|Ask any parent and they would say that no occupation in the world comes close to parenting. There is no denying that it is not easy but it is also not always difficult / Photo by: Cathy Yeulet via 123RF|
Ask any parent and they would say that no occupation in the world comes close to parenting. There is no denying that it is not easy but it is also not always difficult. Kids will push their parents to their limits but at the end of the day, however challenging the day is, the moments of joy with the kids will be incomparable. The idea that a little child is wrapping their arms around their parents and that baby scent just melts the worries and the stress away.
America’s leading psychologist Adam Grant, a professor at Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a leading expert on how people can find meaning and motivation to live a more creative and generous life, shared the best and worst parenting advice he has ever heard.
Punishment: The Worst Advice
In an interview with the World Economic Forum, an NGO founded in 1971 "committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas,” Grant said that the worst parenting advice he ever heard is that kids deserve punishment if they do something wrong or bad. He shared a classic approach that rescuers used during the Shoah or Holocaust. By rescuers, he was referring to the people who risked their own lives to save strangers. What made these rescuers different from their peers was the way they were brought up by their parents. When they misbehaved when they were young, their parents’ response was different.
Parenting Strategy Used on Holocaust Rescuers
Ordinary people would avoid negative consequences because they received constant punishment while young. On the other hand, the Holocaust “heroes” were provided with explanations rather than being punished by their parents. Whenever they broke rules, they were told that although rules may be silly, there are principles and values behind them. One possible explanation given to them by their parents was how their wrong behavior hurt or affected other people. This gave them time to reflect on their actions and they found themselves in situations of possibly saving lives or that they were more willing to step up.
Of course, Grant could not tell whether such a parenting strategy is the “ultimate” reason why they took part in extraordinary acts of courage, sacrifice, and heroism. However, what is known is that they had different moral reasoning growing up. They were told that although their behavior is wrong or they can be subject to punishment, it will give them an understanding of its negative impacts and the harm it can cause to other people. Consequently, they are more likely to form their moral principles to try to do right for the sake of others. Such a parenting strategy is something parents can use to raise their kids.
Showing Kids That They Are Important: The Best Advice
On the other hand, the best advice he ever heard is to show to children that they are important or they matter and that they can be relied upon by others. Parents, in general, are doing a good job paying attention to their children if they are not distracted by technology or their gadgets. Parents must give their kids the unconditional love they need.
He considered it also the “best advice” to let kids feel that they can be relied upon. This is something most parents of today often miss. Most parents feel that it is their job to care for their kids, to protect them, and to teach them. However, they are not allowing their children to “build their resilience.” This can be done by allowing them to help their parents in solving problems or asking them for guidance too. This doesn’t need to happen always, but asking for their guidance shows that parents are confident of their kids. It makes children think that they are active and they have something to offer and contribute instead of just relying on others. Kids as young as six need to feel that they matter and other people are also counting on them.
Modern debates involving parenthood usually focus on parenting philosophies such as whether children are better if they grow up in a free-range or helicopter parenting style. The latter is a style of parents, who are overly focused on their kids that they typically take too many responsibilities for the successes and failures of their children as well as their other experiences. It also means over-parenting because the parent is involved in a way that is overperfecting, overprotecting, and overcontrolling.
A 2015 survey on 1,807 parents in the US with kids younger than 18 showed that the financial instability of the parents limits the child’s access to enrichment activities and a safe environment. It also showed that higher-income parents were viewed by their neighbors as either “very good” or “excellent” in raising their kids compared to lower-income parents.
Aside from the negative ratings from their neighborhoods, parents who had lower income were more likely to express their concerns that their children may end up as victims of violence. About 47% of parents with family incomes below US$30,000 said that they worry their kids may get shot, 40% were worried that their kids may get in trouble with the law, may get beat up or attacked (55%), be kidnapped (59%), get a girl pregnant or get pregnant as a teenager (50%), have problems with drugs or alcohol (44%), be bullied (61%), and struggle with anxiety or depression (55%).
Only 22% of parents whose family income was more than US$75,000 said that they were worried that their children may get shot, get in trouble with the law (21%), get beat up or attacked (38%), be kidnapped (44%), get a girl pregnant or get pregnant as a teenager (43%), have problems with drugs or alcohol (41%), be bullied (60%), and struggle with anxiety or depression (55%). Data is based on nonpartisan American think tank Pew Research Center.
Most parents (93%) admitted that they want their spouse or partner to see them as good parents compared to 72% of parents who wanted their parents to think that they are doing a good job raising their kids. Some care a lot that the child(ren) of other parents (56%), their friends (52%), or people in the community (45%) see them as good parents.
Parents may be taken aback by the judgment and tensions arising over their choice of parenting. Grant’s insights are a good place for parents to start to build confidence in their unique parenting style—one that nurtures and develops the child’s morality even at an early age.