We are living hectic lives, things are not as simple as they used to be – if they ever were.

Having kids is also challenging in its own modern way. More than just a blessing, being a parent is a trial, and a great responsibility, as we have the impact on their future, and they on the future of others.

It seems that many children are overly sensitive nowadays, but at the same time their brains are being overwhelmed with digital information and the complexities of modern life.

On the one hand, there are many dangers. Child abusers preying children and teenagers on the internet using fake identities, malicious drug dealers hiding drugs in candy, and the accessibility and destructive influences of pornography. This will, understandably, shock parents and lead to over-protective parenting.

But on the other hand, that kind of, let’s call it “Disneyfication” of the lives of children, will only make them likelier victims to deceit and all kinds of avoidable sorrow when they grow up.

We cannot protect our children from every harm in life, but we can prepare them, by making them stronger and more self-confident, by helping them develop social and communication skills, and by teaching them how to become critical thinkers. And let’s not forget, by showing our love for them.

Loving kids doesn’t mean showering them with gifts or letting them play their gadgets where and whenever they want, as that is also really harmful to them.

But more on gadgets later.

I now want to relate this story to the seminar (Seminar Anak Sejak Dini) with famous psychologist Elizabeth Santosa, which was held in Saint John’s on Saturday, January the 20th.

Elizabeth also talked about parenting. I really enjoyed listening to her, I agreed with most of her advice. As did many of the parents who joined.

One of the things she discussed was the four familiar parenting styles: authoritarian, authoritative, permissive and neglectful.

Authoritative boils down to communication from parents to kids AND kids to parents, with a lot of room for decision making. It requires a bit more effort but will make them more confident, self-reliant and happy.

Authoritarian basically means that the kids should just listen and work hard to meet all the demands of the parents. They often achieve things, but do not feel happy.

Permissive, which is the most common parenting style in Indonesia now, has to do with giving the kids whatever they want and allowing whatever they ask. It requires less effort from the parents but often results in the kids later in life becoming selfish people with limited social skills.

Neglectful parenting is perhaps the most harmful, as the child is mostly ignored, which is psychologically really destructive to the sense of self-worth and personal integrity.

Elizabeth said that the Authoritative style is the most constructive one, the one we should adopt if we want our children to grow up as independent, sociable, and happy adults.

She also talked about gadget use. Many parents just allow kids to play on them whenever they want, especially when the parents are tired or busy. Of course, this is not a good idea. Children need to learn responsibility and discipline, but too much gadget use is also very harmful to their development. The key is to only allow it at certain times, like on weekends, and only for limited amounts of time. And it works best if they are only allowed to play when they perform well – so it will serve as a kind of reward, not as a basic need.

The last thing I want to mention about the seminar (as I am running out of space J), is the importance of honesty. If your child is just recently joining a competitive activity, like ballet for example, and he or she is not able to win a competition, it is best to be honest, by telling him or her that he or she did not deserve to win, because the other candidates had been practicing much longer. Of course, we need to use kind words and show understanding and compassion for their experience, but we cannot deny them the truth. And that goes for many more case than just sports.

So dear fellow parents, our job is not an easy one, I daresay it is the most important job on the planet. We have a huge responsibility. There are many things we cannot do or prevent, but what we can, we should do with the utmost compassion and dedication, and with awareness of all the pitfalls.

 

Written by Mr. Marcel van Delft