Parenting young children in 2019 is not easy. Finding the right balance requires compromise, collaboration and consideration. The less time we spend with our children, the less time we have to get to truly know them. Helicopter parenting usually results from parents feeling the need to control what happens for their child, losing their traction and perhaps not trusting that their child would be able to navigate their own daily pathways.
When I am asked what are the tell-tale signs that we live in a changing world, outside of the obvious one-word answer being ‘technology’, my next reply is that it feels like each year, parents of young children are more time-poor, seem more stressed, and have fewer resources than what we witnessed a decade ago.
We wonder about this, because our world has probably never been more efficient; our errands and tasks are often done online, transactions can be completed from the safety of our home or car, and our young children’s days at school have increased in number and are longer in hours.
Many of our families struggle to find enough down-time and squeeze into their frenetic weeks a quick visit to the park to kick a ball, a flash picnic at the beach before it gets too hot and sandy, or an early Shabbat dinner with the family before bedtime. Children have planned soccer, swimming and ballet each week; they have birthday parties, play dates and visits to family friends. For some children, a quick baby-chino on the way to school in the mornings, or an afternoon treat with ‘Safta’ are also locked in – as we know how important it is to spend these quality times together.
What we know from all the latest research is that despite your child going to a fabulous school, having a great group of friends, being talented and interested in sport or music, family relationships are still the biggest influence on your child’s development.
Picasso’s mum probably spent a lot of ordinary everyday time with her son. She knew him well, and understood his temperament, was aware of his competencies and his natural curiosity in the world. She knew that, given the right opportunities, no matter what he set his mind to he would do well. She had confidence in his life-long career and trusted him to discover the world and his place in it for himself.
When our lives are over-scheduled and our time to ‘just be’ with our children is cut short because we choose to out-source their free-time to more ‘exciting or productive’ experiences, we may actually be compromising their chances of becoming the best versions of themselves. Children naturally will look to their parents, every day, for clues; and what they see modelled and the messages and feelings they experience, will most likely inform the way they will be in the world.
Our language, our priorities, our interests will rub off on our children. The more we hope to instil strong family values, our steadfast traditions and our reasonable expectations, the more time we need to be with our children, in the ordinary moments of a day. It takes courage and tenacity to become a true mensch. The skills and attributes that most likely determine how to be a well-rounded individual are grown and consolidated through our relationships with others. The best way to practice and acquire such qualities requires repeated and regular opportunities with those that love us most.
There is no better time like the present, and no better training ground than our own homes. Have time in with your children, let them know you are really interested in them, and they will allow you into a world of wonder, and then, when they feel supported and safe, they too can go on to becoming the next Picasso.
About the author
Cathy Milwidsky is the Director of Early Learning at Moriah College in Queens Park, NSW