As a parent, we have many responsibilities towards our child. Health, happiness, education, values, excellence etc. But have we ever thought what would be the priority amongst these responsibilities? The more I thought about it, I realized that it is the conflict between these priorities is what gives stress to the parents. The more I think about it I realized that the source of any problem is the conflicts of priorities. Maybe that’s why the wise man always appears to be ‘sorted’. Here is my take on sorting out the priorities for Parenting Responsibilities (with my present state of ignorance, of course).
The Parenting Pyramid show in diagram lists the parenting responsibilities in a bottom-up manner. The responsibilities at the bottom are more fundamental and must be given more priority. Unless the fundamental responsibilities are fulfilled on priority, the higher responsibilities cannot withstand the test of time.
- Bonding and Trust: As a parent our first responsibility is to build a relationship with our child that has a strong Bond and we are able to Trust each other.
- Health and Hygiene: All parents wants to have healthy children. In fact lot of attention is given to their food habits and hygiene habits like brushing and bathing. Health is indeed a very important aspect of our life, however not at the cost of our relationships and Trust. Parents need to make sure that Bonding and Trust are not compromised for the health of the child. Mental and Emotional health should always have higher priority than physical health.
- Values and Culture: The written rules of the society are called Laws and unwritten rules are called Culture. Children need to learn how to live with Rules. When we don’t follow the rules we need to take the responsibilities of the consequences. The personal rules we have for ourselves we call it as Values (Principals). However one needs to be healthy and fit first before following Values and Culture.
- Learning and Autonomy: Parents want their children to be able to lead their lives on their own. Independently. Children should be able to decide for themselves what is good for them and learn on their own. Learning gives us great power, but this power needs to be directed. Our values and culture give us this direction, hence Values and culture have higher priority than Learning and Autonomy.
- Excel: Parents dream their children to excel in at least one of the fields. Be it sports, business, academics or art. To be an expert in something. Whichever field they like. However this should be the least priority compared to all the other responsibilities. We don’t want children to compromise on actual Learnings and focus on just the Results.
This is where it gets very interesting which many parents miss. There is one parenting responsibility which is more important than all of these. Even important than Bonding and Trust. That is Parent’s Peace of Mind. Only when your cup is full, you can fill other’s cup. If parents are stressed out, what kind of bonding will they develop with child? Hence all the responsibilities have to first start with parent’s peaceful and happy state of mind.
It is important to recognize the priority between these responsibilities. Once we understand the priority, we are clear about what we can compromise and what we cannot. The responsibilities at the bottom of the pyramid are more fundamental than at the top. Hence if we compromise anything that is fundamental it is difficult to build anything at the top.
The quality of our relationship depends on the quality of our communication. Each of these responsibilities, shown in the pyramid, needs us to master a respective set of communication skills. Below image shows the respective communication skills required to achieve the above listed parenting responsibilities.
- Parent’s Peace of Mind ⇒ Silence: Peace of mind is developed through the practice of silence. This is where yoga and meditation come into the picture. There are many other means for attaining peace of mind like gratitude and prayers etc. I’m not going to go into more details of this as this is a very deep subject on its own.
- Bonding and Trust ⇒ Listening: Listening and Understanding your child builds Bonding and Trust between you. Key here is, it is the child who needs to feel that her parents understand her and not just that parent thinks that they understand their child. Children need to understand that parents understand their feelings and not just thoughts and needs. This is fundamental of all the communication skills to build any good relationship.
- Health and Hygiene ⇒ Reminders: Health and Hygiene are habits. Parents role here is to make sure that there is a system in place to build this habit for children. Once the system is in place then all they have to do is keep reminding them (with unconditional love and playfulness). This takes time to build. Sometimes years. Parents needs to be patient and always remember that their role is only to remind them and not get worked up if it doesn’t happen.
- Values and Culture ⇒ Rules and Consequences: Children needs to be taught how to work with rules so that they are able to make themselves fit to any culture they like. They need to be taught that consequences helps them learn better and take responsibilities for their mistakes. Consequence is a delicate thing to implement, as children need to feel responsible and not resentful.
- Learning and Autonomy ⇒ Chooses: When children are given choices they start thinking, analysing and deciding. This helps them become autonomous and develop the ability to take your own decisions. When they are responsible for their decisions they will explore and learn on their own. The learning becomes purposeful and not just to score and compete.
- Excel ⇒ Praise: How parents praise their children can be very important towards how children keep working on their efforts. When praised incorrectly children may stop putting any more efforts and not go for higher challenges to defend their praise. Parents needs to focus more on efforts and values to be praised rather than qualities and labels of the person.
I’m in gratitude towards the book “How to talk so kids will listen & listen so kids will talk“ by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. I realised this parenting priority when I started sharing the ideas from this book through my parenting program Inspired Parenting. Inspired Parenting deals with the practical way in which how we can master these skills as our habits. Most importantly this is all with playfulness and unconditional love. This has made tremendous difference in my family relationships and our relationship with my nine year old daughter.