21st CENTURY PARENTING AND THE SOCIETY

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Do you ever imagine what it takes to be a relevant 21st-century parent?

Parents are potentially the most influential individuals in children’s lives. The 21st Century parent has to compete, however, with multiple sources of information, both human and non-human, (e.g., children’s peers, non-familial adults, TV, technology gadgets, Internet) in shaping the minds, values, and beliefs of children. With the advent of technological advances, the regular bad news from the media (kidnappings, economic recessions, auto crashes, etc.), children are getting frightened about uncertainties of the world, and it is the role of parents to reassure them of a better tomorrow.

The task of parenting can be overwhelming (Reddy, 1997, p. 321). Current family life differs from life in the 1950s in the areas of time, income and cost of living, demography, and employment of women (Duquaine, 1997).

Changing attitudes, economics, and social norms have transformed how children are cared for (Farkas, Duffet & Johnson, 2000). The 21st Century parent has to contend with multiple new entities (e.g., TV, computers, Internet, Nintendo) that compete for the attention of children and contribute to a loss of family connectedness and community.

McCaslin and Infanti (1998) suggest that parenting is a societal construction, and that construction includes multiple messages from policymakers, popular media, researchers, and educators. McCaslin and Infanti further assert that too many parents are either incompetent or unwilling to parent effectively. In previous generations when parents had a parenting question or concern, they might ask an experienced relative or respected neighbor. However, the transient nature of our society, the changing roles of men and women, and the growing base of knowledge about child development have led many parents to look for additional types of resources and support systems (Banks & Roberts, 1998), including the Internet, which allow parents of children to electronically share and discuss child-rearing experiences and advice (Littlefield, 1996).

I think it has come to the time when we parent will have to take responsibility of our children. I would love to share a thought from a friend and then after which we can now decide if truly we are setting the right pace for our children.

Few weeks ago, I was at the local airport and as I waited in the departure lounge, I noticed there were many children roaming about but it was understandable since it was summer holiday.

 

One other thing I noticed was the way most of the children were dressed. Most of them, especially the girls, were dressed in bum shorts, halter necks, cut off jeans, etc. The clothes in themselves weren’t the issue per se; it was the overall look of the children that had me bothered. That was definitely not the first time I noticed it.

A few months before, I had taken my kids to a birthday party and found myself in what could easily have been a night club for kids. Scanty clothing such as tight or very short clothes, bum shorts, long weaves, etc, seemed to be the dress code. I noticed my son glancing around, probably wondering, and “What in God’s world are these other children wearing?” Or something like that.

Not long after, the kids were called out to dance to the hit songs of the season – these songs in my opinion should be rated PG 16. 4 – 6 year olds trooped to the dance floor, miming the sexually explicit songs and gyrating their bodies in the most sensual manner.

They could have given Beyonce a run for her money. They ran their hands over their bodies, shook their booties hard while their parents cheered them on. The boys had their upper shirts unbuttoned and rapped along perfectly to gangster raps while doing flawless break dance.

 

Those who danced like actual children where shooed off the dance floor while the lewd ones were cheered on. As I watched, my child stared out of this circle looking longingly at the others dancing. I knew it was time to leave.

As we left, we went to an eatery where I bought them ice cream and gently explained to them the concept of decency and dancing with decorum.

Another time, at a game arcade for kids, I ran into a lady who had made-up her kids’ faces like they were mannequins for Tara or Mac beauty products. Their skirts were so tight, that running up and down the slide was uncomfortable for them.

So the question is, why are we sexualizing our kids? Why does your 4, 6 or 9 year old girl have to look like a chick? Why does she have to be hot or sexy? Should your 8 year old son go around with a comb in his hair and his pants sagged almost to his ankles?

If your child wears bum shorts out of the house at age 3, why should she

be expected to wear longer ones at 15? If she wears 2 rings and 12 bangles at 6, why won’t she pierce a second ear hole at 17 and her bellybutton at 19? Why won’t your son pierce his own ear at 15?

 

Are you setting your children up to be immodest and indecent? What trend are you starting them on? That all these are fashionable or trendy doesn’t mean its ok.

Children can look very nice and decent; they can be well covered and still look good.

In this age, when children are being abused. Is it wise to make your child an object of anyone’s sexual attention? When I hear some children belt out sexually explicit lyrics, I ask myself how they became exposed to these songs!

As a parent, you can’t play the CD of such songs and not expect your children to pick them up; the same goes for watching Mtv Base, Channel O, etc with your children. Studies have shown that children exposed to a high level of sexually explicit information tend to become sexually active early. Is that your goal as a parent?

Being a parent involves sacrifice. You will need to avoid listening to such music where your children are. Most of those lyrics demean women and teach your daughter that she’s just a sex toy and her body is for squeezing. It teaches the boys that money is everything and women are things to be used to satisfy their primal urges. This music introduces them to a degrading pop culture.

 

Our children have their lives ahead of them, let’s set them on the right path by teaching them to dress decently and sing nice or age-appropriate songs. Let your children be children. Train up a child in the way that s/he should go and when s/he is old, s/he would not depart from it.

So, who we are to blame for our child’s attitude, nobody? Let’s work handy with the few tips of parenting below.

  1. Cultivate gratitude as a family.

There are many ways to help children learn gratitude, which is the opposite of taking what we have for granted.  The most obvious is including gratitude practices in your family life by making a practice of sharing things you’re grateful for on a daily basis.

  1. Be aware of today’s trends:

Here’s a principle to keep in mind: the more educated you are about the issues facing your kids, the wiser your decisions, the less you’ll worry.

Know what is going on as regards the prevailing trends and culture, don’t be caught unawares of what is going on in the society. Read books, attend seminars, get materials such as CDs, books, etc. and know the online/offline language of young people.

Take the Internet for instance. We all know that the online world can be a dangerous place for kids if they aren’t careful. The problem is, in many cases our kids know more about computers and the Internet than we do. We can’t train them in Internet safety if we don’t know how to use it ourselves. Plus, the problem is scarier to us if we don’t fully understand it.

The solution is to find a computer-savvy friend who can teach you how to use the technology and walk you through the pitfalls, so your computer will be safe at home. The wiser you can be about the technology at home, the fewer worries you’re going to have, and the more effectively you can safeguard your kids. This applies not just to the Internet, but to every parenting fear you have. Knowledge puts your apprehensions into perspective and helps you to deal with any threat in a wise and productive way.

  1. Build Quality Relationships with your children:

Out of no time, create time. It is amazing how some parents say they are too busy to attend to their children’s issue but can spend hours in front of the TV watching movies, soap opera or go to parties every other weekend.

 

  1. Give your child the opportunity to discover how good it feels to help others. You can do this daily in your family, but it makes a bigger impression on children when you also volunteer as a family. What can kids do?  Sort food at a food bank. Help you deliver Meals on Wheels. Organize a book drive and ship the books off to Reader to Reader. You’ll find lots of suggestions online.
  2. Instill confidence, not fear

What kind of adult do you want your child to become? One who thinks the world is out to get them and is afraid to face the difficult situations that come their way? Or one who is secure and strong enough to survive the inevitable challenges life will bring? To most, the answer is clear.

 

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