Contemplating the Truths and Shifts of Parenting, By Tola Salau
It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men. – Frederick Douglass
I wrote this four years ago and shared it with friends:
Last week, I had the opportunity to observe my son through the lenses of the future and it made me decide to analyse myself as a parent.
I started by thinking about how we were raised in our generation and realized that I have made dynamic shifts from how I was brought up, even as I have embraced some truths that I was taught, at the same time. For the purposes of this piece, I shall break down the shifts and what I have accepted. It’s always best to start from where one was and move towards the changed state.
What I have embraced from my parents:
Tolerance: My parents were great believers in this. Their whole lives exemplified this and I strive to teach this to my son. It’s hard in the world which we live in now, as we discriminate against people on the basis of their class, tribe, race, or whatever we choose to use as our bar for differentiation. The older one gets, the more we realize that we are all one as humans, actually. To truly understand this, we should go outside our comfort zones and see how we feel when we are treated with compassion in a place where we are strangers in. We would realize that underneath it all, we are all the same, with the similar fears, needs, desires, wants etc.
Fair play: We should treat others as we desire to be treated. Another big credo of my parents. This one they drummed in me, day and night. There were times it was irritating to have to follow this edict, as it seemed easier to simply do what I wanted to at the expense of another. Yet, they taught me about the consequences of being selfish and how like an avalanche this destroys all around it.
Integrity/Honesty: Another tough one. There were times this was plain hard. It seemed easier to just go with the flow and justify one’s actions. I now understand what they were trying to instill – the ability to really know who I am and ensure that I stand for something deep within. If I didn’t learn to have that anchor within, then my life would be one filled with questionable actions and no compass for myself. I don’t need others as my defining rod, instead I look towards the unshakable moral compass that is living a life patterned after the directives left by our maker and creator.
Discipline/hard work: This is a trait no longer treated with high regard anymore. It’s sad because it is actually about character building and it creates resilience in one against life’s hard knocks. Yes, life will knock us. This is guaranteed, one way or the other, and no one is ever spared. We need to bring this trait back into fashion, discarding the get rich quick mentality and all that ephemeral flash. Hard work bestows upon one a dignity that can never ever be acquired by millions of money in any currency, and we shouldn’t be deceived about this. I once spoke to teens at my church about the relevance of GRIT, which is the ability to pick oneself up in the face of great disappointment or failure, and have another go at things. Or as psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth says: “Grit is sticking with your future — day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years — and working really hard to make that future a reality.”
Re-thinking automatic obedience: I mulled over this one as I turned a reflective eye upon the ills of our society and some of the understanding I gleaned as I read extensively through philosophy, some of the classics of Western thought, as well as books about learning in the Islamic way. The underlying theme through all of these schools of thought was that wisdom is acquired by asking questions. I desire to raise a child who asks questions, challenges the status quo and sees the world differently. I prefer for my son to question me on my reasons and require me to explain why I have these reasons. I don’t need him following anyone blindly. It’s my prayer for my son that he would have this trait as he grows to become a man. Based on his inquisitive nature, I pray that our good Lord continues to enable him stay upon this path. The reason I am adamant about this one emphatically? One day my son could be faced with a situation where a boss/friend/partner tells them to do something bad. Now which is preferable: that he has the common mindset which is prevalent here – “Because I said so, or everyone else is doing it” or to pause and think?
Allowing children to learn that failure is OK: It is the desire of every parent to try to make their children have easy lives but I believe that’s a great fallacy of parenting. We are only guides and caretakers for a short while (if you look at their lives in sum total), however if we are really sincere, we would realize that the ability to be successful in life comes with the ability to learn how to handle failure. The earlier children come to terms with this, the easier it would be for them each time they encounter it.
They must learn that they will not have everyone as their friend, in fact if everyone likes you, then there is something fundamentally wrong somewhere.
Children must learn that consequences come from failure with their schoolwork, and this is how they would learn to succeed at whatever they decide is their career choice/life path.
Teaching contentment: They must learn that they won’t have everything that someone else has. Contentment is a dying virtue in this world, and it needs to be re-taught. There is great beauty in working hard for something and also we don’t need all of the material stuff that the media is bombarding us with. We need to teach our kids that in life we don’t always get what we want, sometimes we never do.
Above all, they must learn that we could fail at trying new things. Yet this is OK, and we must not let that experience maim us from trying again. It’s hard to watch them get frustrated and upset through this process, and the urge to step in and make things right could overwhelm us but we don’t have a choice but to step back.
We need to create adults who would embody resilience, great character and be at peace with themselves and life.
Adetola Salau; Global Educator / International Speaker / Author/ Social Entrepreneur/ Innovative Thinker/Future Readiness Advocate/ STEM Certified Trainer
She is an Advocate of STEM Education and is Passionate about Education reform. She is an innovative thinker and strives for our society & continent as a whole to reclaim its greatness.