Every generation comes with new norms, new ways of living. While the bond between parents and children can never change, parenting styles have changed over time. We have fewer children than our parents' generation had. We are involved more than ever in our children's lives and finally we have started to pay attention to childhood stress. While pondering on how parenting has evolved over generations, I sat back in my chair and wondered if all has been towards greater good and if we are better parents today. There is no easy or one answer to this question. Evolution is always complex. We gain some, we lose some. But what will really matter is our ability to accept our mistakes and take forward what older generations did right. Though I like most part of modern parenting, I feel there is a lot we have forgotten and need to re-learn from our parents and generations before them.
Family Values: This is what I miss most in modern parenting. When we were growing up, we always had certain family rules and values to abide by. They were non-negotiable and everyone had to follow them, like family dinners and bed-time. Everyone had to dine together and no one could stay awake beyond a set time. The beauty of this routine is how it inculcated love and respect for each other and kept the family bond alive and throbbing. However, today we don't have a set dinner time, forget family dinners. Most of the time, children dine early and go bed. Today, there is no time for these small rituals and they have become a luxury.
Limited Screen Time: We grew up with limited and monitored screen time. Whatever we watched on television, we watched as a family. There were no personal TVs and absolutely no personal, exclusive TV viewing. These days, it is too common and is the reason behind many parents' worries - their kid watches too much television or is forever on the iPad. While we had limited access to channels at our time, our parents also sacrificed their interest to watch only those shows which were fit for the entire family. Everyone watched the news, whether we liked it or not. We had to listen to the news and that too, quietly. That inculcated our interest in the world around us and expanded our horizons. Sadly, today, children are much less aware of the world around them and know way more about social media than required.
Duties Came Before Rights: Back in our day, we always had certain duties and responsibilities, like keeping our rooms clean, finishing the vegetables, taking care of younger siblings and doing our homework ourselves. But today, it has become the job of the parent to keep their child's room clean, take care of his homework and other needs. Somehow, we have accepted the idea of rights without duties. This breeds incompetent, irresponsible children who have no idea how the world really works.
Household Chores Were Part Of The Day: Unlike today, when children earn for doing household chores, we always considered them to be a part of growing up. There were no questions about earning from doing them. Everyone worked in the house and children were no different. This has changed today tremendously and is the reason behind the mushrooming of life skill classes. Sad but true.
Privileges And Gifts Were Earned: While I was growing up, if I wanted to go for play date with my friend and stay till late, I had to earn it by proving myself responsible and capable of taking care of myself and my belongings. Today, privileges have become rights and gifts need not be earned. All children have to do is ask. This erodes the value of hard work. I remember a particular instance when I wanted to buy Barbie's bubble bath tub. I must have been in K-3 and my mother asked me to save money for it. I saved for nearly three months and my mother pitched in the remaining amount before I got what I wanted. That was my first and most important lesson in learning the value of money.
Entertainment Was Not The Parent's Job: My parents never ever took it upon themselves to entertain me. If I was getting bored, it was up to me to figure it out and not my parents. I had not many but just enough toys and books to keep myself entertained. If I was bored of them too, I had a vast sky and a beautiful garden to keep myself occupied. Children today, on the other hand, are perpetually bored and parents take it as their duty to keep them occupied. Boredom has not changed, but the attitude towards boredom has and it need to be corrected.
Children Were Responsible For Their Success And Failure Alike: If we failed an exam, it was our fault. We did not study hard enough, we did not practice enough. Unlike now, we could never think of blaming the teacher for not teaching it right. We were responsible for the consequences we faced. Today, teachers are blamed. Education system is blamed for the failure of children. Yes, we need to reform the latter but that does not change the ownership of work. It is the job of a student to work hard for grades, ask for help if he does not understand. This is the worst we can do to our children. We expect teachers to take the blame when our children fail but are we ready to blame their future bosses when our precious gems do not match up to the task? We are not. So, let us just stop blaming the teachers and the system and set things right.
Parents' Lives Did Not Revolve Around Their Children: Parental love can never change. The feelings remain the same. Our parents loved us just as much as we love our children. What has changed is the manifestation of that love. Our parents adored us but did not arrange their lives around our schedules, whims and wishes. Instead, they structured our lives around their schedules. This is something my mother always complains about. Instead of structuring my child's schedule around my work, I schedule my work according to his timetable. I am correcting my mistake and getting better but still there is a long way to go. The problem with latter approach is that the child ends up getting too much unwanted attention. This not only hinders parent's work responsibilities but also sends out the wrong message to the child - I am most important, ALL the TIME. Contrary to that, when a child sees his parents working and managing time, he learns to value hard work and understands the essence of time. Such children grow up to have better work ethics and do not try to be attention seekers.
Just a few things to keep in mind when we embrace change and modern values. Not all is bad, not all is good. What we need is to selectively pick and choose what is right for us and our family.
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