A reflection: ‘our responsibility to our children and young people.’
If anyone really HAD written a HOW-TO book for new parents, this would be the most powerful theme and leading thought frame. The success of each child in being who they are and making meaning for their life in our world is maximized by adults creating space for them to understand their personhood with the safety and freedom to use their own thinking and learning to grow strong and secure in their independence.
Leadership is not a management skill. It is an inspirational role to woo children to use their brains and agency to consider what they encounter, to assess and draw conclusions from their questions within a relationship of trust and love.
Leadership is not paternalism. One dictionary definition of paternalism: “ … a practice by people in positions of authority of restricting the freedom and responsibilities of those subordinate to them in the ‘subordinates’ supposed best interest.” This describes the empire to the colony; the dictator to the subjects; and in many families, the parent to the child. The joking about helicopter parents is not laughable.
Children are human beings, just much smaller to start out. When seen and treated with respect and care, they incrementally learn and grow as they are nurtured to believe in themselves, their ideas, their capabilities, and their potential. Their personhood develops as their body develops.
Parents are leaders. Their ultimate and daily focus is the growth and development of another human being with the ability within to fully participate in their world.
Our society produces many great parents according to this definition of their task. Society also produces a mix of other types of parents who for whatever reasons use control and management of children as their dominant approach to the task.
It has been said that children thrive and adapt no matter what type of parenting they receive as long as they receive consistent messages that they are loved and have value because they exist.
The evidence of their coping and ‘resilience’ speaks to the maturity of their minds and hearts already in place at the start to serve their learning ‘to become’.
Our role as adults and parents is ‘to lead them to themselves’. That learning is the solid foundation upon which they will build their lives.