As an adult, if you were told that you could choose parents to be born to, what sort of parents would you pick? Young parents or old? Rich or poor? To be an only child or having lots of siblings? What sort of education and socioeconomic background of them would you pick? What kinds of survival tools you want them to supply you with for this challenging 21st century?
Stewardship model and Ownership model
In choosing parents to be born to, we can boldly assume that we are picking what is rather close to our notion of ideal parents. There is a simpler way of testing your choice: In what style do you want them to raise you? If you hope your parents would make all decisions for you and plan for you all the way from infancy to adulthood, if you want them to love and care for you as they would for pets, if you want them to clear for you all the obstacles to success in life and ensure you are safe and sound for the rest of your life, you are looking for ownership model of parenting. If you want your parents to look after you for your best interests, if you hope they would try all means to discover your talents and will take steps to develop them, if you want freedom to make choices and would understand the consequences prior to decision making, if you want a fair say in family affairs and be respected as an individual rather than a muppet, if you hope they would help to provide you with survival tools for the challenging 21st century so that you are free to live the life you choose with confidence and not living under their shadow, most probably you are looking for stewardship model of parenting. T he focus of this article is on stewardship model.
Stewardship model of parenting ensures a happy childhood and a fruitful adulthood. Here one must understand fruitful does not imply wealthy. A wealthy businessman may not have a fruitful life if he fails to love and care for his family the way he loves and cares for his business, if he imposes wrong type of values to his children and if he himself is a person of weak integrity. There are goals of steward-parents that are obviously more child-centred than owner-parents. Steward-parents put children’s interest before theirs and in so doing, they are cultivating their children with success, happiness, freedom and autonomy.
Steward-parents are people with vision. They will try all means to explore the interests and talents of their children and would take steps to develop them. They know that education opens the gates to all possibilities and so they would seek every means to educate their children. Make a note here that “they” would educate their children and not simply to provide the best type of education they can find in the market. Education starts at home and is best reinforced at home.
Steward-parents respect the individuality of their children. The one-size-fits-all approach is not their option. Instead, they would vary their approach to parenting depending on the needs of each child. If they raise only one, they would be very sensitive not to compare their child with kids of same age and socio-economic background. They know clearly that one child might need a lot of attention and guidelines to flourish while the other might need a lot of freedom. Comparison brings more harm than benefit.
To provide their children with freedom is as vital as education. Freedom involves choices. Steward-parents will spend most of the effort in opening doors of opportunity for their children. As the child grows he will ultimately find those he would spend his whole life on. Steward-parents respect the child’s freedom and the child would not find that all the important decisions about his future have been made for him. In order to achieve this goal, steward-parents rely on a “reasonable-man standard” in parenting (Doing Right by Children, 2001). They never cast unreasonable expectation on their children, but with fairly typical values as if he were a reasonable man. In raising a child to be free, he is raised to be the designer of his life and live in accordance with it.
Giving children plenty of choices to make decisions and experience the consequences of decision-making is the only way to develop autonomy. As a matter of fact steward-parents give their children plenty of chances to make mistakes. Mistakes teach much better than praises. Steward-parents explain to his child how a certain choice is made and what certain consequences are likely to follow.
What are the survival tools steward-parents give to their children to make choices and to face consequences? The answer is Values. These include moral values, cultural values, traditional values, goal-related values (self-respect and self-esteem), recreational values, religious values and valuing love (parental love and fraternal love) (Doing Right by Children, 2001). Values are tools children need to equip with in the ever-changing world of adults.
Characteristics of steward-parents
Being a steward-parent is a lot harder than being an owner-parent. Steward-parents put their child’s interest before theirs and are unavoidably facing challenges of all kind in the course of child raising. There are certain characteristics necessary in steward-parents: emotional maturity, financial stability, good level of education, liberal thinking, openness and self-correctness. Most important of all, steward-parents should be themselves people of self-confidence and high self-esteem. It is true that parents worldwide are anxious in times of trouble and self-doubt, whether a steward-parent or owner-parent has no exception. Emotional maturity helps to calm them sooner than not. Having liberal thinking and being open, steward-parents are faster in seeking helpful resources or direct help. Self-correction always brings high self-esteem and self-confidence. Financial stability and good level of education are important in broadening the possibilities and diversity of help gained.
Once again, as an adult, if you were told that you could choose parents to be born to, what sort of parents would you pick? What characteristics of good parents do you look for? If you have worked out your own definition of ideal parents, are you confident enough to be the ideal parents you have defined? Are you anxious that you are not good enough to be one and simply drop the whole idea of being parents? We all have such an experience of anxiety, and fortunately most of the time anxiety is a good helpful push rather than a dreadful pull. The series of modern parenting consists of four articles. The following articles are analysis on the cause and impact of anxiety experienced by modern parents, and the last one would be a discussion on helping hand that can be given to parents of the 21st century.
Writer: Water Tsui @Progressive Teachers' Alliance