Parents have a set of rules for parenting, or do they? What are yours?
I’ve on & off thought about my parenting style. I have asked myself many questions like is parenting over-rated? Do we overthink our actions? Does parenting have to be thought through? Isn’t it an art or is it a science? What does it really mean to me? Do I have parenting goals? What are the goals of other parents? Maybe you haven’t articulated yours just like me. Would you care to now? Maybe this article will act as that push.
I became a parent by conscious choice. I decided slowly and thankfully after 5 years of marriage (and at the threshold of 30) that maybe I was ready to take the responsibility of another being. But when I did have my son, I was all at sea. As a parent, I was clear about the values I wanted my children to imbibe, and while I focused a lot on the ‘which’, through my journey this far, I know realise the ‘HOW’ is far more important. For a long time, I just went by instinct. However, over the years watching my husband deal with the children, I’ve understood that there is just so much that can be learnt.
As parents, we bring our personalities, sensibilities and our priorities into the upbringing of our children. Each parent is different, for instance I’m more focused on direct teaching – spending my time on educating the children, telling them stories of values, stressing on the importance of time etc. I focus more on getting them to cultivate hobbies of reading or art, on education and sport; while my husband nurtures them well with his patience and understanding, allowing them decisions and making them aware of the consequences. His approach is mostly indirect. So, what is the right way? While parenting cannot be taught, it can be learned. A couple of months ago, I took up a parenting survey because I wanted to know how other parents approach it. Was there something more I could learn – there always is, isn’t it? There’s a lot to be learnt by observing other parents when they are with their children and our own parents. And that led me to ask a few key questions to a few parents around me, who I know are all doing a great job.
The survey did not throw up anything entirely new, but it was heartening to understand that concerns & challenges we face today are common across all. Some tips shared by the parents here are reminders of what good parenting entails – something we need to revisit from time to time. So, here’s the gist of my questionnaire with responses across parents clubbed on the topics.
What does parenting mean to you?
I love the beautiful way a mother put it to me, “As a parent, I have the power to influence a whole generation’.
My father brilliantly put it, again indicating the power of good parenting when we said, “You can create a masterpiece – an MF Hussain/Mother Teresa or a Dawood Ibrahim”
A third said, “I have the power to create the best version of me’
All these statements are powerful and underline one thing – Most Parents believe they should work on their children, so they achieve their potential. I also think this is very true of Indian parents. We WANT TO shape, nurture, mould our children. When I read these statements, I immediately felt driven to chalk out a program for the children to follow 🙂
But jokes apart, Parenting is taking responsibility of the decision we took as a person to bring in another life into this world. Thus, ‘responsibility’ was a key word for a lot of the respondents. We are responsible to the child & society for the decision we took to be a parent. It means getting your child to walk, run and then fly if possible.
There’s another school of thought which believes that parenting should be GUIDING AND GIVING DIRECTION – correcting when required, but not overtly moulding. Especially given that the concept of success, happiness and well-being and careers is so different than what it was in the 70/80s. I must mention here that 75% of the respondents believed in conscious moulding and overt guidance.
Whichever school of thought you belong to, you might want to read on to know what others are doing – just knowing – but do your own thing!
Revisiting ourselves & Parenting in today’s context
For a lot of parents, Parenting also meant being REAL about the challenges that come with it. It means changing diapers, cleaning up the goo, having emotionally tricky conversations, handling difficult questions, but also being open and real with them. Being open and honest so they believe you are real and not just a sermon preacher far removed from reality.
One friend put it very well saying it was ‘re-visiting who and what you are’. I think this is an important statement. If we ourselves are insecure, inept and feel inadequate; little wonder if the child turns out insecure himself. So, parenting asks us parents some difficult questions – Are our emotional tantrums okay? Our we mature enough, do we love ourselves enough & are we kind as persons, can we leave our egos behind and not be control freaks, so our children blossom fully?
