That raising children is a challenge is something nobody will dispute. Between looking after their health and education and catering to their likes and dislikes, it is easy to lose sight of what sort of children we actually are raising. In a way, it is very much a parent’s responsibility to raise a good citizen, a responsible adult and someone who can pass on the same values and virtues to the next generation.
Today, we shall look at three of the things that can be done to inculcate these values in children:
Authenticity and honesty
From childhood onwards, we drill into our children the virtues of honesty. But in doing so, we often fail to set an example of honesty in our personal lives for them to follow. Instead, parents must attempt to show the best side of human nature to their children, maintaining a standard of honesty that they can aspire to. This shows to children the importance of always being truthful and authentic about their own experiences. As parents, we hope we know all we need to know about our children. When they hide things from us, telling us what we want to hear, knowing that we will not know the difference – that is when they are treading on a dangerous path. When the parents themselves cannot tell when their child is telling the truth, every aspect of the parent-child relationship is damaged.
To keep the parental relationship happy and to give the child the ability to face life’s realities with pride, we must encourage our children to be honest at all times in their public and private lives.
Foster a sense of curiosity
Cattle are herded, following the farmer or the sheepdog to the slaughterhouse. When humans do the same, we call them fools, and rightly so. But where does this tendency come from? Why do grown-up, otherwise intelligent people, blindly follow teachings or people? Whether it is religion, politics, or even seemingly-harmless things like movie stars, we find people who choose to ignore logic and common sense, preferring instead to follow a rigid and narrow understanding of what is good and bad. If our country is in a mess today, that has not a little to do with people like this.
The ideal citizen should be unafraid to have a doubt. To question the status quo. Push against the dictates of convention and conformity. And most importantly, to cultivate a sense of curiosity. To ask questions is the first step in cultivating an inquisitive mind. So tell your children to have doubts. To be curious – after all, a healthy intellectual curiosity will make a person truly knowledgeable, rather than a blind follower of hate-filled ideologies.
Being independent and taking responsibility
Last but not least, the child must learn to take decisions for himself or herself. Parents – Indian parents in particular – have an unfortunate tendency to mollycoddle their children, taking decisions about their food, clothes and careers long into their adulthood. It is perhaps not a bad idea here to take a leaf out of the lives of western parents, who are more likely to allow their children more independence of action from a younger age. This will allow the children to grow both as individuals and as citizens. Further, it is important to inculcate a sense of responsibility in the children. Independence cannot be without consequences. Children should be encouraged to make mistakes but also understand that mistakes have real-life consequences, and they have to be faced, not avoided.
In this way, we will be preparing our children for adulthood, while making them capable, intelligent human beings. It will help to create a nation and a world of intelligent, law-abiding and responsible citizens. And that, after all, is the most that we, as parents, can ever hope to accomplish.