Welcome back to the ‘Your Parenting Partner’ blog and a very happy New Year to you all! I hope that 2015 brings you all much happiness and joy. I can’t believe that it has been almost 3 weeks since I posted the sixth blog in the “Parenting Well in a Media Age” book club series based on the wonderful book by Gloria DeGaetano.
This week I will be covering Chapter 7, the fifth essential need of the Vital 5: CONTRIBUTION AS RELATIONSHIP. To recap, creating a “Strong Parenting Identity” forms the scaffolding for the Vital 5 essential needs and the first 4 provide the foundation for the fifth.
The Vital 5 – Gloria DeGaetano
1. A loving Parent Child Bond
2. An Interior Life
3. Image Making
4. Creative Expression
5. Contribution as Relationship
Most of us will have experienced the pleasure and joy that can be derived from contributing towards a greater good, whatever that might be. As parents, we can hugely influence the extent to which our children contribute and this starts first within the family home before progressing to their immediate communities (namely their schools) and then into the community at large.
A pre-requisite to contribution is an inherent sense of belonging, relationship, being able to relate to people and the environment and a sense of feeling safe and supported. Contribution is a sharing or giving of something, maybe an idea, love, an answer to a Math problem at school, a sharing of your effort towards a greater good, making cookies for your local girl guides bake sale, sharing of yourself, your presence, with a friend whether it be doing or just being. It can be anything. Contributing, no matter how seemingly small, makes us feel good about ourselves and when we feel good about ourselves we build inner strengths such as resilience, the ability to see beyond ones’ own needs and the motivation to share (as listed by DeGaetano on Pages 202-205). After all, we give to what gives us meaning and for things to be meaningful, we have to be connected to them.
“The impetus to contribute comes from a felt connection” – Gloria DeGaetano
In this faced paced, digitized, heavily media influenced world, children need to spend time in real world, in the natural world, connecting and relating to it, engaging with the people in it and the environment that surrounds them. Playing in the park, climbing trees, playing road hockey in local communities, playing board games and cards, having family dinners builds their connection with real things and instills in them a sense of belonging and deep caring. With today’s children spending so much time in front of screens, this 2 dimensional life can essentially replace the 3 dimensional one and rob them of the capacity to develop the meaningful relationships and connections required to give them that sense of belonging and make them valuable contributers in the real world. The more they contribute, the stronger the parent child bond and their sense of belonging will be: they are all interdependent.
“Never do for a child what a child can do for themselves” – Rudolph Dreikurs
How can we help our children become contributers?
- We have to bring opportunities for contribution to our kids
- We must allow our children to really ‘experience’ life and all it has to offer
- We need to filter certain information for them in order for our messages, who we are and what we stand for, to be forefront in their minds over the media generated ones
- Discuss with them the potential confusion that may arise should our message be potentially different from the mass cultural message and help them arrange their views
- We need to help them build their identity and stand true to our own
- We have to be very intentional about helping our children connect to the larger world
- We have to cultivate the ‘desire to contribute’ within them – we want to make them WANT TO contribute rather than simply make them contribute
- Teach them the valuable message that the reward is the pleasure and joy we derive from the contributing/giving/sharing
- Allow our kids to learn about authentic participation within the family
- Eventually we can work towards making it an expectation that our children contribute towards the running of the family home and then take that role out into the community ie. picking up litter in a local park or beach, taking a position in a school charity club, working in a food bank or soup kitchen
- Role model, share and discuss with them situations where we have contributed towards something and how it made us feel
(This list above summarizes many of DeGaetano’s points as made in Chapter 7)
DeGaetano concludes this thought provoking chapter with a reference to the late Robert Greenleaf who wrote a provocative book on “Servant Leadership” – the message of the book was that true leadership requires that we become servants first. He believed that true power is derived from serving. The concept of this in the parenting world has many applications – as parents, our children’s needs are our highest priority and our primary role is to guide our children and be the strongest role model in their lives.
“By thinking of ourselves as servant-leaders, we help our children recognize the reality of the human condition: that we need to give to others in order to be fully human” – Gloria DeGaetano
Next week, I will be concluding our journey with the book “Parenting Well in a Media Age” with the last chapter “Towards a Personally-Generated Culture”.