I know as a fact, that I have changed as a person since I became a parent. I check my behavior often; I think about the example I’m setting for my children with my views & tolerance. I think about the rituals I need to follow and how they impact my children. I do not follow most rituals like ‘Karvachauth, Raksha bandhan, Thread ceremony etc. I don’t think I can explain the gender differences and the caste differences to my children – I don’t want to honestly.
Parenting today most agreed, is about agreeing to disagree. The generation today is thinking independently and that needs to be respected and not just allowed but encouraged. I have different thoughts and views compared to my parents and neither of us are apologetic about having those. But despite all the disagreements, the importance of relationship and family and the sense of security it can give needs to be stressed.
Friends are the new family and that needs to be embraced by us parents. Allow strong friendships now, these will stand your child in good stead in future. Don’t be resentful about the time he/she spends with friends – accept and encourage it.
Next, I wanted to know if good parenting requires goals?
Maybe said most, broad ones mostly, but sometimes tactical ones as well (depending on the child’s age). Mind you, the GOALS are for the parent.
Goals are required more like a roadmap to have a broad direction as to where to go. However, it was heartening to know that for all 100% of the respondents the key goals were related to inculcation of values and making children good human beings and citizens.
Fortifying them to be emotionally strong was next, as was adapting to failures or changes in life and being able to understand and take control of emotions. Then came learning new skills especially life skills like swimming, cooking, cycling and some others like sports, arts and music. But it’s easier said than done.
Parenting Challenges & overcoming them
Parenting has huge challenges and all without exception mentioned the struggle to maintain a fine balance between exposure and innocence, the struggle to give un-divided time and attention, the outside influences of gadgets / friends, poor education system and disciplining ourselves before them. So how do we as parents influence our children?
Here are some valuable tips the respondent parents shared –
- Children are all different, but some things are universal – they learn from example, so it’s important to be a good role model. Walk the talk and practice what you preach. If we want children to stay off gadgets and games, then we need to do so ourselves. If we want them to do well in sports or get fitter; working on ourselves will have to come first. My husband is a keen marathoner and we both also trek a lot. This has motivated our children to take up running and they love the outdoors as well.
- Avoiding confrontations on difficult issues like growing tantrums, gadget time, hormonal changes, sexual orientation, study time, good vs bad company, will turn into confidence drainers. Regular and good communication in addressing issues head on lead to a happy healthy relationship. Parents can set out a time that works for them, dinner time or weekends. I talk to my son who’ll soon be entering his teens before bed. We chat for about 20 minutes or so in a relaxed atmosphere.
- For us parents, it important to feel the joy of parenting – enjoy the process. Parenting is not about considering your child as a ‘lifelong PROJECT’ and thus being stressed all the time. Look at the extra-ordinariness in the ordinariness of being a parent. It’s good to pause occasionally and remind oneself or recollect along with your spouse the many things that thrilled you in the early days. My husband and I talk often of the time our son first learnt to roll onto his stomach. That day he spent all afternoon turning over and over with such glee. We need to look at the small little moments of everyday togetherness and cherish those.
- Above all, remember that love works. In our race and impatience to make perfect humans of our children, we often forget that every child is different, and not all can be class toppers or world champions. But all can be kind, sensitive and loving beings if they feel loved themselves. Show them love, more so when they might deserve it least but need it most.
Show that love to yourself as well. Be kind and patient and at peace with yourself and then you’ll find children imbibing that peace and confidence.
I do hope this has been a good read, if not an eye-opener. Would love to know if you have a special knack/ method of handling children. Something that can help us all.
Happy parenting! Remember the JOY
P.S – Here’s an exercise for you to do: Put down the key values YOU as a parent would want your child to imbibe. Share yours with me if possible. Here’s my set of values for my children –
- Confidence or self belief
- Creativity – To be self thinkers, to be able to analyse and break down data to form your own opinions
- Open mindedness