P. A. R. E. N. T.

What is a parent’s role in a child’s life?

There is a lot that can be said, but I came across this brief version I had jotted down years ago and thought I would share.

Parenting is hard, and we are all raising our children differently, these are just some things I learnt and try to apply, I am no perfect parent, nobody is, but we are all trying to do our best right?

1. Provider.

Once you get a child, you know your reason for living has changed. You are now conscious of being the provider to a little helpless human, till the time they can fend for themselves. How prepared are we for this?

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Keep in mind, humans are totally helpless when young, the child cannot provide shelter or feed or cloth itself, it is up to us the parents to do it.

The first seven years are said to be the most critical in setting the foundation for the kind of adult a child will grow to become. How are we fulfilling this provision role to ensure we set a firm and stable standard?

Parenting is not just paying the bills and ensuring the child is fed. Provision of basics is not enough.

2. Available.

Are we available when it comes to our children? Are we easily accessible to them or are they to be neither seen nor heard?

Do we look them in the eye when they speak to us, or are we buried in our phones, laptops and tv screens?

Are we approachable, or do they fear us?

Do we listen to them or just talk at them?

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Obviously, boundaries and respect are important, but we should not let them fear to come to us. We are all they have in a cruel world, if they cannot turn to us and trust us, who can they trust?

3. Responsible.

It is not enough to just provide as a parent, we need to be responsible for and to our children.

How quick are we to respond to their needs? (Including young babies).

I do not mean we should drop everything and centre our lives around them, but we do need to be responsive to their needs and teach them patience too.

When playing and they get frustrated, how do we teach them coping strategies? Do we demean them or do we help them understand that it is normal to get frustrated and anxious at times.

If it is about something they want, talking to them about the difference between wants and needs, will help in this.

I also learnt something the other day about looking for opportunities to say yes to their wants, as per our resources and dependent on what it is they need. “Yes, you can have that toy, but for your birthday, or special occasion”, instead of an outright “No!”

Children learn more by what they see, than what we tell them. Are we responsible human beings in our personal lives?

How can we expect our children to learn responsibility when they see us shirk ours in various ways; Escaping work early, lying to get out of family commitments, etc they see all this.

Let us lead by example.

4. Encourage.

We should strive to encourage our children at all times. Through their successes and failures.

It also doesn’t hurt to carefully steer them towards the vision you have for them, and encourage them accordingly.

This is tricky and it is easy to steer them towards our failed dreams; visions we had for ourselves and impose (read force) them to actualise them. Let us not do that.

Ask them what their vision is, and guide them accordingly, we know our children; their strengths, weaknesses, talents and that they like. That knowledge will inform us on how best to encourage them.

Also let’s not compare our children to others. It is so easy to do this, but let us not. Comparison is the thief of joy, do not be the one making your child miserable because they are not as good as the Joneses’ seemingly perfect child, or not doing things as well as their sibling. Just don’t. It inflicts wounds that fester inside and damage their self confidence and self worth.

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5. Nurture.

Encouragement and nurturing go hand in hand. As parents we must try to be dream builders not dream crushers.

Is your child talented? Encourage and nurture that talent but! there is a big but here – keep in mind they are still children. And we should still let them be children.

Let us take care of them, be protective of what we expose them too. This is easier said than done, as we might also end up being too protective. It is a delicate balance of allowing them to explore; but still remain within our sights.

6. Training.

As parents, we will drop the ball many times, let us not be too hard on ourselves. We can strive to not give up, delegate our role or neglect it as the sole providers and nurturers of these precious children, no matter how difficult it will get at times.

We should keep offering direction, guidance, and discipline. We are their first teachers. Language, values, manners, how they talk and how they think is up to how we train them.

Image Source : Etsy printable picture quotes.

Guiding them through each milestone is not an easy task, and many are the times we will ask ourselves what we signed up for and if we can hack it. We can and will hack this parenting thing but we have to be intentional in steering them the right way.

Leading by example, listening to them, correcting them, teaching them with love and patience the difference between right and wrong.

Training also includes basic body hygiene and how they conduct themselves in private and public. Toilet manners, table manners, making their beds, brushing their teeth, cleaning up after themselves, respecting authority and elders, proper communication. “Excuse me,” “pardon me,” “please,” “thank you,” “you are welcome,” ” sorry”, how to be safe, money sense, and many more.

