Becoming better parents

Nguljathang Haokip *


The Bible says, "Children are a gift from the LORD" (Psalm 127:3). This implies that our children are not really ours but gifts from God. It implies even deeper that we do not own our children but we are mere trustees of God's gift. Herein lays the great responsibility upon parents to ensure that they bring up children in the right way; and thus the significance of good parenting.

Defining parenting

The root word for 'parenting' is the Latin verb 'parere' which means 'to bring forth, develop or educate'. The whole concept of parenting involves acts on the part of adults towards the progress and well-being of children. Parenting can thus be defined as "purposive activities aimed at ensuring the survival and development of children."

The act of parenting is generally undertaken by a child's biological parents. Nevertheless, in some cases, the act of parenting can be done by caregivers, guardians, or foster or adoptive parents who might have no immediate biological relationship with the child.

Identifying your parenting style

Most parents are unaware of their parenting style. More so, most parents might not even ever consider a thought on the subject of parenting. The parenting method of many parents could be term as one that goes with the flow. This mostly reflects the popular culture of the day. It could also be based on one's own upbringing, which is to say that the parenting style of a particular family is passed on from generation to generation.

According to Lisa Dunning, a well-known marriage, child and family therapist, there are three prominent styles of parenting, namely: controlling, passive and reasonable.

1. Controlling Parents: Controlling parenting style is one where the child is to obey the parent without any question asked whatsoever. The common phrase in this parenting method is "I am your parent, so obey me!" Children under such controlling parents do not have the freedom to express their individuality and hence have little or no personal growth.

2. Passive Parents: Passive parenting style is where the parents remain silent and let children do things as they wish, even to the extent of their getting out of control. As opposed to the controlling parent, passive parents give children complete freedom in the house and over their lives. There is no mention of discipline as such in such homes and thereby leads to the child having no respect for self as well as authority.

3. Reasonable Parents: In reasonable style of parenting, there are certain limits set up by parents to the freedom of a child, although in a gentle manner; parents give choices which enable the child to learn from the consequences of his action with no fear of parents. Such style of parenting make the child develop a healthy self-esteem and responsible for his actions.

Becoming the reasonable parent

I have seen much of controlling parents as much as I have seen passive parents. Most homes I can think of right now fall into either one of these two categories. The reasonable parent is not so commonly found. The reason perhaps is that it is not as easy as it sounds for parents to become reasonable with their children.

Many parents would find the idea of becoming reasonable with a child totally ridiculous. To them, the child is meant to simply listen and obey, nothing more. However, what such controlling parents tend to miss out is that the child is an individual with a unique set of personality which is to be nurtured and not controlled. Every individual has their unique individuality and taste for things be it about hobbies, aim in life, talents, etc. Parents ought to recognize these in children and appreciate them. Controlling them and forcing them to try and follow something which is not in tuned with the child's personality will do more harm than any good.

Likewise, passivity on the part of parents can produce unhealthy growth in children. Recognizing every child as unique does not mean allowing children total freedom to choose and do things as they wish. Passive parents do that, and the result is not completely encouraging. A child under such type of parenting method generally grows up into a self-indulging lifestyle.

The ideal method of parenting is the middle path between the two extremities neither too controlling nor too passive. A certain amount of control is required to keep the child's unrelenting demands and urges in check. Yet, this control must not exceed a degree where the child's inquisitive mind is discouraged from gaining new insights about life on their own. A certain amount of freedom must be allotted to them such that the child grows up to be confident and responsible.

Critical areas of parenting

Let's take a look at some areas of critical importance on parenting:

Disciplining: Disagreement over the method of disciplining children is a common thing between parents. For instance, whereas one partner might liberally resort to spanking children, the other might outrightly oppose such method of disciplining. What is required therefore is, firstly, both parents father and mother need to agree on the method of disciplining their child. This will enforce a healthy impression of the parents on the child's mind-set concerning any wrong behaviour. Secondly, whenever parents discipline the child, they should keep their own emotions under control. This means parents should not discipline the child out of anger or frustration. Doing so often results in expression of words and actions with which many parents would later regret.

Disciplinary measures in terms of physical punishment may be employed appropriately with utmost care without the slightest motive of causing neither physical nor emotional scar on the child. The child's well-being must be always kept in mind. In other words, disciplining a child must be aimed at correcting the child's mistakes and not be used as a means for parents to show their authority over children.

Encouraging: Many parents have the notion that showering of praise and appreciation upon children will lead to complacency in their performance. Therefore, many parents withhold praises from children. To praise and encourage children as and when required will only help boost the child's self-esteem. Praise will also help a child to recognize those behaviours which earn approval and thus encourage him to continue such behaviours.

Praise should be about the behaviour and not the child. There doesn't appear to be any significant distinction between the two. But this is important to make sure the child is encouraged to enjoy doing what is good and not be filled with pride. Parent therefore ought to not withhold praise and encouragement from a child when it is required.

Role modelling: There is a common expression which goes like this: "I cannot hear what you say because your actions are too loud". Many parents might have tried rebuking and teaching their children over and over again, yet with no effect. The reason perhaps could be that what these parents teach they do not practice it themselves. Imagine an alcoholic father teaching his son to abstain from drinking. This is where role-modelling occupies a vital place in good parenting.

Parents must be the perfect examples for children to follow. Children in fact look up so much to their parents. They are the first people with whom children come into contact with in this world, and also the people with whom they spend most of their time. Parents who practice healthy habits are bound to see their children do the same more than those who lead unhealthy lifestyles.

Communicating: It is noteworthy that higher the amount of interaction between parents and children higher is the level of self-esteem in children. Conversely, the lack of communication between the two sides contributes to a child's low self-confidence. Communication becomes more important nowadays where both parents might be working. In such case, the parents ought to carve out sufficient time to spend with their children on a regular basis.

Parents ought to also pay attention to what their child wants to communicate, both verbally and non-verbally. This is extremely important especially with adolescents since by this stage they are already exposed to the outside world and in the company of peers, whereby so many pressures and inner conflicts have begun to rage in their minds. Non-verbal expressions can contain much information about their struggles. Hence, parents ought to gently approach children and listen to them share their fears and doubts with an understanding heart.

Educating: It is the responsibility of parents to educate their child about life and living. As children grow up and get into the company of their peers, they gradually tend to develop certain thinking patterns which are not essentially healthy. Some of such irrational beliefs could be "I must always be loved and liked by others" and "I must always be good, talented and competent to be accepted by others." Such wrong beliefs cause frustration with oneself and result in low self-esteem.

Parents therefore need to be extra sensitive to such developments in their child and intervene timely to correct such unhealthy beliefs. The challenges for parents today are growing with technological advancement; especially the internet and T.V. Children have become more and more exposed to unhealthy beliefs and practices like never before.


The results of one's parenting style are best manifested in the lives of their children. Being successful in life is one thing, whereas being a good parent is entirely a different thing. A person may be successful in his/her personal or work life, but could be a failure when it comes to their child's upbringing.

No parent would deny the wish to be called good parents. In fact, many parents strive hard and give their best to see their children do well. Sometimes, however, even the best of such efforts seem to fail and parents are left frustrated, wondering what must have gone wrong. It is my belief that this article has achieved its purpose in providing some insights for parents to ponder upon.

* Nguljathang Haokip wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on June 13, 2015.

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