When you ask those born in the 80s what parenting means to them, it will include a whole lot of discipline and strict house rules. My experience wasn’t different. My mum was one strict lady although she has loosened up a bit over the years.
Listening to other stories, especially from military homes, I have come to understand that my discipline journey in the hands of my mother is nothing compared to what others have gone through. I am talking about being wound in a potato sack and beaten like a piñata. Some are hilarious, others left children with lifelong scars – physically and emotionally.
The jury is still out there on whether this form of discipline brought out the good or the bad in children. Even with the chaos engulfing secondary schools in the ongoing burning of property, the argument on corporal punishment has an equal share of its supporters and its detractors.
It’s supporters are rooted in Bible verses such as “spare the rod and spoil the child” (Proverbs 13:24), while its detractors culminate in new studies that have found that corporal punishment leads to trauma and is retrogressive.
Little Angels vs Little Sinners
The adults who went through physical discipline have been affected by it. Either, the tradition continues generation after generation or it is abhorred completely.
However, there is a strange movement that I call, “worship of children” that has weighed on the opposite side of a “dictatorial” parenting system. This parenting style opts to put the child ahead of everything else and monumentalizes the persona of the child. They can’t do anything wrong and if they do, they need to be left to explore.
In the season of social media, the child fills the parent’s timeline as the best thing in this world. Discipline in these homes is unheard of because it would bring out “toxicity” in the home. Saying “No” to the child is highly avoided. In some quarters this is called the “kababa” and “kamum” generation.
Listen, these parents probably went through the worst form of discipline and never wished it on their children. Or even that the presence of the child fulfils some greater meaning to the parent. For example, they project their thoughts and desires of how they would have liked to be treated when young.
Don’t get me wrong. Cherishing and loving your children is not a bad sign of parenting. We need it in this generation. I love my little ones and would do anything to put a smile on their faces. But it should not be a hindrance to disciplining and guiding them.
Buying them everything they ask for might paint you as a good parent but might not prepare them for the world that could say, “No” to their desires. Having entitled children is as bad as having wounded children.
Even in some cases, these kids are painted like they can’t do any wrong, mini-angels that only bring warmth and good tidings. No, they are not.
One line from Pastor Caroline Wanjau of Mavuno Church blew me out of the water with this quote, in her sermon series on parenting.
“Children are not little angels. They are little sinners who need God.”
Inasmuch as they are cute, cuddly and bring loads of joy, children are to be guided even including discipline. This is what Proverbs 22:15 says: “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far away.”
Figuratively, the rod of discipline could mean any effort you make to steer the child in the path of wisdom and knowledge.
Research states that the permissive style of parenting brings out self-entitled children who might struggle with rejection. An article on Greatschools.org states that:
“Unfortunately, indulging our children’s every wish can have unfortunate consequences both for the child and the parent. Children can end up feeling entitled to getting what they want, not what they need: self-restraint, patience, and other character traits that will help them succeed in life.”
It adds that “Parents who give in to the short-term battles about the extra toy or the chore that never gets done face bigger battles down the road when the child is used to running the show: fudging on homework, back talking parents, or simply not behaving responsibly.”
You are not parenting for yourself but for the society
The youth are the leaders of tomorrow. We grew up by this line. Being future leaders depends on what we feed them today. If we have wounded or self-entitled leaders, we might not progress as a country as far as we thought.
Some of the childhood wounds or free-hand parenting result in bad relationships, lack of emotional intelligence and adults who can easily be swayed by every little wind.
Once these birds perch out of your nest, they become members of society. They interact with others in school, universities and at work. They go out and vote for leadership and make choices that will better the society or ruin it.
You see, as a parent, you are not only parenting for yourself or your family. You are nurturing the core element that will power our society for the future. If we teach integrity and model it to our kids, they are more likely to catch what we believe in.
If we always fall into their whims (and children are good at manipulation) they will grow to be adults who cannot handle rejection.
Finding the middle ground
Truth be told, there is no training manual for parents on how to achieve the best results. Even more aggravating, children themselves do not know what is right and wrong unless they are trained and guided.
Parents can learn from seminars, books and teachings on how to discipline correctly, guide with a firm hand and love overwhelming to bring out well-balanced children.
The bedrock of parenting is that it cannot be “successful” without being intentional about it. According to research, there are four types of parenting styles: permissive, authoritarian, authoritative and hands-off.
Of these four, authoritative is tipped to be the most effective parenting style. “Of these styles, child development experts have found that the authoritative parenting style (not authoritarian) is the most successful in raising children who are both academically strong and emotionally stable,” this article states.
Authoritative parenting sets limits, consistently over the children but also showing care and that they matter.
It is also one of the most involving parenting styles. It is easy to be permissive, it leads to fewer conflicts, authoritarian means children cannot question your decision. But authoritative means you will have to spend time with your child, know what they are struggling with and empower them to become problem solvers.
But in reality, parents use a mix of all styles depending on the situation. And that is why intentional parenting is important. To always be aware of how you are treating and raising kids.
Finally, there is no perfect parent. Our job is not to be perfect parents and to raise perfect children. That path only leads to frustration. However, we have to do our best in bringing up our kids, through calling for help, attending worthwhile seminars and learning from others who have succeeded in places we haven’t.
The goal is to give our children the best tools for them to succeed in life when we are here or not.