by Tim Middleton
Most of us will be familiar with the Ten Commandments (even if we do not obey or honour them). Furthermore, many of us will probably consider that we keep most of them, to some degree or another, confident in the thinking that that should enable us to “pass”.
However, leaving aside any theological discussion on the matter, and not in any way wishing to take away from the spiritual importance and significance of the Ten Commandments, it may be interesting to consider them as a parallel guide for “Ten Commandments For Parents”. Just as the Ten Commandments make a huge amount of sense and therefore should be followed (not simply because they are commandments and should therefore be obeyed), so the following directions for parents will make a lot of sense and will ensure parents fulfil their responsibilities in an appropriate and productive manner.
Firstly, you are certainly not God, but you are the parent; this is your child, your creation. Take responsibility for your child. You are the one who is responsible for raising your child. You want him to look up to you; then ensure your quality of life is above him so he can look up to your example, your wisdom, your integrity. Be the parent you claim to be.
Secondly, your child shall have no other parents; the school is not a parent (though it does take the place of parents when parents are not there). You may wish for the village to raise your child (but remember it is the global village that is doing that, which should be a worry), but she is your child.
Thirdly, you shall not make your child’s life one lived in vain. You brought the child into the world; you need to ensure his life is purposeful, meaningful, hopeful and fruitful. You must put your trust and confidence and belief in your child and not take lightly or casually every step the child takes.
Fourthly, your child is special. Ensure you show this by making at least one day a week really special for your child, when you can focus on his future, his health, his potential. Remind yourself of all that is great in him. Spend quality time with him, free from distractions. Express your delight in him. Interact, involve and inspire your child through such times.
Next, honour and respect your responsibility as parents. Remember, one day you will be old and will need your child to look after you, so treat him well now if you want him to treat you well later! If he is going to honour you as parents, as children are commanded, then you need to show you have honoured your own parents, a responsibility that does not end when you became 18, but which continues throughout their entire life, and even beyond, as you honour their legacy.
In as much as your child may well at times irritate, disappoint, upset, annoy, dismay, confuse or befuddle you, you must not bully, hurt, intimidate, exasperate, discourage, threaten or put down your child through your words, actions, attitudes or thoughts. Looks, words, unspoken thoughts, gestures, they can all kill a child’s dreams, hopes, confidence. Their life is precious — protect it.
You must not compare your child to other children. We must not cast our eyes towards other children and wish we could have them as our children. The children born to us are our children; they remain our children forever (even after they reach the age of responsibility). We have made a commitment to them by giving them life and we need to honour that commitment unashamedly, unceasingly, unswervingly, unquestionably.
You must not steal your child’s dignity, potential, worth or future. It is his and his alone. Simple!
You must not justify your actions (or lack of actions) as a parent by telling untrue things about your child. It will not work nor will it help him. Face the truth about your child and about your role as a parent with honesty and courage.
You must not be envious of other parents’ children, of their talents, opportunities or results. This is your child, and therefore your responsibility. Wishing for other parents’ children achieves nothing.
These may not be written on tablets of stone or come from up a mountain, but they will bring you, and indeed your children, great joy, peace, fruit and fulfilment — if you obey them!
Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools [ATS]. The views expressed in this article, however, are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of the ATS.