and crass behavior. However, I beg to ask the question- “where did they learn these behaviours?” It is very evident day in day out that the behaviours we see in our children is only a small representation of what exists in the larger society. The age old adage still applies today- “Children learn what they live, children live what they learn”. I would like to remind us of some of the words of the timeless poem by Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.
In the spirit of the theme of Parents’ Month this November 2017, I encourage us as parents to remember that we have the greatest and hardest job of all- we have been entrusted with lives that we must see as our responsibility to mold and enhance in the best ways possible. Let us remember to encourage our children onto good works and prepare them for greatness, while teaching them about reality and the world. Let us set good examples for them to follow so that they can help to make this world a better place than the one they entered. GET INVOLVED! STAY INVOLVED IN THEIR LIVES! And last but not least, let us remember that they are children- no matter how tenacious and precocious they may be. As parents and adults, let us remember that children are not in charge of themselves and we have to lead the charge to direct and guide them into being the best human beings they can possibly be!
Written by Kellie-Anne Brown-Campbell, Associate School Psychologist