Learning to Be a Good Parent

Good parenting is actually a delicate art. And like any other art, such as sculpture or painting, good parenting requires training.

By Roshan Shah

Most, if not all, parents would like to do the best for their children. They want to be good parents to them. But unlike in the case of animals and birds, good parenting among humans isn’t something that happens naturally or automatically, without any conscious effort. Human parents need to   carefully choose between various options at every juncture when it comes to their children. The fate of their children can sometimes be indelibly determined by a seemingly minor decision that they might take. This being the case, human parenting requires great care, attention, awareness and skill. Parents need to regularly reflect on how they are relating with their children, reforming their approach if necessary.

Bad Parenting Practices
But this doesn’t always happen. For some parents, raising a child isn’t at all different from, say, raising a bed of beans or onions—simply scatter some seeds, occasionally water the saplings and sit back and expect a rich harvest to appear! There’s no need for any more effort than that, they want to think. Such parents often simply repeat the bad parenting practices that they have inherited from their parents. In this way, these practices are reproduced down the generations, each time with the same tragic results.

Resources to Equip Oneself
Good parenting is actually a delicate art. And like any other art, such as sculpture or painting, good parenting requires training. Some people are born with the innate disposition to be good parents. Others, however, require guidance from others. Good parenting, for most people, is something that needs to be learnt—from various sources.
Resources to equip oneself to be a good parent are available in plenty. One such resource  are the rich spiritual traditions of the world. Scriptures and other spiritually-inspiring texts contain great wisdom related to good parenting. Reading the biographies of men and women of God from different religious backgrounds and spiritual traditions is a wonderful way to learn about how they were brought up, and if they went on to become parents, about how in turn they related with their own children. These biographies can provide one with precious guidance about how to relate with one’s children so that they, too, can grow up to fulfill the purpose which they have been sent by God into the world for.
A second great resource for good parenting are people around you. You can learn many good parenting practices from your relatives, friends, neighbours, acquaintances and colleagues at work by speaking to them about how they relate with their children. They may be doing things with and for their children that you didn’t know about and which you, too, could adopt. If you find dealing with some issues concerning your children a challenge, you could ask them how they handle with them. This might give you some good ideas to put into effect in your home.
Besides speaking to other parents to find out about their ways of parenting, you could pick up some good parenting cues by spending a good bit of time—say a day or more—with other families, simply observing how the parents relate with their children. You could learn good lessons from the mistakes that other parents have made so that you don’t make them yourself: in this way, other people’s bad parenting habits can become a good learning lesson for you!
When it comes to wanting to improve one’s parenting methods from other parents, it’s a good idea to seek to learn from people of varied economic, religious, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. It can be a pleasant surprise to discover the many good parenting practices that one can pick up from people who do things differently from us. We are fortunate to live today in a global village, where people from different communities are in close proximity and intimately interdependent. Because of this, one can pick up good parenting tips from people who seem very different from us in some ways, which is something that we may not be able to do if our interaction is restricted only to people who believe, think and behave just like ourselves.

Parenting Magazines
Published materials on parenting are another great resource for ideas and insights about good parenting. Today, such material is readily available in plenty—in the form of books, specialised parenting magazines and a vast number of websites. These sources reflect different worldviews, and so one has to be selective about what one reads and seeks to put into practice in one’s home. Still, there may be some good things one can learn from a book or an essay on parenting by an author who’s way of looking at the world and the purpose of life may significantly differ from one’s own.
If you seek to improve your parenting skills, you might like to also explore if any organisations in the place you live, or perhaps online, offer suitable courses on good parenting. That way, you could also get to interact with other parents, learn from them and share with them your experiences of being a parent.
These different resources for good parenting highlight the fact that in the case of human beings, good parenting isn’t generally something that happens automatically or instinctively. Rather, it demands careful reflection. It requires a willingness to acknowledge that one doesn’t always know the best way to deal with one’s own children and  that others might have better ideas on the subject (which, in turn, calls for a certain humility). It requires that one consciously seek to learn good parenting ideas from other sources—be it spiritually-inspiring books or other parents—setting apart enough time and energy for this purpose. This can make a world of a difference to the precious child that God has entrusted one with!

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