Recently I heard about a certain organization’s policy on maternal leave. Man! I have to say, it makes you want to be a woman. This organization definitely looks out for its female employees, or is it for the welfare of family units? To clarify the matter, I found that the idea of Paternity Leave appears strange to them. There goes one of the fault in women empowerment/inclusion strategies, they neglect the role of the man in the scheme of things, which brews competition between two sexes seeing them selves as opposing. Are female inclusion strategies looking out for females as an end in itself, or as means towards larger concept, like family?
While not being the focus of this post, parallels can be drawn between relationships in the microcosm of man-and-woman, to the macrocosm of parenting. Just as we erroneously off-load the task of child upbringing (in early and teen age) to women, parenting is loaded on immediate parents. By immediate parents, I mean the heads of a nuclear household. For as long as nurture works together with nature to shape the personality of a person, immediate parents should not be saddled with the raising of the child, in isolation. This is especially true when a typical child spends most of their waking hours socializing outside their immediate family. How erroneous are we then to think that child upbringing is the sole job of the child’s immediate parents. Today, we ought to think of school teachers, househelps, child’s friend, parents of child’s friends, and most influentially media (TV, Internet etc). These can not be neglected as sources of influence.
Thus far, immediate parents take charge of their child’s upbringing by limiting the child’s access to the mentioned influences. That is a defensive position, and therefore unlikely to be as effective as it could be, for the amount of effort invested. This is because so much energy is exhausted in protecting the child from perceived negative influences, that little energy is put in developing/nurturing the child. A proactive approach is more effective. Proactive approach would mean being involved in selecting your child’s school teachers, a thorough personality check in selecting a househelp, being mindful of child’s media content, compatibility check between you and parents of the child’s friend… I would like to focus on the relationship between child’s parents and parents of child’s friends.
To the parents of your child’s friends, you are the “parents of the child’s friends”. Thus collaborative parenting means parenting in tandem, in partnership, beyond simple defensive parenting. The hardwork of parenting in isolation, could easily be undone by bad parenting from parents of your child’s friends; because your child may spend time in their homes, which is run according to their rules or lack of it, or your child spends time with their child, who is the living-and-breathing realization of their parenting. Remember, to the parents of your child’s friends, you are the “parents of the child’s friends”, so it helps to look at as you being the potential bad apple.
You know how we always say we are “family-friends”, we ought to start being more committed to family friendship, and individual friendships will improve; at least for the children. Let Collaborative Parenting be synonymous with Family Friendship. A misaligned family friendship creates a bottomless pit where much parenting hardwork sinks to no use; a wasted effort; that is wasteful parenting not Collaborative Parenting. You don’t choose your families, but you choose your family friends. Being family does not necessitate family friendship; although it may give you certain liberties to get those family members to think critically about their parental ideals.
The rhetoric goes that every parent wants the best for their child. We need to go beyond that and agree on what “the best” means. Parents ought to align their ideals with the other parents, as a prerequisite to family-friendship. Going to the same mosques and churches does not mean you share the same ideals, it means you share similar beliefs; especially nowadays when mosques and churches have been reduced to centers of lavish worship. It is doubtful that parents research the values/ideals of their children’s schools before enrolling. They do inquiries based on the standard rubric, which says good schools are ones with expensive tuition, with an expatriate (or foreign trained) principal, with partners in “America”/UK, with high entrance barrier, with good examination records, with state of the art facilities… etc. But for ideals of a school, a glance at the school’s motto (on already purchased exercise book) is enough. Well… this is not enough!
Here’s a case of non-collaborative parenting. Junior’s parents believe that affluence is no excuse for undisciplined living. Yaro’s parents haven’t given it a thought, but they happen to be affluent, so living is a downhill thing. Junior’s parents think a ten year old should not own an ipad but could share with siblings only on weekends. Yaro’s parents think… well they didn’t think much, but they granted Yaro’s request to get his personal ipad. Yaro smuggles his ipad into school to share the glory with friends come break time. It is break time, Yaro is acknowledged the cool guy, and the attention he is getting is worth breaking a few rules for. Now Junior pledges to the leadership of Yaro, with a mission to one day be like Yaro, even if it means breaking the rules. For now, Junior will soak in the attention on Yaro by being a loyal entourage. Junior and his entourage move, and now think, like Junior; and Junior is thinking like his parents, who may not be thinking, because life is easy. Affluence, no critical parental thoughts, downhill.
The takeaway of that anecdote is how easy a non-collaborative parenting can result in the destruction of a child’s self esteem.
An aunt told me about how they were raised as kids. Her mother knew about every one of her toys, so a child would have to answer questions if they brought back any unknown toy. If the child claims it was gift, then the giver must be contacted to verify. And all parents were in on this rule-of-engagement. That was collaborative parenting mostly because the parents were in synergy with each other in terms of their ideals. Perhaps that is where this generation inherited its silence on the question of compatible ideals in family friendship. They assumed rightly in the past, now the assumption is not in sync with reality.
To all parents, new and old, take some time and clearly define your parental ideals. We need Collaborative Parenting!