Choosing good parents
Is it possible to be too narrow in our definition of a good parent?
The case of Eunice and Owen Johns, a story that appeared last month in the Telegraph, has me worried about the future of parenting.

The couple, who have been foster parents over many years, were found by a UK High Court to be unfit to foster further children because they said they were unwilling to teach children that homosexuality is acceptable.

Not a terribly politically correct thing to admit, I’ll grant you. But what does this ruling say about how we should be raising our children?

Effective parenting is partly about teaching children values: the difference between right and wrong and how to make good choices in life. For some, these values overlap with religious views. Generally, parents pass on their own belief systems to their children.

If I don’t believe in God, I probably won’t read the Bible to my children. If I don’t believe in the death penalty, I wouldn’t go telling them to support it one day.

The South African Bill of Rights compels us to teach tolerance to our children – of others, their religion and their cultural practices. How far, though, does this tolerance have to go?

Is there only one way to parent?

If the Johns couple doesn’t believe that homosexuality is acceptable, should they really be denied the right to foster children? It goes without saying that some of the things children are taught by their parents aren’t politically correct and wouldn’t be sufficiently broad-minded in the eyes of the government. But does that mean they are bad parents?

A friend once said that in order to give her children a balanced view of religion, she planned to expose them to as many religions as she could by taking them to temples, mosques, churches and other places of worship. Good for her, I say, but it won’t be my approach. I’ll tell my kids what I believe. They can decide later whether they want to accept or reject it. Who, in this case, is the better parent?

It’s my job as a parent to ensure that I raise my children to be responsible, law-abiding citizens. No doubt, as they grow, there will be conversations about what I think of topical issues like abortion, which political party I favour and which religion I choose to follow.

If the conversations I had with my dad when I was young are anything to go by, these will be heated debates in which my kids will grill me on my viewpoints and why I take the stance I do. I don’t think that telling my children the things I believe and why I believe them is bad parenting.

On the way home from school this week, I asked my 11-year-old whether he felt obliged to concur with me on matters political or religious.

His answer: ‘No, I choose the opinions and beliefs I’m comfortable with.’

Are certain beliefs and attitudes unacceptable in parents?

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