There is no doubt that bringing up children is one of the most challenging jobs we take on. There is also no doubt that it is one of the most important, not just for the future of our children but for society in general. Raising good people who will contribute positively to the lives of others – friends, family, colleagues, the community – is the life blood of our society.
In simple terms, parenting is about being kind but firm. Nurturing while holding young people accountable. On the one hand, parenting means loving your children for who they are, showing an interest and offering support and encouragement. On the other hand, parenting requires you to teach your children what’s appropriate (and what’s not), to look after their welfare and help guide them towards emotional maturity and responsible independence.
I would like to highlight five of the most pertinent ideas relevant to the challenge of being a strong parent, the part of the role which, in my experience, parents are increasingly struggling with.
Respect is the core family value – respect for siblings, parents, property and privileges. All members of the family should feel safe and secure when they go home. While we cannot react to every raised eyebrow or under-the-breath comment, nor should we tolerate disrespect of family or others.
Know what your limits and boundaries are and stick to them – don’t threaten what you won’t follow through with and don’t remind excessively without taking some action. Children learn if you say what you mean and mean what you say. Consequences don’t need to be massive, just predictable, reasonable and once they’re over, move on.
Teach children good manners – appreciation of what others do for them, being able to meet and greet new people, showing interest in others are basic skills that help young people navigate the world, connect them to others and thrive in social situations. It is an excellent way to build resilience and social confidence.
Tolerate your kids disliking you sometimes – current trends in parenting have emphasised building positive relationships with our children, which enable open communication, negotiation and problem-solving. However, there will be times when parents must stand firm with their decision and weather a storm. This may be when a matter of safety or wellbeing is at hand or when their friends are allowed to do something you are uncomfortable with. The cry of “everyone else is allowed to” is as old as parenting itself! Your children, your standards. In the words of Bette Davis: “If your children have never hated you, you have never been a parent”!
Be prepared to parent the internet – this is a fact of modern life. Once parents only had to control televisions and landline telephones, but those days are gone. Knowing about your child’s online world, ensuring a balance of priorities and activities, as well as getting those screens out of bedrooms at night and off the table during mealtimes, are key parental responsibilities. This will occur through ongoing discussions, backed up by developmentally-appropriate limits.
The College is committed to working together with parents and provides many opportunities for parents to learn and share with others – we strongly encourage you to take up these opportunities. We are also keen to understand more of the forces which challenge parents and invite you to share those. The challenges may be many and ever-changing but the rewards are great – an investment in our shared future, as we lay down the foundations for life.
Dr Deborah Trengove
Director of Pastoral care