Becoming friends with your children

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


Some time ago an article appeared in the Daily Telegraph (a UK newspaper) suggesting that parents who become “friends” with their children run the risk of undermining parental and school authority. Thrust of the piece was that being too friendly with your child leads to familiarity which in turn fosters a more negative attitude. It’s suggested that children who at an early age adopt an adult outlook actually see themselves as adults. This makes it more difficult for teachers to instil discipline and offer guidance. When a child “grows up” is a vexed question and there is an ongoing debate about how long “childhood” should last. In addition many parents believe that the discipline and guidance referred to earlier is their prerogative.

Nonetheless it is important, that children in education accept the authority of those teaching them. So the question becomes; is being too friendly with your children an ingredient in inappropriate behaviour in the class room? Looked at another way, becoming too friendly with your child may lead to a strengthening of the bond between you but does it in the long term detract from your son or daughters “childhood” and education.

 

Becoming friends with your children.

 If we believe what’s being said; there’s more than a touch of irony in the Daily Telegraph article which berates parents for making friends with their children. It’s particularly ironic since the view being promulgated is that of Alice Phillips President of the Girls Schools association. As an education professional she should understand that its education and training or more properly the lack of it, which has lead to the situation she so eloquently describes.

In any progressive civilised culture, education is of paramount importance if children are to grow up and take their place in an increasingly complex society. No right thinking person would deny children an education and most parents sacrifice a good deal to send their offspring to the best schools available. So a lot of time ingenuity and expertise is ploughed into children’s education. However, the paradox is that whilst we understand and value education for youngsters, we give no thought to educating the parents who procreate, bring up and nurture the aforementioned children. It strikes me that the very children Alice Philips suggests are imbued with a negative attitude by parents, will go on to instil a similar mind set in their own offspring; thus continuing the cycle.

I have long felt that the most important job anyone accepts in life is bringing up children; responsibility for another human being is, to use the vernacular an awesome prospect. Particularly so since children don’t ask to be born; they have no say in their arrival circumstances, social status or their genetic pre-disposition; conversely parents have an input to all three of these important areas. Society now provides enough information and training for prospective healthy (or unhealthy for that matter) parents to choose the time and circumstances in which their children arrive and medical science is progressing towards identifying genetic characteristics which may hinder or blight a child’s development. It is all very well to say; that despite all the training and information we give parents to produce healthy children; many ignore or take no notice of the educational assistance that’s available; but it is there!

 Against this background therefore, it’s surprising that society has taken no steps to educate parents in rearing or bringing up its future citizens. In a world that grows’ ever more complex, a great many parents are struggling to keep up and comprehend; education and training for parenthood has never been more necessary. It’s as if we’ve built a first class product but have no after sales service; unlike the actual breeding process, there’s no organised educational follow up. My mother used to say that familiarity breeds contempt and in many ways this Telegraph article underlines the adage. At a macro level in society’s lack of comprehensive parenthood education and on the micro scale parents treating children like friends. In today’s busy world I have some sympathy with the parent who takes a short cut and treats a child like a friend for short term advantage; it’s a defence mechanism; but there’s no doubt the friendship strategy can have long-term detrimental consequences.  

The article begs two questions, who is to blame and what can we do about it? The answer to question one of course is that we, society are to blame; over the millennia we’ve given no conscious thought to how people are educated for their role as parents. I’m reminded of the short piece of prose I read on a wall during my first visit to San Francisco in the 1970’s.It said; “Mankind is the only non- linear computer that’s capable of being mass produced by unskilled labour”. It’s not too outrageous to suggest that if civilisation is to progress, then the quality of the individuals within society must improve. An emotive statement; but by improvement I mean people must become more socially aware and have an understanding of their responsibilities as well as their rights. All children should be taught to respect other people and the law, children need guidance to develop their own moral compass. Parents are the only folk with access and the opportunity to educate children in the very early stages of their existence.  Yet faced with such a daunting prospect parents are offered no formal training and little public assistance. Life becomes even more difficult when children out learn their parents, when children acquire more knowledge, perhaps even become more intelligent than their parents; what then. Perhaps the only opportunity society has to change the status quo is by properly educating children in parenthood. In the long-tem it’s more important than art or science and is the only way to tackle the problem out lined in the Telegraph article. Alice Philips seems to understand the problem so we need her to address the educational shortfall which caused it; a learning strategy designed to prepare children to be parents. One other point; if we put as much time effort and public spending into the nurture and bring up of children, as we do into “sex education” then the problem may go away. The cynic might tell you that the breeding process will take care of itself; looking after the consequences however poses a much more complex problem.  

Finally, perhaps it’s worth reflecting on the advice given by Kahlil Gibran in his book The Prophet. A woman asked; speak to us of children! The first part of his reply was as follows.

“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, and though they are with you they belong not to you. You may give them your love but not their thoughts for they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backwards nor tarries with yesterday.”


Submitted: October 01, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Peter Piper. All rights reserved.

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