Friday, January 31, 2014

MOMISMS...VIII..Are you an interfering parent?

“Mummy, Vikas hit me”
“Tell me where he is, I will hit him”
“Mummy. Bunny stole my marbles”
“My poor darling. I’ll get them back for you from him.”
So, mummy tucks up her saree, and descends on Vikas, and Bunny with a stormy frown. She does not bargain for an equally ‘stormy’ mummy of Vikas and Bunny. Soon, there is mayhem with all the three hurling invectives and raising their voices. Meanwhile, Bunny, Vikas and the little originator of all this, are busy playing with each other, their earlier fight forgotten!
Too often, mothers tend to interfere when their children get into a squabble. There are bound to be bullies and meek ones amongst children. While playing, the physically strong will naturally exploit the weakling. But parents must stay out of this. After all, the playground is the training ground for the future battle of life! If a child can cope with all this on his own, he’s better equipped to face the challenges that are in store for him. Instead, some children like to take the easy way out by carrying tales to their parents. This is where you have to exercise discretion.
Instead of taking up the cudgels for the child, he should be asked to go and sort it out himself. Children, despite their innocence, can be quite cunning. A child will not tell mummy why Vikas beat him – that he had pulled Vikas’ ears as Vikas did not give him the train to play with! So, mummy knows only one side of the story and is a biased judge. Why not call Vikas and ask him gently why he used physical force? When you get to hear both sides of the story, advise the two to make up and go back to play. The same goes while dealing with an older and stronger bully. Teach your child to take on such people by suggesting diplomatic approaches. When a parent interferes, things get worse, as the bully bears a grudge and can be doubly harmful next time.
Another situation which can do without interference is when two siblings quarrel. Mothers tend to take up for the younger or weaker child and this can increase the animosity of the other one. “Why don’t you give back Munna’s pencil? He’s a little boy and you should be ashamed of teasing him!” Or “Don’t tease Munni. She’s a girl and you’re a boy”… Teasing each other and fighting are part of growing up and cements blood ties. But if a parent interferes, it can leave behind scars which disfigure the brother/sister relationship.

As the children grow older, parents should avoid interfering in their lives – especially when they get married. Unless their advice is sought, they should keep their counsel. Even while advising, it’s better to give both sides of the argument and let the decision be the concerned person’s. Once children are old enough to lead their lives, it should be left to them to charter their path. The parents’ responsibility ends with equipping them for a financially independent future. By that time, they should have also imbibed a sense of values and a rational approach. If they haven’t, they will never do so anyway!!
Resist the temptation to interfere in your children’s bringing up their children! You may think they are going about it the wrong way – but it’s their life and you have done your bit. I know of a lady who prefers to stay on her own in India, though she has a daughter abroad, doing very well. “I don’t like her ways and the way she has brought up her children. If I stay with them, I’ll probably criticize. So I live alone.” This is an escapist attitude! Parents should develop the art of being amidst what displeases them and cope, with least interference and a bit of tolerance.
There will be a smaller gap between generations, if parents remember what Harry Truman said, “I have found that the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want, and advise them to do it!”

Thursday, January 30, 2014

MOMISMS VII...Are you a demanding parent?

