It is widely accepted by the scientific community that the development of the brain goes on until the mid twenties. Consequently, going a little technical about it, a person’s personality is directly related to the prefrontal cortex of the brain and the environmental inputs during the development of this region of the brain. These inputs that come most especially from our parents and teachers go a long way in the development of our personality. In addition, societal influences and mass media also play a fair role.
Dominating and controlling parents and teachers usually fancy themselves as saviors. While we could all do with a guardian angel, what we need in our parents and teachers are not controlling rescuers but role models and mentors.
The crux and the most pivotal point in the development of children and youth are the parents and teachers, most especially the parents. The quality of parental care is of extra ordinary importance. Warm, affectionate, respectful and responsive parents bring up a generation that goes on to live life from many of its positive dimensions and such generations grow into being naturally productive and happy and the cascading effect goes on not only in spreading happiness and positivity in society but also to the future generations. Children who are guided and encouraged into decision making go on to become better decision makers.
This is a little example. I recently came across a mother and her daughter. The colleague of the mother automatically asked the mother, as some adults are prone to do, if the child liked a particular treat. Before the mother could respond the little daughter piped in “no she does not”. The daughter was around three years of age and in likelihood was being treated with respect and thus was able to answer for herself. Watching the little one I saw a bright and a well aware child.
Here’s another example. An acquaintance of mine is a well placed executive with a television company and must make decisions on a day to day basis on the running of her department. These decisions, she makes with some difficulty and often consults her colleagues and has a tendency to procrastinate. It’s a good job she has but goes through each day as if it were a punishment. The answer to her discomfort through each day is quite evident when I see her in the company of her parents. While she’s well into her forties both her parents are habitually dominating and controlling and even correct her on the littlest things such as where and how she must keep the jar of pickles in the refrigerator. Undoubtedly, they think of themselves as her saviors.
How often do we guide our children into correctly answering for themselves and how often do we take it upon ourselves to go on answering for the child or even for our young adolescents and young adults? This and more questions must be asked by parents of themselves.
We all make mistakes, even as adults and will go on making mistakes. It’s healthy to make mistakes and learn from them. If we can allow ourselves to make mistakes shouldn’t we allow our children to make their mistakes and guide them gently and go on mentoring them until a certain age? Constantly monitoring the conduct of the child is a counter productive impulse.
Studies have proved both aspects. A high level of controlling which is perceived as caring by some parents and teachers, results in psychological disorders among many and go on well into adolescence and adulthood, often all through life. And a good mentoring while allowing sensible autonomy and serving as role models helps bring up healthy adults.
Studies have clearly established that children whose parents smoke are more likely to smoke. If parents abuse alcohol or drugs the children are somewhat likely to do the same. Children and the young who grow up in homes where there is frequent drama, conflict, domestic violence will in likelihood go on to be abusive parents and partners. Similarly children emulate positive behavioral tendencies. One often sees multiple generations of families such as doctors, bankers, teachers and so on entering the same profession. Children and the young who see their parents having a healthy approach towards life, including self esteem, grow up similarly. Parents who are successful in terms of education, literacy and successful in their marriage have the next generation usually being successful.
Our offspring learn from the examples we set for them. Though not always, it is often the case of monkey see monkey do. Our children, right into their young adulthood learn and absorb a lot of our traits so what happens to the individuality of child? Perhaps being encouraged towards self determination and being respectful of their decisions while simultaneously mentoring is important while they also absorb some of our habits, peculiarities and virtues and this is inevitable.
How often do we hear the statements with a negative connotation, such as the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree. He’s just like his father. A chip of the old block. She’s exactly like her mother. One would surely agree, creating the right conditions would result in the usage of the same statements in a positive context more often than negative.
Let us try to answer what is a role model. This is not someone we want to mirror but want to follow the example of and this can be parents, teachers or sometimes even a complete outsider who will provide us the education and stimulus which helps us grow into our own individual beings. Yes, each one of us is born with a personality of our own. The operative words being the help and the stimulus for growth we receive towards being able to make those choices and achieving the comfort of being ourselves. Education in this context does not mean literacy but education in a more complete sense.
Of course it’s difficult to find that perfect balance by any parent or a teacher. Perfectionism does not exist.