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Being a parent

Introduction

Life is twenty years desperately wanting to grow up followed by sixty years desperately wanting not to. Equally, though learning is a lifelong process and different life stages and experiences have profound influences on our self-identity and personality traits, we have been largely shaped into who we are by the time we are twenty. As parents we have a powerful influence over the shaping of our children during this period. It is a big responsibility.

Our parenting skills are largely acquired from our parents and our experiences as a child. It is a cycle that we can see in countless other species across the animal kingdom. When childhood is a happy, healthy and successful experience it is fine that we tend to parent as we were parented to. When it is not, we may want to make profound changes to the way we intend to raise our own children. This will take considerable mental effort to overcome the learnt behaviours we inherit from our parents. When we experience high levels of stress it can be difficult to avoid falling back on these deeply embedded behaviours. This is particularly evident when we are dealing with challenging behaviour from our children; which can trigger equally undesirable behaviours in ourselves. It is an unfortunate fact that children who are victims of abuse are more likely to become perpetrators of abuse as parents.

It is fortunate therefore, that we possess complex language skills enabling us to learn and apply different approaches to parenting. We now have a wealth of research and recorded wisdom that we can use to support the decisions we make as parents. There is however a problem: researchers do not always agree and politicians nearly never do. We all have deeply held beliefs and convictions about how children should be brought up. Research can often be misrepresented or manipulated to support political agendas and we tend to be influenced by our own prejudices and seek research that supports our views.  Good parenting must therefore involve a willingness to challenge our own beliefs and being both receptive to and wary of new ideas.



Human knowledge is growing at an exponential rate and this includes huge amounts of research into every aspect of child development and behaviour. New sciences like neuroscience are beginning to map how the brain works and offer exciting possibilities for developing more effective learning programmes and overcoming difficulties and challenges. More rigorous research methods in social sciences offer ever greater insights into human behaviour and the complex interactions that govern our lives. This explosion in knowledge is fuelled by the speed of technological advances particularly in computing and communication systems. The world is a rapidly changing place. Parenting is about preparing our children for adult life and new parents are faced with the challenge of preparing children for a world that is evolving at such a rapid pace. The future has always been unpredictable but perhaps more so today.

Nothing in life can compare to the wonderful fulfilment and joy that parenthood can bring. It is a life long journey that leads you to new experiences along a road that will often test your driving skills. There will be the inevitable traffic jams and unexpected detours as well as the occasional ice on the road. You can't avoid these as a parent but you can prepare yourself.