Whatever happened to bringing up normal, well-balanced and sufficiently intelligent children with cultivated high emotional quotients and internal loci of control thrown in for good measure? Yes, I know this sounds difficult but I’d take these conversations over the physical work that goes into a lifetime of unnecessarily expensive birthday parties and meals that are harder work. But I guess that’s just me.
What is it with millennial parents involving children in their social media pursuit of constant, incessant validation and in general, putting in an incredible amount of effort in the optics.
I am not a parent and yet the idea seems exhaustive.
Having said that, I decided to do a bit of reading on what good parenting really entails. I found that bringing up successful, balanced adolescents is actually not as much hard work as Instagram makes it look. In many ways, it is exactly the same as the way we were brought up – as part of a team, hauling our share of the load when it came to academics and chores, and being accountable.
Some common threads that came up in my research and conversations included things like household chores, social skills and coping skills.
A study by University of Mississippi reported that chores instil a sense of contribution for children to their families and empathising with adults. Those who had done chores as young children were more likely to be well adjusted, have better relationships with colleagues, friends and family, and are more successful in their careers.
Psychologists don’t even recommend expected rewards for chores. According to Psyblog, the reason for this lies in the theory of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Also, as Psyblog puts it, “Rewards are dangerous for another reason: because they remind us of obligations, of being made to do things we don’t want to do. Children are given rewards for eating all their food, doing their homework or tidying their bedrooms. So rewards become associated with painful activities that we don’t want to do. The same goes for grown-ups: money becomes associated with work and work can be dull, tedious and painful. So when we get paid for something we automatically assume that the task is dull, tedious and painful — even when it isn’t.”
This is clearly not a healthy attitude and the sooner parents start inculcating a sense of purpose when it comes to work, the lesser dependence there will be on external motivators.
According to a research by Pennsylvania State University and Duke University, “Children who were more likely to “share” or “be helpful” in kindergarten were likely to obtain higher education and hold full-time jobs decades later. Students who lacked these “social competence” skills were more likely to face more negative outcomes by the age of 25, including substance abuse, challenges finding employment or run-ins with the law.”
Strong social skills in children have been observed to promote positive interactions. It leads to empathy, generosity, communication and negotiation skills, and problem solving – all significant aids in order to be a well-adjusted, successful adult at the workplace.
The world our children will inhabit is far from ideal. Sometimes, the bad guys win. Often, well-deserved promotions get delayed and relationships get sour. Setbacks and disappointments are natural in adult life and the ability let go and move on is crucial.
People are rarely born with coping skills. It is a combination of emotional and practical skills one needs to imbibe in order to go through adult life unscathed. According to psychologist Marie Hartwell-Walker, “As with most things, modelling coping is the best way to teach it. When parents make room for sadness but also hold onto optimism; when they face their problems head-on; when they approach problems as a challenge to be solved; when they take responsibility if they had a share in what went wrong; children learn how to cope through their pores.”
As Betsy Brown Braun, author of Just Tell Me What To Say said, “The surest way to make life difficult for your children is to make it too easy for them. Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child.” It is hard work, sure. But nobody said parenting well to bring up good, well adjusted human beings was easy.
For more on quality parenting and related solutions, read on: