Things can always be different. Parents and teachers could try different methods of relating to young people and those methods might work. It could change the lives of everyone concerned. A society can become more compassionate and caring

The despair and hopelessness that parents may be facing are not from the parenting process. They really have their roots in our early life. They come from how hopeless things seemed to us when we were young and the lack of encouragement and hope that we grew up with. To regain our hopefulness and encouragement we need to tackle the issues from the roots.

The struggles of parenting are more a result of the oppression of poor and working-class parents than of inability to parent. Being raised poor or working-class is to give up on dreams and hopes. Growing up we are told often that our destiny is to struggle to the end, and that we must be forever grateful to at least be alive. When we attempt to reach for the stars we are told to “stop living in a dream world and thank God we at least have food to eat.” We are always reminded of those who are worse off than us as a consolation. This has caused us to settle for little and to be afraid to stand up for better living conditions. And it makes our parenting seem harder than it really is.

At a recent workshop, one parent shared a story. She was experiencing great difficulty in getting her son to the babysitter every morning. One particular morning, she was in a hurry to get to work and the child sat in the road and refused to budge. In her exasperation she called out to the babysitter and told her "He's in the street, here's his bag, make sure a car does not run over him" and she had to leave for work. He was two and a half years old. My thought was that this was not a problem of parenting, but of the lack of support for parents in our society. If this parent did not have to rush to work and stand the consequences of being late, then I am sure she would be able to spend those few extra minutes with the child to help him work through his separation issues. She would also arrive at work in a less frazzled state and certainly with better attention to function well in her job.

Good parenting is not about providing luxuries. Being poor or working-class does not mean that we have to settle for poor childcare or a sub-standard education for our children. What can we do?

  • We must release the feelings of despair and hopelessness that block any attempts we make to be better parents. We can do this by talking with a friend or our support group about the early feelings of hopelessness when we were growing up. We need to support each other to release the grief, anger, and frustration we felt at that time from having to limit ourselves. We do not need to carry these feelings into our parenting and unwittingly blame our children for our despair.
  • Support each other to fight for what is right without attacking anyone. Demand that parents who have young children be allowed to come to work a half-hour later in the mornings. There are creative ways of making up the time. Point out to your boss that your efficiency will improve drastically if you were able to come to work in a more relaxed state of mind and didn't have to worry all day long about your child.
  • Highlight the hope in your life. Stop and pay attention to the positive things that your children are doing. Notice all the things that are going well and the achievements. Blow them up! Celebrate them! Have a parenting "party" only to celebrate the successes (and there is indeed more success than you can imagine, you just have to look). Get together to talk about what is going well and positive ways you can make things go even better.
  • Encourage your child to have big dreams and to go after them. Give them hope. The more hopeful we are, the easier it is to deal with disappointment. Children start life full of hope and determination. They will “fall down” and simply get up, dust themselves off, cry a little (to release that despair) and continue going in an even more determined way.
  • Get involved in efforts that are being made to improve the situation for parents. Attend functions and presentations that project hope and encouragement. Read about and talk about programmes and projects that exist to improve the quality of young people's lives. Initiate a parenting project in your community.

Reclaiming the joy of parenting involves clearing away all the old grief and despair. It involves refusing to accept that the situation cannot change. Once we clear those clouds away, we will be able to remember how good and smart and capable our children are. The hope of creating a society that nurtures parents and children will drive us.

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