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Parenting by (BAD) example

Sunday, May 14 2017

Normally my columns on parenting are about the issues faced by the special needs community, but today I want to talk about an issue that is relevant to all parents and children. Special needs children are especially vulnerable but it is advice for all parents of both normal and special children.

Iím well known for my love of Korean television, but lately Iíve gotten into Chinese fantasy dramas too. So, there I was engrossed in one particular episode, when the Ďstar boyí of the series said, ĎThe mother is arrogant and deceitful you canít expect the son to be magnanimousí.

Aside from the fact that the English vocabulary of a Chinese drama seems to be larger than that of many native English speakers, he had a valid point. Children learn from modelling their parents, Iím not saying all children are going to be little replicas of their parents, but letís just say the odds of being very different are slim.

Most parents want the best for their children and hope they grow up to be upstanding/outstanding members of society. We want our children to bring us honour through their successes. Who doesnít hope to raise a National Scholarship winner or academic genius? Look at the parents bursting with pride when results for SEA are released. You think that just is just a lucky accident? It takes a lot of work and dedication from both parents and children.

If on the other hand you think all it takes to raise a National Scholarship winner is making sure your child has his/her schoolbooks, uniform and lunch and snacks you are sadly mistaken. It takes an investment of your time and resources. Iím reminded of Former US President Barak Obama who spoke of his mother waking up in the wee hours of the morning to help him with his schoolwork. She was willing to sacrifice of herself to ensure her son was well educated. Also by example she pursued higher education, so her children saw first hand the sacrifices required to achieve and we all know how that turned out.

The importance of providing a good example for children is not limited to academics but it is crucial when learning money management skills. No one is born knowing how to handle money, it is a skill you learn as you go along in life. The first place you are exposed to money management skills is at home from your parents. I have a neighbour who learned the hard way how to manage his money, he did a great job over the years and made his family financially secure. Very few middle class families can consider themselves financially secure but he was able to achieve that.

Although it was tough on his son (you know, he was young and had a good job and wanted to go a bit wild) but in the end, when home ownership is an almost impossible dream for many young people, he was able to secure a home, pay off his mortgage early, flip the house and upgrade. No mean feat for someone under 40. He learnt the lessons of financial management at home and that gave him a head start.

When making a household budget include your children in the process. Give them an allowance that they can count as income. This helps them learn how to budget their allowance to get the things they want and need.

My six-year-old gets $5 a week, if he wants something like snacks I donít approve of, he can buy it with his own money. If he wants me to buy a special toy or game that costs a lot, I ask him to save his allowance and contribute a specific sum toward the item.

The most critical aspect parents influence their children is in modelling morals. You canít be a lying, cheating, old scamp and expect your children to be honest and upstanding citizens. I am stunned by the number of men I encounter, who chased skirts like their lives depended on it, then are upset when their daughters grow up to be as promiscuous as they are. To quote my deceased grandmother, the late, great Pearlie ĎSheep donít make goat!í.

This isnít long ago where parents could say ĎDo as I say not as I doí. In those days there was the community, the church, the school system and the extended family to make up for the shortcomings of parents.

Now that these supporting institutions have more or less collapsed and the responsibilities for the moral teaching of our children, falls on parents. Not living the life we claim we are, is not going to wash with modern children. Modelling decent, honest behaviour and good manners is the only chance you have of raising well-behaved, honest children. That means waiting your turn in line, following the rules of the road and saying please, excuse me and thank you. Donít be a cussbud or listen to music with profanity, then be shocked when you hear your children using the same words they heard.

Wondering why the youth of today are so violent and angry? Look at the parenting they received. I know all about Ďyou could make the child but you can?t make their mindí but the odds of a child being shown the straight and narrow from the beginning, turning into a delinquent are slim. I remember one very attractive, single mother who came to me asking for help. Her teenage daughter had a Ďboyfriendí who apparently had been living in her house for a month. The first question to my mind was, how can someone live her house for a month and not be noticed? The motherís attention was on her relationships and looking good and liming. I had to give her the harsh truth, this is what you have shown your daughter, how can you demand now that she live a life different to yours? Itís not just mothers but fathers too. Daddy is rude and disrespectful to Mummy and Junior thinks this is the way to communicate with women. So he also speaks to Mummy in a rude and disrespectful manner, since thatís what men do but heís punished for it. The hypocrisy of it all.

So parents, examine yourself and become the kind of adults you want your children to become. Itís not easy but if you donít have the discipline to guide your children by example, how can you demand it of them? Modelling living an upright and respectable lifestyle for your children, is much more effective than beating them. It takes more effort but parents arenít your children worth it?

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