Parenting is often misconstrued by the many as being a control mechanism in life whereby an adult exerts control over their young, instructing, directing and disciplining their children through their early years of infancy, childhood, adolescence and into their young adult lives. Much has been written about using positive strategies to encourage these ends through incentive schemes such as star charts, rewards and praise and to a greater or lesser extent in recent years the explosion in the parenting market and in associated reference points have focused on this mechanisms with almost wild abandonment. Such positive strategies have been revered and set the precipice in the onward drive in children’s welfare highlighting their rights to maximise the use of these new methods in virtually all areas of child development.
However, whilst the validity of these methods retain credibility the internal dilemmas of the old order still exist, namely that the child is being controlled by a purely external force and as such is conforming therefore for the approval of an external benefaction. In essence this carrot and stick methodology then begins to reveal flaws that in their depth can have catastrophic ramifications as some children reach young adulthood essentially.
Prior to the embellishment of this approach, the Victorian system that was used embedded codes of discipline, respect and harshly as it may seem terror. Enough is written about the detrimental effects of these on the growing child’s psychology, their self esteem etc, although many still argue that this method produced young adults that understood conclusively the values of respect on which society, in a functional state, operates.
However, the incentive parenting programmes, also adopted by many education establishments nowadays, reward good behaviour openly. Essentially using a carrot, for example, if a child does something in a specific way, compliant with the request of the controlling adult, then they receive a reward. The problem here is when the child reaches young adulthood, although appropriate behaviours have been instilled in the child, so has the psychology to expect reward and as we are all so aware this is not always the outplaying scenario in life. Hence, disgruntled adolescents roam the streets full of vengeance and bitterness and angry that they haven’t received their just reward. So maybe it should be questioned how beneficial such programmes are in the longer term. Yes, some may debate that these programmes are balanced with firm, kind discipline too but the carrot remains the goal and it’s source is external.
The solution starts in the cradle. Each child from the moment they are born is an individual. They are released into this world with a purpose in life as an individual and although co-dependent in the initial phases the credible parent respects their individuality promoting and nurturing them towards independence through respect for this individuality. As a worthwhile, valid and wonderful individual that has a purpose, autonomy and above all their own mastery, through time the parent has the task to help (note the word help) the individual develop these own internal representation to a positive end.
This internalizes the reward picture. The child will become master of themselves, not slave to the parent’s control and external reward, autonomous in their decisions and their directions, their actions and their emotions, and responsible for them not simply taking on board someone else’s decisions and working towards someone else’s goals and finally recognize their own purpose which is self directed. The reward then becomes acute self-esteem, internal value and promotion of self which are values that stay with the individual through the whole of their lives.
If they value themselves then in turn they will value others. They will understand, without instruction by their own example. They will love because they love themselves. They will endorse others because they endorse themselves. They will honour because they truly understand the essential essence of honour in their own lives. They will value and respect because they value and respect themselves.
Human beings are selfish creatures. To revolutionise the very central core of this sick society the way we parent our children has to take hold of that very fact and take the self and build from the inside in order to express outward cohesion and stability as a result of this inner form.
In reality a child is born into this world to be nurtured. They are born relatively immature in comparison to those born in the animal kingdom and the parent needs to focus on helping that individual build the metaphorical psychological muscle of self – self esteem, self reliance, self respect, self worth and so on from which the child will grow outwardly.
So many of today’s parents and schools focus what they can give and what they can do for their children and what experiences are out there to broaden their children’s horizons. These are valid but they are not core to a child’s welfare and on examination it appears that western society now feels the need to encapsulate the child in an outer circle of wealth, experience reward possession, to name but a few clothing them almost with an armour which they believe will ensure a better future! In reality this is contrary to the truth. For a better future starts with focussing on the child’s integral worth, their internal reference and their ability to master their own autonomy with purpose and responsibility.
The phrase that charity starts at home is well understood. Becoming a 21st century citizen of the world in the short space of 18 years, and being nurtured to achieve that requires the same approach whereby home is the precious inner person similar to the foundations that remain hidden under a house – without them the house will not withstand the test of time. It is therefore time that an investment is made into the integral foundations of children and thus set in motion a new style of autonomous parenting remembering that mirroring and mimicry is something that should not be underestimated in developing tomorrow’s generation. And rewards …. well everyone likes a treat now and then but how much better is it to reward occasionally so that treat is just that – a treat with true intrinsic worth!