In many families today, the children are the ones that seem to be in charge, and as with most things that need navigating in life, children do not have the skills or know how in order to navigate successfully. I liken parenting to pilots flying an aeroplane. They are in full control of their craft and at all times need to deal with any problems that may arise in a calm manner. Imagine a few passengers in a plane having an altercation and the pilot comes through shouting, screaming and generally losing it with the passengers involved in the altercation. I doubt if anyone on that plane is going to feel secure and safe, believing that the person controlling the plane has the skills to adequately fly. The Same scenario applies to parenting. The moment that you ‘lose it’ with your kids, you’re going down to their level with nobody in control of the situation.
In many situations the children end up being in control, and as you know, no one would feel safe with a child at the controls of an aircraft. Parents who lose control create insecurity and mistrust in the child, where, instead of adapting their behaviour to what is acceptable, their behaviour often worsens with chaos being the consequence. Effective authority is vital as a requirement for parents. The problem arises when parents aren’t sure how to exercise this authority. The parent has to be the pilot flying the plane with their children being the passengers who need to feel safe and secure in the knowledge that their lives are in good hands.
Parents need to understand that they are in fact teachers. The English word ‘educator’ tends to refer to teaching from an academic point of view. The Afrikaans word ‘opvoeder’ denotes an educator in terms of the full context of the child’s development, emotionally, physically and intellectually and it is in this sense that parents need to understand what their role is as ‘opvoeders’. Parents are the emotional teachers of children. Parents are the key in developing empathy (sensitivity to feelings – of one’s own and of other persons) and trust. This also applies with regard to mistrust and anger, insensitivity and not caring.
Authoritative parents (as opposed to permissive parents or to authoritarian “Do as I say because I say so!” parents) are able to raise children who are easy to live with and feel good about themselves. Teachers of these children usually concur that these children are also a pleasure to teach. These parents take on their full responsibility as parents and show a genuine interest in their children. They provide firm, clear rules as well as the reasons for these rules. What we can glean from this is that every child needs a parent who believes that the opportunity for a child to develop to its full potential lies in their hands and when things do go wrong, they need to take a long hard look at the impact that their parenting has had in contributing to their child’s problem.
Therefore every child needs a caring parent who will promote emotional intelligence. How to be assertive as opposed to angry and hostile are difficult emotional tasks. Parents are also in the forefront of the child’s learning values in the family. More than likely, if parents deal with their own problems by screaming and lashing out, or being sharply jeering and critical of weaknesses or mistakes made by a family member, then their children will learn these ways of coping with frustrations. If families provide models for punitive and vengeful actions, they need to realize that the chances are high that their children will learn to gloat over the misfortune of others or else feel indifferent to others’ pain.