It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Interview Question Number 1: Parenting Goal

1. Describe a parenting goal that ought to be universal. No matter what part of the world you live in, regardless of your worldview or socio-economic status, this is a goal that all parents share in common — though they may never have thought about it.

There are so many good values that could be universal: kindness, creativity, consideration, tolerance, respect, courage of your convictions, respect for wisdom… These, however, are too specific. For a universal parenting goal, we need something more…universal…in scope.

When we embark on any project, we are advised to keep the goal in mind. If it’s a particularly large and complex project, there will be subgoals, steps along the way to the end. But never must you lose sight of the end goal, or you will be bogged down in trivialities, distracted, and discouraged long before you achieve it.

Which is why I decided on this nugget of parenting wisdom as my universal:

When we are blessed with a child, we must never forget that we are raising an adult, not a child. Yes, you have a child at first. However, the goal of this whole endeavor is to provide a fully-functioning, emotionally healthy, responsible and giving adult citizen of this planet.

Thus, in everything we do, we need to keep the long view in mind. Of course, we all succumb to the convenience of expediency once in a while. Now and then, we give in to a tantrum, we bribe bad manners, we turn a blind eye to sibling bullying. Now and then, we take the short view. But in general, we need always to be aware that this tiny person is another ADULT in the making. Which traits do you wish to encourage? Which traits need strengthening? Which need to be channelled into more appropriate expression? Which need to be minimized? What kind of adult human can you encourage and mold from the raw materials in your child?

Each culture could apply this principle in ways appropriate to the strengths and weaknesses of their society. Some cultures do a superb job of imbuing their children with the community values of sharing and compassion, but perhaps need more people who can stand up and make change happen.

In North American society, I think we manage to create individuals without difficulty. It’s a strength of ours. However, the balancing weakness is that too often individual self-esteem takes precedence over consideration and deferred gratification. We focus our efforts on creating kids with strong self-esteem. We praise, we encourage, we minimize obstacles.

Too much of this leads to demanding children with a sense of entitlement. They deserve all those goodies, and they deserve them now, and who are you to deny them? A fond and indulgent parent might find their three-year-old’s indignation at being thwarted cute, or, less delusionally, may opt to turn a blind eye, assuming the tot will outgrow it. They won’t, you know. Not without guidance and direction. Such guidance and direction will be vehemently resisted by a spirited child, but guide and direct you must. The knee-jerk anger at not getting one’s way may be tolerable (barely) in a three-year-old, but it’ll be distinctly unappealing in a 12-year-old, and in a 25-year-old? Frightening.

The entitled, impatient, selfish adult is an example of this idea in practice, but only one example of many.

The point is, parents help create the 25-year-old, whether he or she is kind, giving, strong, loving and supportive; or petulant, demanding, aggressive, ungrateful and just plain unpleasant to be around.

So. Never forget. That adorable child in your life? One day – and when it comes, you’ll be startled by how fast it got here! – one day, that child will be an ADULT.

You are in the business of raising that adult. The adult is your goal.

June 9, 2007 Posted by | individuality, memes and quizzes, parenting, socializing | 13 Comments