Amie Buhari writes about ‘reaction factor’ parents in the Black community. She believes this unique parenting style negatively impacts a child’s development and the opportunities available to them. Read on to find out more…
I’m going to sound really old now, but I believe that some parents are in real danger of holding their kids back from achieving.
You would think that with all the opportunities available to young people nowadays – the advancement of technology, the variety of rights and resources, and the ability to dream bigger than previous generations – parents would be excited for their young people’s future. However, I have noticed that there are a growing number of parents, mainly in the Black community who, in thinking that they are giving their children freedom to be who they want to be, are in fact hindering and holding back their kids from achieving!
These parents are suffering from what I call the ‘reaction factor’. This is when parents don’t want their children to experience any of the restrictions they were under when they were growing up. They don’t want to force their kids into doing anything they don’t want to. They want their young people to explore whatever they want to do, and not conform to rules. In theory, this is a nice idea – our young people grow up in an environment where no one can tell them what they can or can’t be or do. They are free to pursue anything they want, without the pressure of expectations. But this idea comes with its own health warnings and, if not careful, can deliver results parents were trying to avoid in the first place.
You see, the ‘reaction factor’ is when parents react to their own circumstances growing up. They vow never to treat their kids as their parents treated them, and go against every discipline or teaching they were given, as it is seen as curtailing their freedom. They say, “How I hated instruction/discipline, and my heart despised reproof!” (Proverbs 5:12).
So they bring up their young people in a ‘do-what-you-want’ atmosphere. Now, many parents have good reason to rebel against an oppressive childhood, however wisdom is needed in bringing up young people, so as not to repeat the sins of our fathers. Going to the other extreme, however, can have the same negative effect. As I said, I have seen this attitude come back to bite parents in the proverbial butt, with their kids being the ‘thorn in their side’ or ‘a pain in the neck’.
Let me give you an example of the ‘reaction factor’.
Recently, we ran a project for young people, showcasing various careers, which gave them the opportunity to take part in various career workshops. One particular parent would only allow their child to take part in the workshops they wanted to do. They refused to entertain talking to the child about the option of exploring other workshops that could potentially be beneficial for them, stating that they would not force them to do anything. So what happens? The young person decides they want to now do the workshop, and I have to have a long conversation with the parent to convince them that the young person is by no means being pressured into taking part but, in fact, is operating out of their own free will. This parent’s use of the reaction factor is typical. In their desire to not subject their child to an experience they went through at that age, they go beyond all rationale to prove a point, at the expense of hindering the child’s chance to grow! Any sensible parent would encourage a young person to do as much as possible, in the hope that they find out what they are good at, but these reaction factor parents don’t realise they are shortening young people’s prospects with their unreasonable attempts at ‘freedom’.
With this attitude, parents are inviting their young people to become lazy and to not want to do anything, because there is no push for them to do otherwise. Instead of finding a healthy balance between encouragement and freedom, some have moved to the other extreme, and are in danger of actually achieving the very thing they are reacting against.
This is why many parents are losing control of their young people, because they are forgoing disciplining their children. Young people are growing up without boundaries, without direction, without the knowledge to know that they can achieve anything if they put their mind to it, because parents who suffer from the reaction factor are not instilling into them the attitude that they should push hard to take every good opportunity presented to them, and that discipline is not a bad thing.
“Discipline your son while there is hope, but do not [indulge your angry resentments by undue chastisements and] set yourself to his ruin” (Proverbs 19:18 Amplified).
We have to be careful that, whilst we try to give freedom to our kids, we are not actually hindering them from a future of possibilities.
Amie Buhari is a youth leader and actress