Parenting Children: How to Raise Good Kids in Today's Society
Parenting children ...
In today's society, values that have derived from consumerism and advances in technology have made parenting more challenging. In this article, we'll take a look at how society's values of instant gratification and excess-is-best are hurting us and our kids. Then we'll take explore some tips and resources for bringing a sense of balance back to family life.
Parenting Children: How Society Drives Family Values
Technology and consumerism have changed how we relate to each other. In families, it is not uncommon for children to spend hours in front of television and video games, while parents spend their free moments browsing web sites and reading email on their computers. The irony is that although the internet and video games like Xbox LiveTM connect us via the Internet, in our own homes, they've made us into separate islands.
Our society's drive for more and better defines us. Our homes are stuffed to the brim with things that we do not use. And what kind of message does this constant quest for things send to our children? To be more, you must have more. Our things define us. Although the happiness that comes from purchasing a shiny new thing is fleeting, we fail to recognize this as we place that thing upon the shelf in the pursuit of something newer and better.
But things and the use of technology are only a problem when they are used to fill the lack we feel. That lack comes from a lack of balance in our lives and a skewed perspective of the value of the outside world when weighed against the importance of our inner lives. Before we take a look at how to make small changes, let's examine what rampant consumerism and technology have wrought. How have they affected parenting children and our relationships with our kids?
Parenting Children of Today
In many ways, our children are a product of the times in which they live. Complaints about how our families and children have changed include:
- Kids spend more time with electronic devices than they do with siblings or parents. In fact, in many homes, kids are being reared by technology in the sense that they spend most of their time in front of a t.v. or computer screen.
- Kids spend less and less time outside which means they have less appreciation for nature than did generations before who spent the majority of their time outdoors riding bikes, playing baseball, building tree houses and forts. Lack of appreciation for nature equals lack of respect. This means we're raising kids who have little regard for the natural world in times that require it if we are to save the planet.
- Parents capitulate to children who are demanding and defiant. They confuse wants with needs and will not take no for an answer.
- Parents and children are not equals in terms of their knowledge of the workings of the world or their emotional intelligence. Parenting children requires setting limits and using discipline (not shame and punishment) to teach children how to make good choices. But many parents of today are not doing this. They allow their children to negotiate with them on everything which means that children are effectively in charge. This breeds insecurity in a child who even though he wants his way in the heat of the moment, knows deep down inside that he depends on his parents for his security and for making the big decisions that guide his life. Children who think they are capable of making their own decisions will learn through hard experiences that they are not.
- Although it is normal for a child to be self-centered, the scales have tipped in such a way that some children have no regard for others. The extreme sense of self-entitlement that we are seeing in today's children is dangerous to society and to the child who has no sense of connection to others.
- Children whose misbehaviors and small failures are brushed under the rug do not learn from their mistakes. Children who are made to believe that they excel at something when in fact their skills are mediocre are not served by bloated praise from parents, teachers or coaches. For instance, coaches kids who make the All Star team when their skills do not warrant this, are being set up for disappointment, teasing by other kids and quite possibly, depression.
Probably the worst contributor to a false perception of skills are video games. For example, hitting a home run on a video game is not going to transfer to real world success. Hitting a homer on a real baseball field takes a lot more skill than the hand-eye coordination that a video game requires. Kids who grow up believing that they possess skills that they have not worked to develop are being set-up for a steep fall from the pedestal of self-worth.
Parenting Children: Tools and Tips to Help Create Balance
Parents need to reclaim their roles as parents. We are not our children's peers or friends, we are their guides and they need us to do what is best for them even as we're helping them to discover this themselves. In my book, parenting book, Keepers of the Children: Native American Wisdom and Parenting, I teach parents how to be stewards of their children and guide the development of their natural strengths, values, integrity and humanity. Parenting in this way is truly a lost art which is why this book is as much about the parent's growth and development as it is about the child's.
Other Tips for Parenting Children
- Restrict the use of electronics in your home. Turn off the t.v. during dinnertime and get to know your kids. Talk about your day together and model what caring family interactions look like.
- Take your children out into the natural world, so they will see its wonder and begin to appreciate it. Encourage a relationship with nature. In my book, I teach parents how nature is our greatest teacher and how it can be used to teach kids the basics of human psychology so children will start to see beyond people's exterior to the character that reveals them.
- Encourage your children, but do not paint an unrealistic picture of their skills or achievements. Remind your child that skillfulness in a video game does not translate to skill in that area in real life. In real life, skills take time, practice and commitment to develop.
- Encourage a sense of community by volunteering to help others and getting to know your neighbors. Open up your hearts and your homes. Decrease your child's sense of isolation by getting him out into the world.
- Learn how to engage your child's real world interests. (There is a whole chapter about this in my book.) Your child's interest reveal his strengths and eventually, his purpose.
- Treat your children respectfully and expect their treatment of you to be the same. Show them what respectful behavior looks and feels like.
- Do not negotiate with your kids every time they argue with you about a decision you have made. When you say no, stand behind it. As long as your "no" did not arise from anger or a passive-aggressive attempt to punish your child, you will be teaching your kids that while life will not always give them what they want, usually, it gives them exactly what they need.
About the author: Laura Ramirez is the author of the award-winning parenting book, Keepers of the Children: Native American Wisdom and Parenting. She lives with her husband and two boys in the sage-dotted, Northern Nevada foothills.
Parenting Children: Recommended Resources
A book about how to raise a child to discover his inner nature and how to create a life that is aligned with it:
A book about how we've lost touch with nature and how to regain it:
Parenting Children - Parenting Advice
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