My father used to say ‘children should be seen but not heard’. We grew up hearing this phrase in our family and I had no doubt he picked it up from his parents as my grandparents were of the same mindset. One look was enough for them to discipline us. That’s all it took.
Times have changed and our views on parenting have also changed. The sooner our children talk the better. We are constantly comparing our children’s skills and abilities and equating it with intelligence. We have become slightly obsessed with our children and they way they look and how they act. We always think we know best. We seem to think we can determine everything from their friends, to their teachers to how they behave.
The days of ‘your teacher is always right’ is rare if non-existent. For some reason we have developed an inherent belief that our children are flawless. We fear that their behaviour will be judged and we will be to blame. It often seems to me that we are always too quick to justify our children’s behaviour rather than disciplining them.
My mother often justified her strict discipline by saying ‘you’ll thank me for this one day … one day you’ll have children of your own and you’ll understand me’. I never quite understood her until today when I often wished there was a handbook for raising children detailing steps one should take in each situation. The truth is there isn’t and many of us can only use our upbringing and instinct to guide us.
A guide book will tell you how to change a nappy and how many times you should feed your baby but what about dealing with tantrums, and in later years belligerent behaviour? How do you deal with peer pressure? How can a parent refuse to buy their child an ipad or the latest phone if all their friends have one? Where do we draw the line? Is it ok for our children to be the odd one out?
In reality there is no easy answer. One cannot say no for everything yet neither can we throw caution to the wind just because other are. Over the years I have found a few answers but am still left with more questions. The key to our children’s behaviour and demands will always be their friends. Get to know their friends and engage with them. Get to know their friends parents and discuss red lines. If their friends don’t go to Paceville at 13 then your children won’t ask you to do the same.
The same applies for online beaviour especially social networking. If their friends are not on it then neither will they. Not that it is wrong for children to be on social media. This is their way of life and we cannot stop them. What we can do, however is educate them every step of the way. Social media exposes them to realities that they are not always ready to experience.
Our children are bound to know more than us about the workings of social media but that doesn’t mean they have the wisdom and maturity to deal with some of the consequences. Whilst in every day life we are always so ready to come to our children’s defence we should also use some of this energy to look at the issues at the heart of Instagram and Facebook as well as snapchat and twitter.
Posting selfies may seem harmless until one of your children’s friends gets jealous of your child’s witty comments, or attractive photos. We cannot assume that our children have developed the thick skin we have when dealing with nasty comments, taunts or gossip. Neither can we blame our children for trusting their friends blindly and posting things for fun.
For those of us who have used social media it is fun and very engaging. We often fall for it ourselves and relish checking out those wedding photos and boat trip pics online. Who was there? With whom? OMG what was she thinking wearing that bikini? It’s on facebook therefore we are free to comment. It’s also instantaneous and often done behind a screen which makes it easier…. yet it’s online and there forever. A comment between two individuals is just that – between two people. On the internet it is there for all to see and add their two pence worth… often just for fun but in some cases can be very hurtful.
Grappling with social media is never going to be easy, yet tackled in a practical way with some red lines thrown in for good measure can make the experience so much easier for our children.
BiographyMikela is a graduate in International Relations from the University of Malta. She holds a post-graduate degree in Management from the Mediterranean Institute of Management, Cyprus, a Masters Degree in Conflict Resolution from the University of Bradford, UK., and a Masters in EU Politics and Administrative Studies from the College of Europe Bruges, Belgium. Her career spans 15 years in the Diplomatic Service during which time she worked on issues related to the IAEA, United Nations, Commonwealth and Sanctions. Other positions held were that of Private Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Speech Writer as well as Assistant Director of Defence and Head of Secretariat of the Strategic Policy Secretariat both within the Office of the Prime Minister. Mikela had a leading role in Malta’s response to the Libya crisis and post crisis planning of Malta-Libya relations. Today Mikela is the Senior Executive for Corporate Affairs at Vodafone Malta responsible for PR, Corporate Affairs, Internal Communications, External Relations and Corporate Social Responsibility. Mikela née Tabone, is married to Eric and together they have five children. Lisa is 8, Anna 7, Sarah 6 and the twins Eric and Rebecca 5. Her hobbies include diving, travelling and reading. (When she has any time left!)