We are the ones to teach them all this. Not the nanny, not the daycare provider, not the teacher, we the parents are the ones to do this.

There are age appropriate ways we can impart that knowledge to them as well as many teachable moments in our daily lives that we can use to do it.

Parenting is not an easy task, but with knowledge and guidance, and keeping a ‘village’ aka support system around us, that is respectful and shares our values, we will become more confident and feel less alone when navigating this parenting life.

What are some of your best parenting tips? Please share in the comment section.

Love,

Wanjoro.

Perception.

What are some of the things we do, that influence how we perceive each other? That make us able to discern what is good for us and what is bad?

We are relational beings, always interacting with each other in various ways. There are things about us, that we do or say, that make people love us or hate us, ignore us or pay attention to us. I find it all fascinating.

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Social media has changed how we interact; and by extension exposed us with our faults, prejudices, strength and weaknesses to those who follow us. It has changed how we perceive each other, and how we perceive ourselves. Some people blame social media for bullies, rising intolerance, superiority complex and a certain braggadocio, but is it not us in all our true colours – showing us who we really are, in a quicker and more visible way.

There is a popular quote by the famous African American poet and author, Maya Angelou that says, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” This was in context of physical interaction but can still be applied in our online interactions. Yes, people can pretend online at first, but when attentive, you will see some signs of their true selves.

Let me use a romantic relationship as a simple example. In college, there was a Psych course we did to get an easy ‘A’. The course was titled “Courtship and Marriage.” I did get my ‘A’ but the amazing thing is years later when preparing for marriage and in marriage life, all we learnt back then rang true. The lovely lady who taught us used to go on and on about how courtship is important. And it is.

Ideally, courtship is when prospective partners discuss their goals and what they want their future life to be like. Decisions such as who is responsible for what, how many children to have, where to live, how to make financial decisions etcetera etcetera. But, she also taught us, this is the time to examine your prospective partner’s behaviour, and decide if this is the kind of person you want to live with. Self examination is obviously paramount, but that does not mean you should assume your partner is perfect. How does he or she behave when angry? Do they throw fits of anger when things do not go their way? How do they treat other people around them? How do they treat animals/ pets? How do they talk about and interact with their family? What kind of friends do they have? How are their personal boundaries? What is their attitude about money? Personal hygiene? What are their views on gender roles and responsibilities. What do they do for a living? Have you been to their workplace, do you know any of their colleagues? What are their career and personal aspirations? Who are their role models? I could go on and on. Thing is, red flags are always there; we choose not to see them. We ignore our intuition and that little niggling feeling that all is not well, and even lie to ourselves that it is not that bad, we can live with it, or hope our partners will change once we get married.

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How we treat each other in our religious communities, neighbourhood and professional settings also influences how we perceive each other. How do we behave towards those who wield power over us? Or those who we deem to be inferior to us? Are you a boss who bullies or a boss who cares and listens? How do you treat your domestic help? Do we pay those who work for us well? How do you treat those who are in the service industry?

How we choose to behave in all these instances, give others an idea of who we really are, than who we claim to be or not. And once we show our true colours, it is up to others to decide if they want to interact with us or not. We cannot afford to assume we can live without each other, we cannot. Once you are in that situation, you need to look inward and examine yourself.

Communication is paramount in such instances. Expressing ourselves freely and allowing others to express themselves, accepting feedback about our flaws with an open mind and deciding to work on ourselves, will create positive perceptions in us and about us. When we perceive things positively, we become confident, optimistic, are able to create solutions and work with each other in a more harmonious way.

How we perceive ourselves and each other affects how we relate to one another deeply. No man is an island. We cannot live without interacting with each other. And we need to challenge ourselves to focus on positive interactions and not dwell on the negative perceptions we have of each other. We need to respect each other, solve problems together, build a proper world together to ensure our survival on this planet; we all have a role to play that is determined by how we look at ourselves, and interact with each other. Our strengths can help others overcome their weaknesses, our differences should make us appreciate our diversity and learn how to adapt to it.

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It all begins with working on ourselves as individuals. Believing in who we are; that we are capable and worthy human beings. Accepting our imperfections but also looking for ways to reduce them or live with them.

How is your self perception?

How to Encourage Our Children to Read.

The love of reading is one of those things many parents wonder how to teach their children. How do we get them to love to read without it being burdensome? Which books should they read, and how can we encourage them from a young age? Where can we get the books? How can we know what they will enjoy?

