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.
Parents and children's rights
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 shapes the way in which we view children.
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 the 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.
Traditionally in many societies, fathers have been moral teachers, disciplinarians and breadwinners. In many countries, there is now an increased emphasis on the father’s role as a co-parent, fully engaged in the emotional and practical day-to-day aspects of raising children. Recent research has affirmed the positive impact of active involvement by fathers in the development of their children.
Yet challenges persist for fathers -- and for society and social policy.
As our understanding of fatherhood grows, there is an opportunity for men to re-envision imaginatively what it means to be a father and to see opportunities to make a difference in communities.
Mothers play a critical role in the family, which is a powerful force for social cohesion and integration. The mother-child relationship is vital for the healthy development of children.
Violence against women, many of whom are mothers, remains one of the most pervasive human rights violations of our time.
The benefits of educating women and girls accrue not only to individual families, but to whole countries, unlocking the potential of women to contribute to broader development efforts. Statistics also show that educated mothers are much more likely to keep their children in school, meaning that the benefits of education transcend generations.
In order to support mothers in their caregiving work, the international comunity needs to develop and expand family-friendly policies and services, such as childcare centres that would reduce some of the workload placed on women. Women and men, alike, need stronger public support to share equally in work and family responsibilities. Families built on the recognition of equality between women and men will contribute to more stable and productive societies.