In previous generations, children were meant to be seen and not heard. They were, essentially, treated as adults’ prized possessions. Education was seen as a way of banking, as if children were empty boxes that had to be filled with the wisdom of adults.
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” – Frederick Douglass
Societies have changed, as have our needs. Countless studies have proven that there are more beneficial methods which we can adopt to help children develop their potentials. Childhood is a wonderful period of exploration and discovery, and many of us long to go back to those care-free, exciting, adventurous and risk-taking days.
Let’s not forget that it’s because of this unlimited flow of adrenaline that guidance and protection is needed. However, this should not be interpreted as suffocation or control. On the contrary, these are the killers of an otherwise enriching experience. Guardians’ and society’s responsibility is to enhance a holistic development of the child through such guidance and protection.
Society has seen a shift from large numbers of offspring to one- and two-child families. Now back in the day, children within large families were trained to be responsible from an early age. They were always in the company of other children, and they enjoyed the privilege of free unstructured play. These are all vital ingredients that help kids develop their social skills and emotional intelligence. Ultimately, it’s social skills and emotional intelligence that truly help people achieve success in life.
Children are capable and are being encouraged in schools to develop independent thought, to be assertive and resilient. Many schools take up these challenges, but unfortunately, this might not be the case in some families. Democratic parenting encourages children to express their thoughts and emotions in a safe and loving environment. Cultural beliefs such as ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ create an autocratic parenting style which has negative outcomes. On the other hand, a permissive style may transmit the message that children are not loved. The democratic approach can be learned and mastered, for the sake of both the parents and the children.
Let us not forget the mantra that tells us that it’s not what you do for your children that help them succeed in life, but what you have taught them to do for themselves.
Children need a happy, encouraging and loving environment to focus all their energy on learning. Learning is a natural drive in children, and it’s happening throughout all their waking moments, wherever they are. The more pleasant experiences they are exposed to, the more neurons are wired. Another important skill children discover and assimilate at a very young age is building relationships. Parents are the best teachers to demonstrate this, as they are the most influential adults in a child’s life.
Time spent with parents and other significant adults can provide a healthy experience based on sharing responsibilities and, above all, encouragement, as opposed to criticism or punishments. This enriched development should be the daily psychological food for children. They can never have enough of it. One of the things that hampers holistic development is fear.
Fear in children can take many shapes and forms – from a fear of monsters to a fear of mistakes, a fear of self-expression to sometimes even a fear of their own parents. These are crippling emotions that halt progress. Why should children be handicapped by fear when they have adults to protect them and love them?
The majority of families are loving and caring, but what my work and experience have shown me is that we often fail to read between the lines. What is sometimes seen as ‘for the good of the child’ may not be understood so by the kids themselves, and therefor it might not have the desired outcomes. Understanding your child is vital to foster encouragement and build happy and lasting family relationships.