Storytelling has been a part of human nature from time immemorial. Before humans developed written communication, myths and fables were passed on orally around the village fire. Through tales of legends of past times, dances, songs and poems, children were taught cultural and moral values, how society came to be, lessons in obedience and humility, caution and the importance of being safe, how to live in peace with nature, the cycle of life and death and many more important life lessons.

Tales similar to the one in this book were commonly told around the fireplace after a long day to caution and entertain the children.

These days we buy our children books and magazines to supplement the language arts they are being taught in school. We may read or tell them bedtime stories, read religious texts together, but is it enough? We want our children to find joy in reading and boost their fertile imagination without it being a chore.

Be it a simple bedtime story, a comic book, fiction, fantasy, adventure or a historical biography, books will always have something new to teach our children.

Some past philosophers compared children to a blank slate, ‘tabula rasa’, where it is upon us to determine what they should learn/ know. This idea has been challenged by later research findings, as we now know there are many more factors that affect how children learn. As parents, it is our responsibility to provide a proper learning environment for our children, that matches their capabilities. What and how a child reads is determined by their developmental changes, genetic makeup, their neuro diversity, and their environment. We have to keep this in mind as we teach them how to read.

Reading opens up a whole new world to us; it enables us to travel across time and space without leaving our homes. We learn new things, new words and phrases, improve our communication and become more open minded. We live in a world where we have to be well informed and up to date with what is going on around us. To do this for our children we need to let them read books that reflect the world around us accurately.

Reading not only entertains us, but also enables us to remember and treasure or discard different things from the past. We draw lessons we can apply in the present, learn how to be more tolerant and accepting of those that are different from us, learn the value of hard work, the sacrifices made by those gone before us, learn about the technological advancements made and understand life in general.

There is no harm in letting them read about the challenges in the world today. There are books addressing this written specifically for children, like these ones here.
Getting them a variety of books will keep them engrossed, informed and entertained.
There are also books such as these that help us teach our children how to be safe.

Books help us not shy away from topics we may find hard to approach with our children. Topics such as death, sex, war, violence, HIV- AIDs etc, can discussed with our children. “The Dead Bird” by Margaret Wise Brown, has been touted by many as a good book to approach how to talk about loss and death with our children. I also like this book pictured below that is great for talking to younger children about our bodies and to appreciate our physical differences.

We know children learn more from our actions. Do they see you read? My father was and still is an avid reader, we always had books, newspapers and magazines around the house. He read to us from a young age, and once we learnt how to read, he bought us different books as per our ages. I have fond memories of listening to him tell us old tales from our culture, read to us from “Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories” Collections, and Christina Rosetti’s children’s poems. Buying Dr. Seuss books alongside African folktales collections. I remember reading about Anansi the Spider’s trickster ways next to Enid Blyton’s classics. Watching us read can trigger the reading bug in our children.

Common fables such as these are a delight to read for the children, let them expand their imagination as they get entertained.

Buy or borrow from local libraries books that cover various interests too, as well as books that match their reading capability, their reading preferences and developmental stage. My daughter is at the stage where she loves reading adventure stories; we have to keep that in mind as we get her what to read. My son is crazy about cars and dinosaurs, so we are also kindling that interest.

It is never too early to read to your child. Read to them in their infancy, buy them picture books, where they can look at the colourful pictures and shapes. I like cloth and textured (also known as sensory) books that help awaken sense of touch and sight in toddlers, helping them visualise and appreciate the beauty in the pages. Nursery rhymes, alphabet and counting books for the pre schoolers are great choices too.

Cute and colourful books are great for a child just learning how to read for themselves.

Books in your mother tongue and other languages help children not only learn the languages, but also make them appreciate the diversity of different cultures, will assist in imparting cultural values and teach them to respect the differences we have. Let them read books by local authors too, they will appreciate reading from and about characters who look like them and in settings similar to their own circumstances.

Some books in different languages.

There is no shortage of ways to cultivate the love of reading to our children.

If you do not know where to start, you can begin by choosing books that are at their level of understanding. For the younger ones you can read some short stories to them. It is a treasured moment they will look forward too, whether a simple bedtime story or an impromptu story time session during a long trip. Read aloud to them and pronounce the words well, and if it is a word or phrase that is unfamiliar to them, ask them if they know or can guess what it means.

