Parenting is relatively a new concept in Psychology and other related social sciences. It is an active verb that supposes control, coordination, guidance, protection, provision and all other forms of physical, emotional, social and spiritual care for our Children. Parenting used to be cultural or religious centered but as social norms and traditions evolve, parenting strategies have changed drastically. Our greatest challenge in this part of the world is how to bridge the gap between our cultural parenting strategies and demands of the new generation children which seem to be directly opposed to each other. Our rapidly accelerating pace of modern life, present significant obstacles and pressures for parents who genuinely want to make their children feel cared for without driving themselves crazy. Parents are constantly expected to anticipate the needs of their children and provide same for them. Parents are expected to influence and orchestrate their children’s grades. Parents are to also make the home an oasis of peace and tranquillity for their children. All of these demands and many more are expected to be met even in a most gruelling environment like Nigeria.
A renowned Developmental Psychologist, Diana Baumrind identified four main styles of parenting which are:
- Authoritative Parenting: Baumrind described this form of parenting as the best form of parenting. It is the form I describe as a little to the left and a little to the right. It is a combination of an acceptable level of demands from parents and an acceptable level of responsiveness from children. Authoritative parenting is a balanced method. There is always, the “let’s talk about it” approach. That is, communication between parents and children is robust. With this approach, both parents and children exact their authorities and also manage their limits. Everyone is involved in the parenting enterprise. Children that emerge from this form of parenting understand the rules of growing to self-sustainability.
- Authoritarian Parenting: This is the type that seem to be in tandem with our culture. Parents say it all and all the child needs do is just to obey. We probably experienced this type of parenting during our childhood days. This is a very rigid and strict approach to parenting characterized by spanking, yelling and all sorts of punishment even for offences one cannot explain. Sometimes, the child is punished before his/her innocence is established and there is no apology. There is no communication between parent and children. In a study carried out by Diana Baumrind in 1983, reports showed that children raised by authoritarian parents are usually hostile/aggressive, never cheerful and most times, prone to stress.
- Permissive Parenting: This is a type of parenting where the child is completely left alone to base his decisions on his own whims and caprices and the parents are ever willing to oblige their decisions. There is very less or no form of punishment or denial involved in this form of parenting. The children make their demands and their demands are met. You hear such parents say things like “I don’t want my children to go through what I went through; so, whatever they want, I give them.” These are the ones who engage in all sorts of shady deals such as examination malpractice, bribery, and many quick fix approaches to prepare the road for their children rather than prepare the children for the road. The Children raised by permissive parents are generally happy and cheerful but most times lack self-control, self- discipline and self-reliance.
- Uninvolved Parenting: This is also known as neglectful parenting style. The parents involved in this are always not available and when they are, they do not engage their children. There is often a large gap between parents and children with this parenting style. Children with little or no communication with their own parents tend to be victimized by other children and may themselves exhibit deviant behaviour. Children of uninvolved parents suffer in social competence, academic performance, psychosocial development and problem behaviour.
Authoritative parenting seems to be generally acceptable and parents would have to deal with other circumstances facing them and militating against achieving their best for their children. Below are 4 Common challenges that affect parenting in the 21st century.
- Unpreparedness and Ignorance: Emerging from cultures where parenting was an integral part of family life and coming to face the realities of the modern world is a herculean task for many parents. In those days, a child belonged to the entire community and parents required no special skills to train their children because the fabrics of the traditional society was intact. A girl child would come of age and would be married off to her betrothed and the boy child would come of age and would get married to his too. In many other cultures, the traditional process of preparing for marriage would be the fattening period and other series of rituals in the process. Marriage and parenting seemed to be a natural process until the emergence of the new world.
Today, in this new world of ours, more knowledge and understanding of human behavioural patterns are required even before getting married. As a result of this, many young men and women seeking life partners read books and articles on marriage and very few of them read on parenting. They eventually get married and become super couples but confused parents. It is pertinent to note that being an effective wife or an effective husband does not automatically translate to being an effective mother or an effective father. These are closely related but two different concepts; a successful marriage is not an absolute pointer to a successful parenting. Therefore, while we put in so much to learn about marital lives, let us also learn parenting. Read books and articles on parenting; attend seminars and consult experts when the need arises. Take parenting seriously.
- Troubled Marriage: There are so many troubled marriages and it is common sense that troubled marriages have great impacts on the children involved. It is better to have a fantastic marriage and lack parenting skills because one can easily learn these skills and adopt super parenting approaches to support the blissful marriage. But when the marriage has failed, there is a limit to what one can apply. Divorce is one of the major factors that lead to uninvolved parenting approach. This however is not the end of the road; a parent who has developed parenting skills can achieve a lot even in troubled marriages or in divorce situations. This is where it is important to detach parenting from marriage. A failed marriage should not necessarily lead to failure in parenting. According to Jocelyne Block and Melinda Smith, The key to successful co-parenting is to separate the personal relationship with your ex from the co-parenting relationship. It may be helpful to start thinking of your relationship with your ex as a completely new one—one that is entirely about the well-being of your children, and not about either of you. Your marriage may be over, but your family is not; acting in your kids’ best interest is your most important priority. The first step to being a mature, responsible co-parent is to always put your children’s needs ahead of your own.
- The New Generation: The kids of this new generation have a mind-set which parents must put into consideration while carrying out their parenting responsibilities. One is that they have a sense of entitlement; they decide what to eat, what to wear, schools to attend and all of that. Adopting the “Let’s talk about it” approach will go a long way in dealing with this challenge. Another issue about them is that they dream so big and assume that the big dream should be achieved by their parents as a result of this, permissive parents keep these children under them till their old age. Even at 45, they still consult their parents and even ask for financial help before taking vital decisions in their lives.
- Societal Pressure: No doubt, every parent must swim through the turbulent waters of the Nigerian society in order to survive not just in the area of parenting but also in their careers and businesses. The pressure of having to run a municipal government in your home- generating your power, your security, you water, your health and that of your children as well as their education. You spend a minimum of four hours to and from work on a journey that should ordinarily take 20minutes; you work so hard and earn so little. These pressures will no doubt affect your parenting abilities. They are compounded and probably taken to the level of frustration when your kids pick up detestable habits from their peers and eventually become uncooperative. Keep calm and apply “Let’s talk about it” approach.
We might not achieve anything near perfection in parenting but we surely can reach a mile stone if we become intentional about our approaches and duly plan their implementations irrespective of what our challenges might be.