Friday 11 September 2020

The three ages of the elders

The age of control

In a conversation with my uncle and mentor, he succinctly defined stages of parenthood that he broadly the called The Three Ages which for me was quite instructive that I feel the need to commit the thinking to a blog.

The first age is when parenthood begins, the children through to a certain age receive instruction and correction as part of their development process, there usually is little room for negotiation, but that is down to style and form of parenting along with the societal allowance and strictures that might govern discipline, guidance, and education.

The age of negotiation

The second age includes a transition of the child into maturity and where the parent has to change the tools of interaction to discussion, reasoning, consideration, consultation, and negotiation. The parental respect of the child should be present and growing.

The child recognising their individuality attains autonomy and responsibility for life-changing decisions and the parents reluctantly find themselves in at best, an advisory role which can be useful if deployed with a modicum of wisdom and urging rather than instruction.

The third age, by the grace of maturity of the parents into retirement or number of years and the children quite fully independent working through a late first age or well into their second age changes the dynamic of the child to the parent and it is probably the most difficult transition for the elder parent who would now be a grandparent or even great-grandparent.

The age of instruction

In this age the parent should naturally realise they now take instructions from their children, the liens of control are radically reduced. They can obviously expect to be honoured and respected, but they cannot order their kids around like in their youthful years.

There is no doubt that parents who by terms have become matriarchs and patriarchs would expect to rule over their brood, but even if capacity is not diminished, roles and authority is to the extent that if they refuse to engage, it would lead to damaging ostracism between generations and this often occurs.

The transition of relationships

The times of transition, if the elder generation is not perceptive, would be forced upon them through disagreement and conflict, hopefully with redeemable consequences. A child after a certain age needs to be able to break from parental authority and control to chart the course of their own lives in every sphere of their endeavour, seeking counsel mainly on their own terms.

In all this is a cautionary note still, a saying of unknown provenance, “If you raise your children, you spoil your grandkids. If you spoil your children, you raise your grandkids.”


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