Saturday, February 12, 2011

What Can Egypt Teach Us About Parenting?

Like most of the world, I've been nervously watching events unfold in Egypt, hoping against hope for a peaceful transfer of power despite the blindness of their government. Incredibly, that's what seems to have happened! Looking back over the veil of tears that is human history, you get a sense of how lucky the Egyptians are that it worked out all right. Egypt's story is so surprising because Mubarek resisted the popular will, and that doesn't usually end peacefully. Now, if they can just navigate the installation of a democratic government successfully....

It got me to thinking, there are some strong parallels to parenting here. I'll never forget the girl at college who ended up in the hospital getting her stomach pumped on her very first night away from home. Complete parenting fail - if your kid is so eager for freedom that she fatally gorges on it at the first opportunity, you've done something very, very wrong.

Parents are not democratically elected, and they wield absolute power over their children like a dictator or monarch. But sooner or later, freedom comes (teenage years and adulthood), and it's either a violent revolution or not, depending mainly on how repressive the despots have been during their reign.

Smart parents begin preparing their little colonial citizens for Independence Day when they are very young, gradually increasing the level of responsibility they're trusted with well in advance of the tumultuous teen years. If you're able to pull this off, you enter the teen years with a trustworthy young man or woman who is ready for the transition of power. There will be mistakes, sure, but they will not tend to snowball like those made by unprepared teens. The responsible young person will bounce back from their errors and go on to smoothly establish self-government when the time comes.

If you have kids who haven't hit their teens yet, take a moment today to evaluate their status. Are you sliding towards protests, crime and revolution, or establishing the foundation of a peaceful transition? The happiest young adults I know were shepherded through this tumultuous period by wise parents who raised an enlightened populace, and stepped down gracefully and gradually when the time came. Let's all try to be those parents, so that our kids can be those kids.