Parenting decisions

The Letters to the Editor column in this newspaper since its inception thirty odd years ago has been an outlet for readers to vent their feelings and thoughts on all manner of subjects ranging from blackouts to road construction to minibus drivers to the salaries of teachers, to mention but a few.

 With the advent of the internet and the availability of an online version of the newspaper, subscribers are able to add their comments and thoughts on the letters. More often than not, a letter will attract a comment or two, or perhaps none at all. And then there are letters that generate much heated debates with responses coming from all angles and directions. These letters are often political in their discourse and hence the accompanying arguments they generate.

In last Sunday’s edition, a frequent contributor to the column wrote openly about the difficult decision of having to choose between two universities abroad for his daughter to attend. This letter has sparked numerous responses which question the writer’s logic for choosing one tertiary institution over the other. Several interesting points were raised by the responders, some of whom cited personal experiences. However, there was one reader who questioned whether the student had had any input in the decision process.

 Whilst much of the discussion had centred on the basis of the reasoning for the final choice, this subscriber had subtly raised the fundamental question of when do we stop making unilateral decisions for our children. As parents, we all wish and seek to provide the best for our children. The nurturing process is, and can be, a long and costly exercise during which one can easily become carried away, splurging on unnecessary material items to compensate for our shortcomings in some areas.

In raising children – there is no such thing as a perfect method or a perfect parent – one of the key characteristics we aspire to develop in them is confidence. We all wish our offspring to be confident when they appear in public and to conduct themselves in a fit and proper manner. Instilling confidence can be a time consuming process since every child is unique and acquires it at a different pace.

As a child approaches the teenage stage of life and the balance of their questioning of our decisions and their need to make their own choices begin to clash, the real challenge in parenting decisions begins to evolve. At the time when we as parents are aspiring to point our offspring in the direction of a career, we are faced with the critical choice of letting the child choose their own path, or of ourselves trying to influence their choice along our desired lines. Those along which we have been successful, or ironically, those which we had aspired to but didn’t achieve any measure of success.

Although having provided the tools for them to make confident decisions we find ourselves questioning whether they are equipped to make those choices. More often than not, the problem lies within ourselves, for not wanting to let go of our offspring who are probably in a better position to decide their own fate than we were at a similar age. In an ideal situation, frank conversations over a period of time would probably lead to the right choice of career. Unfortunately, there is no utopia in the world of parenting.

In our eyes our children will always be children. While it is true our support and advice, whether they seek it or not, will always be there for the taking, at some stage they have to become responsible adults accountable for their own actions and choices. Is there a critical period of time when we, as parents, should begin to hand over the reins? If so, when?

There are no specific answers to those questions. The maturity of the child and the parents’ openness to the child making long-term decisions at a critical age are obvious factors. No one knows at the time of such decision making whether the correct choice has been made and only the passage of time will determine that answer.

At the end of the day, when we stop making choices for our children, whether they make the right call or not, we, as parents, must be there at all times to provide the necessary support.

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