Josephine’s flight was delayed and she called her husband, Paul, to pick their kids up from school. Being stressed out by the extended board meeting and the heavy traffic, Paul was mad with his wife’s frantic calls to be on time to pick the kids up. Arriving half an hour late, the kids were restless and complained to mum over the handphone right in the presence of Dad.
Once in the car, the kids started acting up screaming and fighting. Paul did everything possible to keep his cool, but the continuous screaming and fighting was too much. He started pleading with them, but to no avail. He tried bribing and yelling and then threatened them, but nothing seemed to work.
Frustrated and confused over how to discipline the children effectively, many parents end up wondering, “What did we do wrong?” or “We give them all we have. How could they do this to us?”
Parenting or raising children in our current generation is an unprecedented perplexing task. The social and cultural revolution of the 1960s now have our kids running wild under the influence of rock and roll, drug abuse and free sex. Then Dr Benjamin Spock shocked confused parents further with his anti-spanking campaign. With borderless freedom, teenage culture, marital instability, our children are in control. Hoping to model our children with love now sounds like we have indeed spared the rod, but spoiled the child thoroughly. Guilty and despondent, today’s parents have still to contend with the more overwhelming teenager phenomenon. But do you know that some 60 years ago the teenager did not exist?
The Teenage phenomenon
Though there were teenagers all along, they were without name until the 1940s. Pre-Second World War teenagers, due to social and economic need, had to work for a living on farms, in factories, or at home. They helped their parents provide for the younger children and the family. They had no choice in the matter and continued to work until they married. Being part of the family, teenagers were expected to do whatever work their family required of them. There was no prolonged transition between childhood and adulthood. In the past the child became an adult literally overnight, without being a teenager!
But today’s teens, having this transition prolonged, have developed their exclusive culture. They have a complete lifestyle, covering college and university, music, fashion, movies, food, lingo, and even clubbing. There is no immunity from it; every parent everywhere needs to learn to live with their very own teenagers.
Entering the age of reason, teenagers are eager to flex their newly discovered rational muscles. They may appear argumentative, or even confrontational. Having access to a sea of information, they believe that they are more knowledgeable than their parents. Besides, they are caught with their emerging sexuality, and teenage clumsiness.
Being teenager does not mean being delinquent and rebellious, as painted in the media. In fact, the majority of teenagers are loving kids.
Children need connection
Much has been said about the importance of child-parent bonding; again there is no perfect bond. What is absolute is that every child, younger or older, good or bad, is seeking to fulfill this imperative need to feel loved. Parents, too, in their own way, are desperately trying to love their children. Bonding is far more complex than we imagine. As an aid for functional bonding, Focus on the Family proposes five basic expressions.
1. Expression of acceptance
It doesn’t sound like much. That’s why it is always overlooked! It’s the number one cry of child; to be accepted. Beware of shaming kids into making the right choice. Instead, focus on affirming, and warm words that express your delight in them; always remind them of God’s unconditional love. Acceptance need not be loud, but be sincere for – You can con a con, you can fool a fool but you can never kid a kid!
2. Expression of touch
Physical presence and touch are vital for your child’s independence and identity. Parents need to be sensitive to their kids’ feelings and reluctance to be touched in the midst of their peers. But don’t underestimate a simple touch or any gesture of love. Both are effectively powerful in conveying intimacy and a sense of belonging.
3. Expression of time
Today the way we spend our time is actually how we spend our life. Sharing time is indeed sharing your very life. Making and taking time for your kids even when it’s not ‘quality’ time counts. In fact, wasting time with them is powerful to make them feel that they are indeed important and worthwhile.
4. Expression of service
Cooking is a lifelong service, but teaching your kids to cook is an even greater service. The message: the greatest service we can do for children is not to give what they don’t have, but to enable them to discover their true worth.
5. Expression of gifts
Our materialistic world has lost the sense of gift. Everything has a price; nothing is free. Anything can be bought, including ‘love’. Gift is derived from the Greek word charis, which is unmerited and undeserved Grace. Love in essence is a gift, because it can never be earned or merited. As parents it is vital that we convey to our teens that they are loved not because they are good or useful, but because they are lovable.
First things first
Bonding with our children, is such a challenge, because it boils down to getting our priorities right. For the moment children come into the picture, marital relationship is instantly dissolved. Raising children is the focus and the priority. But the truth is nothing, not even the mighty responsibility of raising children, can ever dissolve the indissoluble relationship of marriage. They key to happy family is marital relationship is the foundation of raising children, and this is non-negotiable!