"Our children are our future"
"The future rests in our children's hands"
"Let us build a future for our children"
"Let us preserve our worldly heritage for our future generations"
Adults have been making these proclamations for decades. But what progress have we really made towards fulfilling them? We see more and more incidences of our youth turning to drug and alcohol abuse, becoming sexually active at a younger age, committing suicide, crime and violence, joining and following some or other cult group, gangst
ers etc. as a way of coping with or escaping from family and social pressures and demands, expectations and other prescribed norms and values. Isn’t this showing us that instead of creating an environment conducive to a healthy lifestyle we are creating an one of ever-increasing despair and unhappiness?
Instead, despite these signs of despair and unhappiness children all over the world are left to suffer poverty, illness, starvation, lack of education and even death as adults continue to unwaveringly uphold and institute even grandeur ideologies of the existing education processes and systems, economic policies, political and religious principles and beliefs. Ideologies that throughout history have lead to war, destruction of our environment and other life forms on this planet. What more needs to happen to make us realise the need to change and do something meaningful about shifting away from all this? What needs to happen for adults to realise that our ideological “sacred cows” continue to fuel an unhealthy and destructive lifestyle and that our ways are not necessarily the only way, or, the only correct way. How can our children ever have the opportunity of doing something fundamentally different to changes if adults insist that the present systems are the only way.
If we really want to create a better place and society for our future generations, we need to address the fundamental cause or reason that drives adults and children to escape into a life of booze, sex, drugs and other addictions. It is a pointless, useless and meaningless exercise to advocate and demand changes in behaviour without addressing and eliminating the fundamental root cause of the problem.
From birth a child has no other role model to follow than its parents and family environment. As children, this was the same for us also and as it was for our parents and our parent’s parents and so on going back in time. The way we were raised and our respective family dynamics and environment have impacted all of us to some degree. Was our parent’s teachings and upbringing right or wrong? No one can stand in judgement over that because what our parents did and the way they behaved was only in accordance with what they knew. The question therefore is not what they did or did not do, but rather how that impacted our life. For example, did your upbringing make you feel accepted, wanted, loved, part of, give you a sense of belonging, allow you to be and do whatever you wanted and loved? Or, did you find you had to prove yourself to be accepted, had to meet your parent’s expectations of you, did you need to compromise yourself, did fear and/or experience rejection, have feelings and the belief of being not good enough? The chances are that it was more of the latter than the former. How does this affect and impact on our parent-child relationship and mankind?
The process of parenting starts when two people decide to have a child – unless an unplanned or unwanted child “comes along.” Some reasons couples may have for wanting a child might be:
it is nice to have a baby
"I want lots of children - 5,6,10." (Why? What for? Are you perhaps missing something in your life?)
it will add meaning to our lives
to prove one's womanhood, manhood or parenthood
to continue the family name (would need to be a baby boy)
to keep our relationship or marriage together (the child becomes the relationship “glue")
it’s a demonstration of our love for one another
what one gets married for
religious indoctrination and unquestionable devotion to its teachings – like the prohibition of the use of condoms or other forms of "artificial" contraception preached by the Roman Catholic church; or that conception is the will of God
so that ageing parents can be cared for by their children
unwanted births from prostitution, promiscuity and irresponsible, unprotected sexual intercourse
… and many other reasons.
What is clear from that is how the reasons all relate to the fulfilment of the adult's/parent’s needs and fears. No consideration is given to the child’s dreams might be or how as parents we are going to support the child to fulfil them.
No matter how much excitement, anticipation and preparation parents may experience and acquaint themselves with, none are likely to be fully prepared for the real thing. So when the time comes and the child demands total parental attention and guidance, parents suddenly find themselves faced with a situation they did not anticipate of not being able to fulfil their own needs. Mother may loose interest in intimacy, her devotion to the child may make dad feel left out and unloved, mom may feel she is expected to be the same partner she was before the child’s arrival (so stress and frustration), dad may feel unimportant, sleep trends become disrupted, socialising and entertainment become difficult to do, and so the issues and situations that were not present before the birth start accumulating and taking their toll.
This results in tempers become shortened, disagreements and arguments creep in, and in short the relationship begins to take strain. What should have been a period of joy and harmony, turns into a “battlefield.” Of course, the case is not the same in every household or with every child. But in my experience of facilitating people, it seems that there are similar underlying tensions in all families related to children.
With the parent’s lifestyle disrupted, someone needs to be “blamed.” And who else but the child because things were fine before it came along. On the premise of acting in the child's best interest because they assume the child does not know anything and therefore needs to learn everything, they impose their expectations and sense of right, wrong and justice that the child must abide by. The family environment which was to nurture the child’s life skills and support fulfil its life dreams changes into a “battlefield” of wills, demands and rights.
With children learning through copying, certain behaviours and attitudes can only be a reflection of its family's (un)disciplines and (dis)functions. And some research shows that a child that manifests signs of depression, stress, boredom, lack of discipline, being a bully, or for that matter even being socially well-balanced and disciplined often are the result of the family environment they are exposed to.
In their effort to be unconditionally accepted and loved, the child strives to meet and satisfy the parent’s expectations even by compromising on who he/she is. But despite even this the child finds it does not win. Their need for acceptance becomes an ongoing battle and journey in which the child feels that no matter what he/she does, they cannot win because parents keep “moving the goal posts.” This triggers and reinforces the child’s feelings and belief of being not good enough – their MOULD – which in turn gives rise to their anger, frustration, stress, depression, rebelliousness, or in some cases, submission. It is quite amazing to have experienced how most adults still carry the need to “make it” with their parent/s. It seems there is a strong in-born need for this that does not go away until one has dealt with taking responsibility for their feelings and belief – by eliminating their MOULD
When the child begins interacting with the "outside" world, it soon discovers that there too it has to fight for recognition and acceptance. A struggle to leads to more anger, frustration, depression and stress and other such emotions and feeling. Every person has their own way of coping with, handling, or escaping these "dis-eases" and resultant pains and perhaps the most common coping and escape mechanisms used by most people are:
smoking, alcoholism, use of and addiction to prescription and/or illegal drugs
crime and violence, sex, prostitution
subservience or domination, social conformity to standards and norms
abuse - physical, mental, emotional or a combination of all three
the need to have power and control over ... (anything)
religious conformity and "blind" faith
… and many other.
The degree of social acceptability of each of these practices may seem that some are less detrimental than others. So, drug addiction and crime are more physically damaging than social conformity. But to the drug addict and criminal their respective behaviour is a lesser evil than social conformity – otherwise they would not do it. The bottom line is that in fact each coping and escape mechanism is used to address the same emotional pains – not being unconditionally accepted for who and what they are … which equates to being unloved.
The path for change and different future – perhaps a better one – certainly is in the hands of our children. But nothing will change unless adults have the willingness to be wrong about their self-righteous ideological sacred cows and allow our upcoming new generations to manifest themselves for who and what they truly are.
The lifestyle we have followed and upheld for centuries and continue to promote today needs to change if we really want a better life for every one and everything on our planet. The lifestyle of the few living in pompous and obscene luxury at the expense of the vast majority needs to be brought to an end if we really want everyone to be contributors of their natural talents and expertise for a more meaningful and fulfilling unconditional lifestyle for all
For as long as there is
Even one person
Suffering from man's discrimination
But one blade of grass be broken
Through his greed,
There can be nothing
To laugh about
On this planet
Sergio Salotto (May 1995)
LIFE CAN BE DIFFERENT