Today, June 1, we celebrate an important day. History has shown that a good family is the nucleus of any good society and a good family is essentially moulded by good parents. It is in this perspective that the international community today celebrates the Global Day of Parents.
In a special message, the United Nations says parents of every race, religion, culture and nationality in all parts of the world are the primary caregivers and teachers of their children, preparing them for a happy, fulfilling and productive life. Parents are the anchors of the family and the foundation of our communities and societies.
The principles outlined in the international human rights framework apply both to children and adults. Children are mentioned explicitly in many of the human rights instruments; standards are specifically modified, or adapted, where the needs and concerns surrounding a right are distinct for children. The Convention on the Rights of the Child brings together the children’s human rights articulated in other international instruments. This Convention articulates the rights more completely and provides a set of guiding principles that fundamentally shape the way in which we view children, the UN says.
All children have the same rights. All rights are interconnected and of equal importance. The Convention stresses these principles and refers to the responsibility of children to respect the rights of others, especially their parents. By the same token, children’s understanding of the issues raised in the Convention will vary depending on the age of the child. Helping children to understand their rights does not mean parents should push them to make choices with consequences they are too young to handle.
The Convention expressly recognizes that parents have the most important role in bringing up children. The text encourages parents to deal with rights issues with their children “in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child” (article 5). Parents, who are intuitively aware of their child’s level of development, will do this naturally. The issues they discuss, the way in which they answer questions, or the discipline methods they use will differ depending on whether the child is 3, 9 or 16 years of age, the UN adds.
Despite these lofty principles, what we mostly see in the west is a breakdown of family life with a growing number of live-in or trial marriages, divorce after divorce and other tribulations where those who suffer the most are innocent children.
With the marvels of modern digital technology turning the world into a global village, Sri Lanka -- while making the maximum use of this technology for eco-friendly and all inclusive development -- must make sure that we are not mentally colonized to fall into the vice dens of the west. Though the divorce rate here is also rising, Sri Lanka to a large extent is still preserving the values and virtues of family life. Parents specially with the enlightened guidance of spiritual leaders and others need to do everything possible to preserve the sanctity of a good family life based on sacrificial love and compassion, dialogue, caring and sharing, discipline, dedication to every task and a growing sense of responsibility.
It is not wise to expect the school alone to mould responsible children and good citizens. The children are in school for only about five hours on week days. So the home or the family is the more effective school of learning. If the children see that the parents are honest and acting with a deep sense of integrity then the children also will be honest and true in what they say and do. If the children see sacrificial love, forgiveness and mercy among the parents and other elders, then they also will overflow with such values and virtues -- creating good families, better societies and the best country.
As the novelist James Baldwin says children have not been good at listening to their parents, but they do not fail to imitate them.