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In our country and many other places around the world, we have the inalienable right to raise our own children. In fact, we’ll be damned if anyone else will overrule our “home education” system. We created our children from scratch so we’ll shape them into the person we wish them to be with our values, beliefs, and anything else the cat drags in. There’s nothing particularly wrong with wanting another one of us in the world (author’s note: I personally would never wish such a thing on society!), but in the best interest of society, do we not bare a responsibility to raise a contributing citizen to such a society? Would you not wish others to return the favor to you, ensuring your child has a safe and flourishing life with others?
The Dirt: I should/must raise my own kid.
If you’re not already offended, good. If you are, that’s unfortunate. Either way, this is not a judgement on you or any particular parent. Rather we’re going to explore, briefly, the greater social acceptance of allowing “parents” to “parent”. Let’s start off with a question. If you needed emergency brain surgery (nothing deeper implied here), and you had the choice between the 22-year old recent medical graduate-now-turned-doctor and a 48-year old experienced and highly-regarded brain surgeon at one of the top hospitals in the country, who would you choose? Hint: It’s a no-brainer. Too soon?
“Having a child makes you no more of a parent than owning an airplane makes you a pilot.”
When it comes to something important, we place a high value on competence. Competence is simply a combination of knowledge and skill. The good news is that both can be acquired. It took your brain surgeon many years to acquire the knowledge and develop the skill to do the job right. Knowledge can be found in books, mentors, schooling, and other forms of information. Skill is what develops when we put knowledge into action. The better we translate knowledge into action that gets the desired results, the more skilled we are. The point is, we value competence, especially when it’s important.
Consider how important it is to raise a child properly, not only for the future of our family name, but for the sake of all of society. As important as it is, how is it that we automatically give this immense responsibility to the two people who figured out how to ? Where is the check on competence? If we wouldn’t even trust our haircut to an incompetent stylist or barber, how is that we so readily hand the reins over to the couple of folks that have first rights of refusal and legal obligation to keep the child alive?
Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that we use the term “parent” very loosely. If you had something to do with the creation of the kid, we call you a parent. If you consider the word more of a title than a label, we can apply the title of parent to one who parents. In the modern context, parenting is the process of promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood. If we’re not parenting, then are we really parents? We may be legal guardians, and we may have the best of intentions, but have we developed the competence necessary to properly parent?
Having a child makes you no more of a parent than owning an airplane makes you a pilot. Without the competence, it is a dangerous proposition for both you and those around you. What’s interesting though is that common wisdom says that we will just figure it out along the way. Of course we will, like anything else, but how much damage was done during our less-than-competent times? By the way, consider this same argument with respect to your brain surgeon. Imagine him or her “figuring it out” while your head is cut open like a cantaloupe.
Our lax attitude could be due to the delayed results effect. Usually we do not see the effects of any incompetence in parenting until our child matures and enters society. At that point, it becomes quite the tall task to fix the long list of issues they will experience: stress, fear, doubt, worry, all leading to inward and outward expressions of insecurity, low self esteem, and financial/career/relationship struggles. And it that doesn’t put a turd in your punchbowl, these are the same “kids” that will be parenting their kids.
If we generally have children at such a young age that we’re almost certain to not have any competence in parenting, what makes us think that we can parent? Surely, we would never intentionally harm our kids in that way. Thankfully kids don’t often sue for malpractice like we would to a doctor. I’ll submit that we succumb to the influence of ego and tradition.
Tradition (and the law) has us responsible for our own kids. Their growth, safety, actions, and influence is all up to us. Until they reach a magical age of 18, it’s up to us to keep them in line, else the consequences are ours to face. Placing the responsibility of parenting on our shoulders, however, may come from our ego. After all, if our parents can do it, why can’t we? The thing is, we never really correlate our adult struggles with our childhood influences. It may not be a perfect correlation, but it often runs deeper than we think.
Finally, what happens when a bad copy creates a bad copy of a bad copy? We see a new generation that has struggled to find their identity and purpose in the world. A generation where 1 in 4 adult millenials live at home with their parents. Where the reports of depression and stress are the highest of all previous generations at their age and only a paltry 2 percent claim to be entrepreneurs/self-employed. And they are already having kids of their own.
So what can we do? Our children do need parenting, and we could always use a bit more competence.
- Set a good example. Never expect a child to do what you say and not what you do. They say kids ears are closed to what we say, but their eyes are wide open to what we do. Not only will they do what you do, they will tell their kids the same thing, perpetuating a generational issue.
- Leverage others. Find a mentor, coach, grandparent that is willing to spend time with your child. It prevents our kids from becoming parent deaf and gives them perhaps a higher perspective on life than what we can share. Environment and associations are everything, as we’re always a product of the places and people with which we surround ourselves.
- Instill the habit of learning new things. Books, videos, audios, and the like can expose our kids to a world beyond that of our house, community, and city. Show them how to take the good and leave the bad in everything they experience. You just never know where they will find inspiration.
The good news is that we can become the parent we wish to be with just a little effort. We don’t have to be perfect, just less than destructive perhaps. Moreover, we don’t have to nor should we go it alone. We have vast amounts of resources that could help us help our kids become the shining beacon of society that we always knew they could be.
“I told my kids, someday you’ll have kids of your own. One of them said, so will you.”
I dare you to share this with anybody at all. It just might save their kids’ lives. I do appreciate all of you. I’ll raise you at the top ‘cause the bottom’s getting more crowded.