Raising the Future – Part One
Nothing is more important for the future of our planet than how well men and women raise their children.
Parents are given the unbelievable privilege of holding the vulnerable, malleable and utterly impressionable life of their child in their hands. In a parent’s hands lies literally the power of life and death for their children, for both body and soul. And in the hands of our children lies the future.
It’s difficult not to be concerned about the state of the world. Media abounds with stories that bode poorly for the future of our beautiful planet and its (mostly) wonderful inhabitants. Looming environmental disasters, greed, corruption, abuse of power, war, terrorism, violent fundamentalism and economic meltdowns are just a few of the not so delightful soundbites that make up our daily news fare. And solutions seem as elusive as ever. Yet we may be looking in all the wrong places for the answer.
The greatest contributing factor to the quality of the world’s future is the quality of its parents. The reason is quite simple; the state of the world is determined by the behaviour of men and women, and the single biggest influence on the behaviour of men and women is the way in which they were parented. No one has a greater impact on our self-esteem, world view, beliefs, values, emotional intelligence and the way we handle life and relationships than our parents.
Tolerance, love, respect, compassion are all taught and modeled and flow from a heart that was loved and validated as a child. A person who was loved as a child is much more likely to have the capacity for love and compassion. An adult who was disciplined a child is much more likely to have self-discipline. A child who is valued and respected is much more likely to grow into an adult with a healthy self-esteem, able to respect and value others. A child whose feelings and opinions were validated is much more likely to be open minded and tolerant as an adult. Men and women with a healthy self-esteem, love, tolerance, good values and respect for themselves and others are able to build healthy, mutually beneficial relationships and contribute to a peaceful and prosperous society.
Intolerance, anger, aggression, greed and prejudice are also taught and modeled and flow from a heart that was not loved and validated as a child. Children who don’t have their physical, emotional and psychological needs met by their parents grow up wounded. And wounded people become people who wound. Children who are raised by parents with destructive value systems such as prejudice and intolerance will most often internalize these values and live them out in one way or another as adults. Men and women with poor self-esteem, low levels of tolerance and respect, bad values and low emotional intelligence are dangerous to themselves and those around them. They are likely to engage in varying degrees of damaging behavior, ranging from mild personal or social dysfunction like poor relationship choices and addictive behavior to more damaging dysfunction like abuse, prejudice and criminality.
Every child has deep questions of the heart which must be answered by their parents. Who am I? Am I valid? Am I wanted and loved? Am I good? Am I enough? Am I worth fighting for? Every child cries out to his or her parents; show me how to live life, show me what it means to be a man or a woman. Help me make sense of the world. Teach me how to live and love and learn and leave a legacy. Please. I need you. And every parent needs to be there to answer the cry.
The sad reality is that many men and women are not adequately equipped for the role of parent. Relatively few are deliberately malicious or negligent. Most do the best they can with the skills and emotional wholeness they possess from their own journey to adulthood. Yet the number of children born daily to parents who do not have the emotional and psychological skills, wholeness and awareness to raise them well is terrifying.
It’s astounding that there is absolutely no qualification for becoming a parent other than the ability to conceive. For our collective future the world has to start taking the role of parent a lot more seriously.