Understanding the Modern Child of Today

All living things know what to do with their young—except the parents of today, it seems. The old tradition of raising children, which came from an autocratic society, is no longer working in our democratic setting today. It seems that we have to learn new forms of dealing with each other because our relationships have changed. The adult/child relationships in the past were ones of dominance and submission. Today, equality is the only basis on which we’ll ever be able to effectively solve discipline problems. We are witnessing a rebellion of all those who previously were dominated in an autocratic society and who are no longer blindly accepting the dictates of authorities.

The desire of equality and participation was fought first in the political and legal arenas. Free men demanded to be treated equally by their legislatures and courts. Labour was next; they didn’t want to be dictated to by management. The same with the races: “Black Power” was the war cry of the powerless. Women’s Liberation was next to seek equality. Today the gay community looks to win its battle of equality. Next it will be our children’s turn to fight. And just as the other groups have won, or are in the process of winning their battles for equality, so will the children. They are in the majority, and they have time on their side.

Hostilities in our schools and homes will cease only when we share the decision-making process as equals. Equality is not being equal in size, age, position or intelligence. It is treating each other with equal respect. It is having the same respect for a grade-two child as you have for your mother. It is having the same respect for your hairdresser as you have for your boss. This is the kind of equality that brings peace into our schools and homes and makes the whole world a better place to live in.

As parents, think of guiding and helping your child, not dominating and punishing him. You occupy the most crucial position in your child’s life. You are responsible for setting an atmosphere in which his attitudes, beliefs and achievements will grow with continuous progress. Remember that children often behave in line with the adult’s expectations. Think of him as being stupid and he will sink to behave stupidly. Think of him as being mature and he will rise to meet your expectations.

Kahlil Gibran seemed to understand children perfectly when he wrote—

Your children are not your children.

They are sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,

Which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams,

You may strive to be like them,

But seek not to make them like you.

By Dr. Patti Felici