There is a rising tide of anxiety among parents about the future and the prospects for their children because the future is no longer predictable.
With less certainty parents feel less confident about parenting and how to prepare their children for their future. Through my work with mums and dads I find this translating into an increase in tentative parenting, and you can’t be tentative with children. Tentative parenting is wobbly, at best, and scary for children at worst. Hesitant or overly cautious parents often do their children a disservice by creating a leadership vacuum or denying their children sufficient opportunities for growth by being overprotective.
I recently spent an interesting morning listening to visiting US clinical and organisational psychologist Dr Rob Evans, author of Family Matters: How schools can cope with the crisis in childrearing (Jossey-Bass, 2004). According to Evans, the rate of change we are experiencing and the explosion of choices around us are creating both huge opportunities and much confusion. “These conditions are having a profound effect on the way parents parent their children and the way in which they approach their child’s school and teachers.” This, he feels, is having a negative impact on our children's preparedness for the future.
For parents to partner effectively with their children’s school, Dr Evans had the following advice:
- Stop expecting that school alone can prepare your child for the future. Parents are trying to prepare the path for the child instead of preparing the child for the path.
- Choose a school or education system, understand the rules and policies and play by them. Stop asking for exceptions for your child as it does your child no good in the long term.
- The most important lessons we learn in life we’ve often learnt at the feet of pain, loss and disappointment. Don’t take away these learning opportunities from your children. Don’t smooth the path too much or you won’t prepare the child.
- Stop worrying about whether your child is happy or whether your child actually likes you. The important thing is what kind of future you want for them and whether you are helping or hindering that preparation. Sometimes you have to hold the line with your child about the big stuff, even if it makes you unpopular. Children will get mad with you but you need to let them get glad again – they always do.
- Take a breath, find your courage and let your children grow more on their own. They all have fragile moments but few children are extremely fragile. All the evidence about children is that they are extremely resilient.
I left Dr Evans with a copy of my book, Future-proof Your Child, (Penguin, 2008) which dovetailed so beautifully with his talk. If you want to understand the forces which are changing the future as we speak, then do give it a read. Understanding what we need to know about tomorrow today, why we need to know it, and what we need to do about it will help you to parent more confidently and less tentatively.
Information and understanding together with a healthy dose of courage, will enable you to make clearer choices for your children and your family today.
Creative parenting expert, Nikki Bush is an inspirational speaker, author, educational game designer and toy judge. Her work is fuelled by her passion for play and her commitment to helping parents and teachers to find creative ways of connecting with today’s children. You can read more at her website http://www.brightideasoutfit.com/