When reading to them, make it fun and interactive to keep them interested. Make it lively when reading. Facial expressions, gestures, eye contact, voice inflections will capture their interest in the story.

Encourage questions as you read. Let them interject and answer them before continuing with the story. Encourage feedback too, ask them what they think about what you read, or what they are reading for themselves. Did they enjoy the story? What did they think about the character and their choices? Would they like to read or hear more stories along those lines?

Buy them books as gifts. Rewards are always motivating, so get them books as a reward too. If they can read for themselves, get them books according to their reading ability and preference. Ask them what they enjoy reading. Stroll through the bookstore or library with them and let them go over the books they are interested in. It will give them a sense of independence and teach them how to make decisions. We should never under estimate the teachable moments all around us.

As parents, I know we want to expand their reading, and stay on top of what they read, so here is what I do; At the moment, my kids can borrow a maximum of three books a week from their school library, what I do is ensure there is at least one non-fiction book out of the three for each of them. A minimum of one non fiction will ensure that they will not only get entertained by their other selections, but will get to learn some factual information too.

This is a sample of my son’s weekly reading from the school library. At least one non fiction a week works for him. I especially love these Nat Geo readers.

Provide them with a variety of books to expand their imagination. From fantasy, to cultural tales, encyclopaedias, adventure stories, historical biographies, fables and legends to poetry. The list is endless. Also get them age appropriate dictionaries so they can know the meanings of the new words they come across while reading.

Check for age appropriate dictionaries at your local bookstore.

Let them read at their own pace. Do not rush them or force them, this will discourage them and make them feel like reading is burdensome.

Even 10 – 20 minutes is enough for them to read if you need them to improve on it. Remember, reading is fun, let us not turn it into an arduous activity for them.

A lot of children’s books these days have some interactive activities and questions at the back. Ask them if they need help to do some of the activities, which can be a great bonding session for all of you.

Do not shame your child over their reading preferences. Different types of stories expand their imagination. Every genre and tale has a lesson they can learn. You may feel fairy tales are ridiculous; The dashing heroes who come to save, the transformations of characters from animal to human, the characters’ suffering…but they offer hope and a happy ending when good triumphs over evil.

Personally, I like Winnie the Pooh and her fellow characters’ varying outlooks on life; they teach our children different perspectives. That it is indeed possible to have differing outlooks on life and still get along.

Books such as “The Magic School Bus” range and the “National Geographic Super Readers” Range, offer factual information in such a captivating way; your children will love knowing more about the universe, how our bodies work, the environment and many more interesting things.

It is very important to vet what our children are reading. What is influencing their current reading preferences? Check out the reviews of the books they are interested in and read the books themselves too. Not all books are good or written with the best intentions. Ensure they are reading books that go hand in hand with the values you want them to have.

We have to be proactive in encouraging our children to read. It is not enough to just buy them the books and let it be. Let us lead by example; let them see us read and talk about what we have read, even if it is a newspaper or magazine article. Have discussions with them on what they are reading and their thoughts about the characters or the storyline, or what they enjoyed most about their book.

Encourage them to write their own stories. You can even recreate some of the stories which might inspire them to do so too. My son turned his worn socks into sock puppets the other day and recreated a scene from something he had read with his sister’s help. It was quite entertaining to watch.

The best thing about books is we can find them almost everywhere. From ordinary bookstores, supermarkets, thrift markets, roadside sellers, online, garage sales, from friends, books fairs or local libraries, there are so many places one can access them.

You can also let them read online (with cyber safety measures in place, obviously). There are many websites and apps that you can download and create a profile for your child, and let them read various books. Try sites and apps such as Starfall, RAZ Kids, ABC and Adventure Academy, Mee Genius, Hoopla, Homer, and many more.

Reading nurtures patience, curiosity, tolerance, respect, humility, empathy and the most important lesson of all; that humans are equal. We just view the world in different ways.

Reading will make our children open minded, appreciate our diversity as inhabitants of our planet, learn how to solve problems, inform them of how the world around us works, learn to appreciate and nurture our environment and many more valuable lessons.

Before we know it, our children will be grown and out of our homes. The hunger to know and enjoy the process of learning new things, and seeking to understand the world we live in, are some of the important things we can teach them. A joy for reading will help us impart those lessons to them.

What else can we do to encourage our children to read?