Parenting isn’t what it used to be. Our children are growing up in a world utterly different from the world we knew as children, and they will be grown-ups in a world that is changing even more. This story explores the particular challenges implicit in parenting a 21 st-century child, and offers some ideas for how best to go about it.
The decision to become a parent is much easier than the journey. Any parent will tell you that parenting is a marathon, not a sprint. It is a journey of 21 years or longer, depending on how many children you have and the time-frame between them.
Parenting in the 21st century is challenging our thinking. The world is changing, and we are walking a path that is new in many ways. Bringing balance and keeping an open mind will help develop our precious offspring, and will also develop character and growth in us.
Parenting can be divided into four main roles. Understanding these roles and the rules that govern them will guide your journey:
TEACHER Once the starter gun has gone, the race of parenting moves along at a remarkably fast pace. The first seven years are critical as the parent is the primary educator. Around 80% of the brain is developed by the age of five; the foundation of values is set; and one’s emotional stability for life is cemented. Building solid foundations like love, security and discipline will help to ensure that the rest of the journey is a pleasure.
Our children will be grown-ups in a very different world. The challenge for a new parent is to engage with the way the world is changing, retain those of the solid “old-fashioned” ideas that still make sense, but be alert to the skills your child will need to prosper in the future.
On the financial front, parents need to ensure that life insurance is on track, and that cover for risks like dread disease and disability is also in place so that any unplanned detours are covered.
COACH Between the ages of seven and 14, kids begin to develop their own character and minds. It is important to allow them to take some responsibility for their lives, yet still to be there as a guide through the decisions they need to make. Parents are still heroes in this part of the journey. Spend time encouraging and growing your children. You too will learn and grow as they teach you. But hold them accountable, and do not be tempted to bail them out of all their problems. On the days when things do not work out the way they had hoped, be there to wipe away the tears and encourage them to try again. It is important that they learn responsibility and taking ownership.
Although many people associate school solely with academic learning, the skills learnt on the sports field and playground are as important as what those learned in the classroom. Social skills are critical, and relationships are the richest dimension to life. Encourage your children to get involved in activities.
This is a great time to ensure that financial literacy skills are in place. Managing pocket money, learning entrepreneurship and understanding the benefits of delayed gratification are all routes by which we can help to ensure that kids are ready for their future.
MENTOR By the time high school arrives, friends become more important to children, and the bond between them and their parents will be stretched slightly. The parent role changes to one of mentor, and this is the start of the letting-go phase. This is a time for children to establish their own identity. Parents are there to advise and guide rather than to dictate and instruct.
We have never been children in their world, and we need to give them space to grow and establish their own direction. It is a privilege to come alongside our children at this stage, and a joy to see them blossom and become individuals who will be able to face adult life in the world of the 21st century. If firm foundations have been put in place in childhood, the teenage phase will be much easier to live through.
CHEERLEADER By the time they get to 21, your children should be living independent lives. They have discovered who they are. This is the time to move into the grandstand and cheer them on as they each run their own race. Watch as they continue into a new world that will be very different from the one you experienced.
It is a privilege and an honour to be a parent. It challenges us, brings great joy and builds legacy for our future. Enjoy the journey, learn the lessons and then sit back on the grandstand of life and enjoy the view.