It amazes me that someone has to take driving lessons and a test in order to be a licensed driver, but there is no law requiring she or he take lessons or a test in order to get married. Marriage feels far more dangerous than driving.
Maybe even more unbelievably, anyone can become a parent with zero training, while that same person is not allowed to carry a 4oz bottle of shampoo onto a flight.
It’s my belief, that parents need training. They need guidance in order to ensure that the most basic human qualities are cultivated in their children. Wouldn’t that solve a few problems in our society?
I guess you could argue we had this, or still do in some countries, where state and religion are one. You could also argue it sounds like too much government involvement. But suspend that thought and think about how different our world might be if parents and thus their children were educated in things such as compassion, empathy, focus, and self-awareness with the same effort most school systems put into history, athletics, and math.
Problem solving is a natural part of STEM education, but there are no mandatory programs to teach our kids how to solve problems with one another. We just hope they figure it out. Our kids learn how to use computers through well thought out curriculum in order to prepare them for the work world. But our kids go through no official compassion or empathy education in order to prepare them for this same world.
If it’s not in the schools, where our children spend the majority of their time, then today the responsibility falls with parents. The same parents who, nine times out of 10 didn’t get it from their parents. So the lack of compassion, or empathy, or ability to focus for long periods of time continues. It’s a systemic problem without a current solution.
I believe there are two big challenges. The first is time. The majority of parents simply work too much and when they aren’t working they are distracted. The line between office and home is almost indistinguishable due to technology and the pressure companies put on staff to do more. In fact, many studies report some parents spend as little as 30 minutes a day with their children because of work and technology distractions. Other studies say we are spending more time with our kids compared to thirty years ago, but many of these hours are with smartphone in hand. Not only are we tired when we are home with our kids, we are distracted, which makes it really difficult to properly educate our kids on how to be good citizens.
The second big challenge is that teaching, coaching, parenting. whatever you want to call it, isn’t easy. There are thousands of books on it, but it’s tough to find the right one. Our own parents are happy to share their opinions, most based on outdated models.
So what do we do? Before my daughter was born, I remember asking a number of friends for advice on how to be a good parent. Today, I only remember one of those conversations, and it went like this. “Craig, it might sound simple, but it’s not easy, you just need to love them no matter what. But really love them, because that feeling will never leave them as they grow from toddler to teenager, then into adulthood. If you demonstrate loving kindness, compassion, and how you can give them all of your attention when they want it, they will turn out just fine.