The 21st century will be remembered as a time when parenting was outsourced.
It’s a unique phenomena in this particular time. Scan the internet and you can find someone to do everything you need to raise a child. For the right price, someone will get up early and make your child breakfast, feed them if necessary, dress them and take them to school. Collect them, complete the homework, give them supper and put them to bed.
Discipline, respect and manners training have been outsourced to the school where fees are expected to cover tuition and raising children. In fact, you can even find someone who will move into your house to teach your child to stop sucking their thumb.
And as we outsource these fundamentals we dilute connection. Humans are hardwired for connection and we are designed to be connected to our parents. The umbilical cord and the mothers heartbeat in utero grows a connection. Skin to skin touch of a new born baby with mother and father cements that relationship and suckling from one breast then the other embeds neural data that will last forever. We call it bonding. At the heart of all bonding is a sense of belonging, of being worthy, seen, safe and secure.
The moment we outsource the basics we break the bond. Relationships untangle and the sense of worthiness is shadowed by hurt, sadness, shame and guilt. Soon our children feel disconnected. Disconnected children battle to regulate their social-emotional lives and this impacts adulthood.
Five Points to Ponder
- Never outsource time with your child.
No au pair, play group co-ordinator, baby-sitter, extra-lesson teacher, sport coach or ballet teacher can replace quantity time. The quality time myth of the 1980’s was about planning to spend some focused time with your child amidst the busyness of a career. We have learnt that stable, well-rounded successful adults look back and are grateful for plain old time. Family holidays, games around the dining room table, sandcastle building on the beach, tennis in the road, laughter around the fire, baking together, cooking dinner, watching the rugby while the kids play with their Lego on the carpet is what I call quantity time. Hours of just being together. The child’s brain thinks like this – “When you give me attention I feel connected. When I am connected I learn from what you model. When you model good practice – my mirror neurons pick up and copy those behaviours! I need many hours of your modelling to be successful.” Out sourced parenting is often poor at modelling!
2. If your school is still expecting students to do homework, never outsource this activity.
The home in homework means connection time. There is no other use for homework apart from creating some connection time with your child. Reading together – or sharing about what you read would be a much better activity.
The Homework project is a magnificent opportunity to struggle together. Work out a solution to the problem – Google it if necessary – together. Projects are a great time to model planning and prioritisation. Use it as an opportunity to teach layout, research, recording and presentation. Again, that should have been done at school, but often it isn’t.
Read the guideline rubric together and plan how to get a really good mark. Some of my fondest memories raising my boys were being directed, by their mother, to work with them to construct 3D projects. It often took the entire weekend, but we conquered the challenge and celebrated the results. As the school project plan never changed, we soon learnt the art of keeping the project and freshening it up to be re-submitted. The fluctuating assessment result for the same project was a constant source of entertainment in our family.
3. Never outsource bedtime routines.
As the day winds down, bath-time, story-time, prayers and blessings are all parent work. Here in these precious moments, talk through the stresses of the day. Use the time to reflect on the challenges and hardships, the joys and delights. Then plan together for the next day. Despite your own deadlines, make time to send your children to bed feeling safe, loved and cherished.
4. Never outsource Faith.
Faith, like culture is part of our brain function. It gives us a sense of belonging. Everyone wants to believe in something. Sharing our faith practices with our children builds bonds and starts a conversation. It teaches mindfulness. In the quiet of our rooms we learn metacognition – the ability to think about our thinking. Many parents outsource this to the local church, mosque, synagogue or youth club. It is often meaningless unless someone models it. When parents model mindfulness instead of just talking about it, it becomes embedded.
5. Lastly, never outsource the words, “I love you – I am so proud of you!
You are the best son/daughter in the world. You are mine!” No teacher, coach, friend or digital device can speak those words into the life of your child with the same power and long lasting effect as a parent. That is the daily work of the parent.