Over the years, in speaking to parents I have always made teh comment that they are to remain parents and not friends of their children. The response is always mixed but the message is simply we are parents not siblings or peers. they do not need more friends, they have enough of those. They do no need parents, they are simply not enough of those to go around.
Today we hear much about the breakdown of society and children lack of respect for their parents and parental type figures such as teachers, police officers and any one older than themselves. We ask ourselves how that happens and how do we regain authority when authority is deemed a naughty word (often mistaken for authoritarian – a horse of a totally different colour.)
Today I rode the Harley on the main highway near where I live. As I always do I maintain the speed limit or less at all times. It is interesting to note that people of all ages simply drive over and above the speed limit, often with their children in the back seat, fully able to see the speedometer. It may seem a little thing, but it is the little things which are letting us down.
You see if we can justify ignoring authority in our car, what messages are we sending to our children? That authority is not to be respected, including our authority as their parents. If authority is irrelevant in one area of our lives it is probably so in others and if that is the message our children witness what hope have we of maintaining authority in our families life?
Yes, I know authority, boundaries, discipline and deprivation (and boredom) are unpopular concepts, and , yes, they are almost as unpopular as parents know best and parents have the final word. The truth is that until parents take seriously their position and role, set limits and show by their example that authority is to be valued, we will struggle to regain the balance and stability our children desperately need.
I am extremely conscious of this as in my role as a high profile (thanks to the local media!) chaplain to a school in a relatively small community, I am aware that everywhere I go someone is watching me – usually students – and they are quick to report to all who will listen what I have being doing or have done. So when I leave my house (I have 6 or more students living in my small street) I am on my best behaviour, and that’s not a bad thing. It reminds me always that people learn from what I do not what i say and if I want them to be good citizens in every sense of that word, I need to be so my self. Sometimes I get it right, others I get it wrong, but always I aim to set the standard high for both myself and for them. I think that’s part of our role as older people in our community.
An excellent easy to read book called ‘The Spoilt Generation’ by Aric Sigman explores these ideas and challenges us to take back from our children, society and those with vested interests our rights as parents and parental figures before it is too late. Perhaps it is too late.