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Parenting the TikTok generation

 You cannot completely lock out your child from technology (Photo: iStock)

Counselling psychologist, Jackquline Njeri talks to Her Standards host, Queenter Mbori on parenting and child development in the digital age

Are parents to blame for the way children behave?

To a large per cent, our children are a reflection of who we are. Not entirely, but we do play a role in how these children grow. They have to ask for approval, security and advice as they look at us as their role models.

The mistake we make when raising them is not wanting to create a relationship with them. We just want to give orders and not give them leniency. We want to correct before we connect and we are very judgmental when they come to us with their issues. We don’t provide an avenue for them to speak out their mind.

How do you work with children as a psychological counsellor?

They come from different angles and most of the time it's parents who bring their children for counselling because they want them to be ‘fixed’. What they don’t realise is that you can’t fix a human being. This is not a car we are talking about.

When I start therapy with these children it turns out that it’s the teachers, caregivers and parents who are contributing to these children’s issues. But we are so defensive and do not want to acknowledge that we are the ones who damage these children knowingly or unknowingly. As a parent, if your child displays certain behaviour codes, it is for you to understand there is something they are trying to tell you.

So what do you do?

You have to accept your children as they are because they are unique. As the caregiver when a child reaches a certain age, you are both able to communicate. Are we able to have these conservations and give reasons for not agreeing with what they do or we are quick to place rules, place limits and punish?

Where does one draw the line between what their children aspire to pursue in the career world and what they themselves wish for the children?

They do this from a point of love but this is what I say, you can’t love and control. You have to give some lenience. This is a child who has cleared high school, one who is making career choices. Sit down with them and see the motivation behind what they want to become then with that come down to their level and understand their thought process and preference as much as it hurts.

The kind of ratification these children get by pursuing their dream is different. Let’s not let our children live our dreams, but their dreams. Here is the thing, we are parenting children the way we were parented. If you don’t know any better, you’d do everything as your parents did. Most of us even struggle with being compassionate with ourselves!

We are parenting a generation that has been born into a lot of information. What is your take on allowing children onto social media?

Children thrive in limits and routines and you cannot just allow your child to be exposed to information that you don’t even know. You need to know what they are signed up to; YouTube, Tik Tok, Facebook, Snapchat and more.

You are raising a global citizen and where the world is going you need these apps to have the know-how to survive. You cannot completely lock them out but are you monitoring what they are watching or are you doing the lazy parenting of ‘it’s okay’. It’s good to monitor, even snoop what they are doing. They are under your care. Personally, I think I will snoop until she is 21!

What good comes from raising children in the TikTok era?

The beauty of it is that we are raising people who can speak their minds, people who can operate gadgets and who can access the entire world. The problem is that some of these apps affect our children’s self-esteem because the kind of things people post are just the polished version of their lives.

If a child is exposed to this without getting an avenue to ask about the reality out there they will grow up with a certain damaged view of the world which will ultimately affect them. We need to normalise the conversation that whatever they are watching on social media is not all real.

There are content creators Gen Zs who are making millions from social media. Still, there is cyberbullying, sexual predators and all manner of evils. How do we ensure that our children thrive and are covered?

You can also be their social media manager. I have seen that happen. You have a child who is talented and you want them to thrive so you put them in the limelight and have it as your role to manage, protect and guard them as they develop these skills and learn.

Screen time! How much time can we allocate to our children on social media and who is the role model?

When we expose our children to so much screen time, whether it’s the phone, the computer or even the TV, their concentration span also lessens. They also don’t get to know how to get to the creative side because if all they do is sit and change the channels what time do they get to play the ball, ride the bike or say get to their developmental side? We need to be role models here. They will do what you do.

Does this parenting cut across everything else we do around our children?

Yes. You need to be real with your children. Most parents want to act perfectly with no mistakes. Tell them your stories and what is good to do at what age of course considering being age appropriate. When you are real, they relate with you. If you are rigid, they will ask somebody else.

Let us talk about sex. What time do you integrate what they know and what you want them to know and how do you make that age appropriate?

You don’t assume they know because you want to be their go-to person when they have a question. The moment you make the mistake of assuming they know you will only give very little information. Sex education starts at a very early age and it does not have to do with the art of sex only.

That is what people should understand. If you are dealing with a baby, sex education entails naming body parts. As they grow, they will start asking questions and it is for you as a parent to get creative. It is good to interact and normalise sex education with your children without blowing things out of proportion.

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