Friday, February 12, 2016
Better parenting as a way to lent
Taking a session for the youth during a conference does not just give an opportunity for interacting and learning from youngsters but is also a time of talking to parents. The discussions range from advice on what to tell the youth (their kid/s included), tips on parenting, tensions they face and just how difficult it is these days to be a parent. One villain which pops out a lot as a reason for children not listening is the media.
Television, internet and mobile phones seem to be top on any parents list of instruments which are misleading children today. The discussion then usually veers towards how to control the television and computer and what safeguards or complete ban of mobile phones should be followed. Any priest who preaches a lent which should avoid television, internet and mobile phones is appreciated and hailed by parents as a savior and the conversation at home will be “Did you listen to the pastor’s sermon?” The son or daughter will usually grunt “hmm” and leave it at that.
The parents will go back to church and catch hold of the pastor and ask “what is wrong with my son/daughter?” This being lent, the question is valid to the point that we can always question the existence of whatever including us, them, and it. But is it a valid question to ask during lent? Do we actually think there is something wrong with our children and it needs to be fixed?
This leads us into understanding lent in its essence. The Lenten prayers make us pray “When the body abstains from food the spirit should abstain from evil, for the spirit and body should observe lent together. Fasting from food is fruitless if we do not abstain from evil thoughts.” It is easy to put the blame on someone or something. Technology is a very convenient punching bag for everyone and thus come the questions on television, computer, internet and mobile phones. But what is the inherent evil? Is it us or is it technology?
Lent gives us time to sit back and think. Have we been good parents, a good father and a good mother? Or have we not taken the effort to understand our child/children? Being a parent is after all a life time effort and there is no successful parent as success can never be measured easily. What can be done is an effort to understand our children, the language they speak and the culture they live in. Listening to what they have to say and knowing that spending time with them is much more than buying them something to bury our guilt is an important learning for us during lent.
Deuteronomy 6:5-7 says “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Love is primarily the foundation of a happy household and love of God has to be a family effort initiated by the parent in all spheres of life. This is substantiated by a right living and a sincerity in the household as is mentioned in 2 Timothy 1:5 “For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.” Unless parents become sincere in their faith and practice how can one imagine children to be so? If the talk in the house is about the shortcoming of another person, won’t the child also grow up with the same framework to blame and talk ill of someone even when that is not what is expected?
Jommer Medina points out three important points that parents need to understand about their children. Educating children is their right and not a special favour, children are thinking individuals and children are not accessories.
It is important during the lent season of articulation and meditation to accept that we are not doing a favour to children by educating them. Rather it is our responsibility. It is not that children don’t have to be thankful for that but parents can’t treat their children with an attitude of less respect and the line that “I am doing everything for you” while spending very little time with them. Children unlike what we think can take decisions on their own. They know at a very young age itself when they are hungry and what colour clothes they would like to wear. Later they also know which subject they would like to choose, what career they would like and when they would like to get married. It could be that parents think that their children will always be a child even when they grow up. Being parents does not mean we get the right to flaunt around our children before others and use them to increase our status in society and appear smart before others. This will put pressure on them as they have to fulfill our expectations. Contrary to this children will have their own dreams and that may not involve following our footsteps but could be something totally different. A doctor’s child need not grow up to be a doctor as an army person’s child need not get into the army.
Calling a spade a spade is also important as giving false promises and misrepresenting facts are not a healthy way of keeping relationships. Women fighting gender violence have argued that parents need to have the same rules for their son and daughter as this will bring about a better culture. Having separate timings and making the son feel that he can get away with insulting and abusing a girl whereas the daughter is always supposed to stay within the limits of culture is having a double face for everything and this will lead to children rebelling against the system in the house.
The understanding of lent is not to change others. It is always to change us. Trying to be an understanding parent is a very good Lenten decision to take. In our usual thinking pattern we will put all the blame on technology, children, our partner, children's peers and everything but us. During lent we can take the hard decision to identify that our children are the way they are because they want to and because of the influence we have on them. If we use the Lenten prerogative to listen and identify we can easily get it that as parents a lot of changes have to be brought into our life style. We can make a world of difference to our life and through that to the next generation by practicing what we preach instead of burdening our children with expectations even we won’t be able to fulfill.
The elephant who thought that the young elephant would prove itself only if it could fly never thought that the elephant itself could not fly. This is the beauty of lent. We can work on each element of our character and become a person who understands others better than asking them to understand us. It is to say that we can use the time during lent to be a better parent and if we are still in the mold of a traditional parent then maybe we can stop being one!