We met in the afternoon at our parenting coach’s home. Our hosts, a friendly gentleman and his wife welcomed us in the lush green garden.
Class started when invited guests had arrived. Most of us were attending this class for the first time and we all had to introduce ourselves. One after another, we mentioned our name,s workplaces and how many children we have. I watched and listened intently to capture the name of each person as they would be my company every Saturday for the next 10 weeks of this course.
One graceful woman out of 15 participants, captured my attention. Her name is Grace. She introduced herself in a soft voice and ended with, “I have three boys aged eight, five and two and I have come here because I don’t know what I am doing.”
I immediately felt she had taken words out of my mouth because I was there for the same reason, perhaps, even direr for I didn’t know what I had been doing for close to 10 years of parenting.
It is an assumption to think that every parent knows parenting. Just because someone has a child or more does not mean they know how to parent. A car cannot be expected to move just because its gas tank is full. Much of the parenting knowledge we have, has been passed on to us from our parents and from observation of those around us. Some of it is good, some is not.
Some of it is smattering of parenting until we get muddied in real parenting, then we discover it is more than what we bargained for and we can run but cannot hide.
But for purposes of clarity, let’s delve into the subject. What is parenting and what is the goal? Amos Patricia Mawusi, in his article, Parenting and Culture-Evidence from Some African Communities, defines parenting as carrying out the responsibilities of raising and relating to children in such a manner that the child is well prepared to realise his or her full potential as a human being.
Parenting is such a great privilege and an awesome responsibility; a privilege because you as a parent have been given an opportunity to nurture another human being you did not create.
A responsibility because you as parent must nurture that human being according to the pattern that has been predetermined by His maker, God. If this mandate does not scare the boldest, nothing else can.
According to Dr Henry Cloud and Dr John Townsend, authors of Raising Great Kids; a Comprehensive Guide to Parenting with Grace and Truth, “God designed your child to function independently of you. This is what is so difficult about parenting. It is the only relationship designed by God that measures success by how well it ends.
You are helping your child leave you. The goal of parenting, therefore, is to help your child develop character which will consequently sustain him/her away from you.
Diana Baumrind, in her 1967 book, Child-care practices anteceding three patterns of preschool behaviour. Genetic Psychology Monographs stipulates four styles of parenting; the authoritarian style, where parents establish rules which must be followed without question and any defiance is met with punishment.
In the authoritative style, parents make the rules and expect adherence but are open to suggestions from their children. The permissive style allows freedom and the uninvolved style, parents take care of their children’s needs but are largely detached.
The author suggests that rather than fixating on grades and exams, we as parents should pay more attention to our children’s character, build their confidence and awaken their curiosity.
Make clear and fair rules and enforce them consistently. “I give them instructions, take time to demonstrate and I explain why they should follow rules. Repeat the process until you are satisfied the lessons have been learnt and an intended character is developed,” says Anita Muhairwe Malinga, a lecturer at Kampala International University, who home schools her four children.
Children watch what their parents do and imitate it than what they are told to do. Stephen and Beatrice Langa, founders of Family Life Network and reknown parenting coaches, emphasise this. “Be an example and model the character traits you want your children to have. They will gravitate towards that template .”
Catherine Bagyenda, a mother of two sets of twins and the founder of Streams of Life Day Care and Nursery School in Entebbe, says the foundation of character is embedded in God’s Word and without it, no parent is capable of modeling their child.
Parents need to continually educate themselves as children change with growth and development processes. “We desire to bequeath two things to our children-the first one is roots; the other is wings.”-Sudanese Proverb.
Rev Michael Agaba is a theologian, marriage counsellor, and parenting coach.