I often wonder what the future holds in store for the two precious beings whom I have been blessed to accompany on their journey. When my children were little, one of the best pieces of advice I received from another mother after one of my child’s tirades was, “Ridvan, you are not raising a two year old; you are raising a human being.” That statement and the following quote have stayed with me and guided my parenting approach.
“Children are the most precious treasure a community can possess, for in them are the promise and guarantee of the future. They bear the seeds of the character of future society which is largely shaped by what the adults constituting the community do or fail to do with respect to children. They are a trust no community can neglect with impunity.” Baha’i - Universal House of Justice, 2012
If you knew your child was a future Einstein, Maya Angelou, Nelson Mandela or whoever inspires you, how would you treat them today?
We are so busy making it through each day that we forget to ponder our children’s potential. They are the future inventors, designers, artists, musicians, leaders, activists, or whatever they choose to become. Might Einstein’s teacher have treated him differently had she glimpsed into his future? And if so, what would she have done differently? Our children will shape the future, and we hope they shape it for the better. So let us always keep that in the forefront of our minds during our parenting journey.
Within the seed of an acorn is already the potential of an oak tree. An oak tree, however, has to be planted in the right climate and conditions in order to thrive. It will not thrive in a desert. So too do our children need the right climate, nurturing and care in order to thrive. And we don’t want them to thrive only academically or physically, but also emotionally and spiritually, for therein lies the road to true happiness. So let’s create the physical, emotional and spiritual conditions for our children so that they will realize their potential.
The above quote continues… “An all-embracing love of children, the manner of treating them, the quality of attention shown them, the spirit of adult behavior toward them – – these are all among the vital aspects of the requisite attitude. Love demands discipline, the courage to accustom children to hardship, not to indulge their whims or leave them entirely to their own devices. An atmosphere needs to be maintained in which children feel that they belong to the community and share in its purpose.”
Do we treat our children with respect? Are we raising them in a family culture of mutual respect?
Do we have the courage to accustom them to hardship in order to help them become resilient? Or are we bailing them out of every challenging situation?
Do we see them for who they truly are? They are not a reflection of us but their own unique person.
Do we listen to them, really listen with empathy in order to understand, rather than to solve or punish? How do you feel when you are truly listened to?
Are we constantly telling them what to do rather than empowering them to solve their own problems?
Do our children feel like they belong to our community and share in its purpose?
Are they encouraged to take healthy risks?
What is the quality of attention that we giving our children? Not all attention is good attention or necessary.
These are just a few questions to ponder. But most important, realize that children are potentially the light of the world, and treat them accordingly. One can do that and at the same time discipline in a respectful and positive manner.
My children are teenagers now; one is a few months away from his 20th birthday. Every year brings with it different joys, challenges to experience, and problems to solve together. My daily prayer is that I continue to have the courage to guide and provide them with the spiritual tools necessary to navigate this perilous and wondrous world, and God willing, realize their potential and help make the world a better place.