What are parents? And what are they not?

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Pedagogy Association, Istanbul

Our “values” and “identities” are mixed up like many other things in today’s world. And when the daily rush of life is added to this mix-up, our identities, which determine our way of life, completely lose function. Sometimes although we have the aim of using our identities more effectively, we may forget who we are or our self amidst this daily rush.

When it comes to the identity of “mother and father,” who are of particular concern to our children- whom we cannot realize how quick they grow up, remembering our identities gains much more importance. Because when we forget our identity of being parents or when we use this identity in a wrong way, we immensely affect the development of our beloved children in a negative way. When we, parents, forget our identity or when we use it in a wrong way, our children sometimes become shy, timid, lack of self-expression skill; and sometimes grow into a selfish, rude, irresponsible and narcissist person.

In order to protect our children from such dangers, we first have to remember what “mother, father and family” mean. Mother is the merciful refuge of the child, and father is a strong fortress; the family institution, which mother and father establish together, is a custodian office. And mother and father are officials there. Their duty is to protect the trust and preserve its essence.

We can actually learn how to do this duty by listening to the sense of motherhood and fatherhood within us as long as we have the sensibility of paying attention to that sound.

The first word that this sound will whisper to us will be, without a doubt, “balance.”

Our mother and father identities require balance like many other things do in the life. On one pan of this identity scales there is a unique, indescribable, blissful emotion; and on the other pan of the scales there is an inalienable, essential responsibility. There are two end points of this which are called extremeness and incompetency.  What is essential for healthy parenthood is “balance.”

Mother and father are not “servants!”

“The biggest mistake that the parents make is that they forget their own childhood,” says a philosopher. A child comes into the world at a time when he is the weakest and needs the help and support of others most. For this reason he is in absolute need of the support and care of his mother and father. Parenthood means being with the child when he is really in need; because a child, who lacks knowledge and experience of life, needs the help of his parents to overcome his inadequacy. When parents see this need, they should help. But it is not true to be like servants of a child, thinking that he needs help, even when he faces a thing that he can do or overcome by himself. Especially after a child is two years old, wiping up what he spills, cleaning up what he breaks, putting his meal into his mouth, or helping him with his shoes hinder his abilities and also turn the parents into servants. Parents are not servants of the child; they are the supporters while meeting his real needs. They are not some people who do things on behalf of their children; they are guides and helpers showing their children how to do things.

Mother and father are not “friends!”

One of the topics that are mixed up regarding the parenthood is “to be friend with your child.” Mother and father can adopt a friendly manner to understand their child. Because children really need to be understood and want their behaviours to be distinguished from their intentions. And mother and father should be the first to show this understanding. However, if this approach turns into “being a friend of the child,” this may give dangerous results for the child. Because a child can have many friends in this life, but he will have only one mother and one father. Once they choose to be friend of their child, nobody is left to be his parents. Parenthood means drawing boundaries and establishing rules when appropriate and to ensure applying these rules. A child certainly needs these rules and boundaries. A parent who is like a friend to his child may remain incapable at this point.

Mother and father are not “guardian angels!”

Without a doubt, a mother and father would want to protect their child from every kind of danger and thus take precautions. They would want to protect their child from feeling pain, being harmed, and being hurt by the difficulties of life. Actually parents have to be sensitive to this issue and keep children, these delicate beings, away from dangers. However, the difficulties they face lay the ground for the children to obtain wisdom and to be more resilient. Just as the illnesses in childhood years help the immune system of the child grow stronger, so too, do the difficulties faced in the life make the child’s personality improve and make him resilient. Keeping these points in mind, it would be good that the parents be careful about not becoming guardian angels of their children. Otherwise, while we are trying to protect our child with compassion and mercy, we may turn into his guardian angels. Therefore, he grows up without having any difficulty thanks to his guardian angel around him; and he wants to see his angel around even though he gets older. And when he realizes that it is not possible, he gets depressed.

Mother and father are not “education coach and teacher!”

Mothers and fathers, because of the compassion inherent in their nature, want their children to become successful. With this respect they get involved in the educational life of their children so that they can get accepted into good school with high marks by studying more and regularly. After some changes in curriculum in recent years, parents have got involved in school life of their children more. Parents’ support to the school subjects, which the child really needs, will make him feel that he is not alone and help him increase his success. But this support should be balanced and parallel with the needs and expectations of the child. This balance will affect the relationship between parents and child, and help it staying healthy. If the parents try to be education coaches and teachers of their children- as if success were the sole aim of existence of the child- this will certainly depress the child. He will see his parents as education coaches or teachers rather than as mothers and fathers.

Mother and father are not “ATM machines!”

“Do not spoil by giving too much, do not make him steal by giving too little,” is a translation of a Turkish proverb. This word briefly expresses the necessary balance in one part of parenthood identity. Yes, children should be given pocket money as much as they need. However, when parents turn into ATM machines from which children draw money whenever they want, this may lead to a variety of problems. Because the child will never be able to understand the value of money in this way; and he will become lazy for he has got used to spending without earning. What’s more, he will not be able to learn to be economical. Another negative result will be that he will never be able to appreciate his parent’s effort to earn a living; moreover, since he has got used to ready money, after a while he will start to exploit his family.

Mother and father are not “clowns!”

Without a doubt, a family atmosphere which has cheerful moments is very valuable for parents as much as it is for children. That the mother and father wish their children feel precious and become happy, and make an effort in this regard is a very proper action. On this topic it is true that many parents are unfortunately neglectful. For this reason it is really important that the parents who show attention to the joy and happiness of their families increase in number. However, in the name of making their children happy, it would not befit the dignity which the children would like to see on their mothers and fathers. Namely, the parents become, so to say, clowns, play and act in every role the children want, do every kind of funny things for their happiness, do not let them to be unhappy and have a disappointment, and try to make them always happy.

In short, as parents we need to remember the identity we have and use it in a balanced way. Because when the balance is gone, we may have depressed children. For this reason we as Pedagogy Association say:

– Let’s help our children when they really need our help; but let’s not be their servants.

– Let’s be friendly to our children; but let’s not be friend of them.

– Let’s take precautions for possible dangers to our children; but let’s not be their guardian angels.

– Let’s help our children with their school lessons; but let’s not be their education coaches and teachers.

– Let’s meet our children’s needs and give them some pocket money; but let’s not be their ATM machines.

– Let’s have cheerful times with our children and want them to be happy; but let’s not be their clowns.