A man once asked a priest how he should educate his only son.
“How old is your son?” the priest asked.
“Oh, he’s only eleven years old, Father.”
“You have a lot of catching up to do!” the priest said. “You’ve already lost eleven years in your son’s formation.”
This anecdote illustrates how important every moment is to educate our children. It would be sad, as well as a great negligence, to think that life’s more serious lessons are only to be conveyed when someone have reached the age of reason.
On the contrary, recent studies show that a child’s psycho-social formation starts at a very young stage. Parents are more aware of this and strive to equip their kids with almost everything they may need in order to adapt – physically, intellectually and psychology – to the multi-faceted and harsh challenges of our complicated world. Thus, it’s not strange to hear about how some mother is already beginning to form her kids even before birth by exposing them to classical music or conversing with them.
As a result, children today are capable of learning and doing things which were perhaps, inconceivable some generations ago. Global trends make it possible for them to have a fuller grasp of reality and events, allowing for a more integrated and wholesome education. The use of the computer and the internet, for example, has opened so many learning horizons for children.
But this parental zeal to prepare children for life also has its negative side. This happens when parents become concerned only with equipping their children materially for the material world. Undoubtedly, this stems from their noble ideal of providing them a bright future. A future often perceived as a state where their children will not suffer or at least experience similar travails which the parents had experienced in the past.
As a result, they become overprotective. Instead of properly rearing their kids, they smother them with comfort and excess leisure which will take its toll in a distant future when parents can no longer physically give adequate help.
Some symptoms of “smothering” are manifested in:
- Not knowing how to say NO. When parents give in to their children’s every request. Sometimes by both parents or in some occasions either the father or the mother who cannot properly exercise authority. Here too, we cannot forget the smothering role of grandparents in Philippine culture.
- Fear or laziness to correct them rationally. Children aren’t robots, and we cannot educate them using either extremes of the carrot or the stick. It may be sometimes more tempting to use the stick when they misbehave, or the carrot to encourage good behavior. But we never make them see and understand why they have to behave properly and responsibly.
- Thinking and Buying BRAND NEW. We are sometimes only too ready to purchase what we could afford, without making them realize that most things aren’t better simply because they’re new. A lot of personal responsibility and even appreciation for things can be fostered through hand-me-downs, or inheriting something we value aesthetically, say a family album, or a special heirloom, and this includes – what our culture is gradually losing – even sayings of the old folk on life and good manners.
- Having too much money or material possessions. The amount of material possessions isn’t a guarantee for children to truly develop psychologically, socially, and spiritually. Sometimes it could even spell their downfall when material things become an end rather than a means to their development. When they have too much on hand, children begin to see persons for what they have, rather than for who they are. And when all their material possessions are squandered, it may even be too late for them to realize what is really valuable in life.
- Overemphasis on their material achievements. Parents sometimes look forward to their children’s success as the projection of being “good” parents. Little do they realize that what really last in life are the invisible things. Trophies, medals, cash prizes, and posters will all one day disappear. What remains to be seen is how their children have learned virtue, concern and service for others, a high esteem for their parents and superiors, responsibility, etc.
These are only some examples of how children are negatively reared. If parents are not vigilant and courageous enough to correct them, their children may drastically end up smothered by a material world they cannot adequately engage with because they lack the spiritual tools of virtue and ideals needed to transform it.