“YOU are going for an interview, touch my feet and let me bless you…”.”You have no value for my words-I tell you something and you question me?” “You know how much we have sacrificed for you? You had better look after us in old age…”
How often we hear parents saying such things to their children!(yes,even today some parents do this!!) Just because they have given birth to them, brought them up and put them on their feet, parents have this habit of demanding their pound of flesh. This can sour the relationship between the two, thus estranging them. This is especially so in our country where the parents, more so of sons, feel that they can live with their children and have their own way.
Parenthood is a very responsible position. How many of us look at it as a commitment? A parent has to be gifted with the spirit of sacrifice, selfishness and tolerance for the welfare of a child. After the child has come into this world for no fault of his! Helpless and solely dependent on his parents, the child tends to become demanding himself if he finds them indulgent.
Eager to overstep the boundaries of love and care, parents quite often spoil the children. Showering them with gifts, putting up with tantrums and letting them have their way-these are only signs of bad ‘child management’. It’s an easy way out for parents who have neither the time nor the patience to guide their young ones. As a wise man said, children need models and not critics. How many parents set an example to be proud of?
Guiding and advising a child is a very tricky operation. It requires a deep study of the child’s behavior, his capacity to understand and his inclination to accept what you say. Having gauged this, a suitable approach should be evolved. Some children mature early and take a man-to-man stand; some are meek and like to be holding on to apron strings. Some are aggressive and need an iron-hand-in-kid-glove treatment. So there is no blanket solution.
I have heard a mother telling her 50 year old son to pray to god after a bath! This shows that parents don’t want to let their ‘hold’ and like advising. A child is a child, technically he is old enough to analyze and work out equations for himself after listening to what you have to say. A parent should know when to acknowledge the ‘adulthood’ of a child.
In Western countries, children start fending for themselves financially, at a very early age. This cuts down the umbilical cord syndrome to a large extent. Parents don’t interfere in the lives of youngsters and vice-versa. Perhaps that is the other extreme. A parent’s commitment (duty sounds an awfully binding term) to a child’s welfare is till he is of age with adequate resources- educational, physical and financial- to make a life of his own. Once that is fulfilled the parent should be content to sit back and enjoy the ‘fruits’ of their labor of love.
What is the “fruit”? A sense of satisfaction in the child’s achievements. If the child is going to pamper you and look after you, it’s because he wants to and not because he has to... Every child who has been brought up with the right values and model will automatically carry a corresponding sense of commitment-without having to be bullied into it! As you sow, so shall you reap- as far as parent-child rights and duties are concerned.
If a parent is unlucky enough to have a wayward child (called ungrateful!) who has no sense of commitment for his parents, there is no point in demanding a return, for your efforts. There can be no ‘barter’ in this. What a parent does for the child can have no equivalent. Lucky are those whose children tend to them in sickness and distress. To a large extent the dedication they get is the result of their own ‘giving’ which has been selfless.
One human being cannot ‘demand’ anything- least of all love and care-from another. Everything has to be ‘earned’. The sooner the parents understand this the better is the bridging of the generation gap.
As for children-they must have a motto-‘Just as my parents don’t do anything for me to hang my head in shame, I shall do nothing to make them hang their head in shame.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

MOMISMS VI...The ‘Bogeymen’ are no laughing matter

“MUMMY, I’m nervous – I have to recite a poem in the assembly”,
 “Don’t be stupid! Why should you feel nervous?”
“Mummy, please leave the light on when I sleep.”
“Grow up will you? What are you afraid of”?
“Mummy, I don’t want to come and meet your friends, I feel shy.”
 “You will come. What’s there to feel shy about”?
How often parents dismiss the fears and hopes expressed by their children, as childish and rubbish! To an adult, the seemingly simple problems that assail a child or adolescent can be a source of irritation. More so to working mothers who have little time to be bothered about fantasies. But for a child, his/her problems are real and big and the only person he/she can turn to for guidance, is the parent.
When he/she draws a blank here, he/she withdraws into a shell and soon, the  problems become more complex and more difficult to tackle. By that time, the link between parent and child, has snapped. Then, parents complain that their children hide their troubles and get into scrapes! If children do so, it’s because they do not have an understanding parent.
The first point to remember is that your child is an individual, has a mind of his/her own, and interacts with other children and adults. Naturally, he/she is bound to come across situations which baffle him/her, worry or frighten. He/she automatically turns to the confidante – the parent – for a way out. At this point, it is very important for the parent to perceive the problem from the child’s angle and not dismiss it as trivial, from an adult angle.
A child’s world is made up of ‘bogey men’ like exams, home-work, reading the news in the assembly or being called up to answer a question in class. To a parent, all these are a part of childhood. But for a moment, relive the same situations and you will remember that you too nursed similar feelings! This ability or inclination to put yourself in the child’s shoes, will enable you to be more understanding.
If your child is afraid of the dark, there is no reason why you should not let him/her have the light on. “Be a man” is easier said than done. Help them to get over their fear by telling stories about night – how beautiful things like moon and stars come out only when it’s dark – How Santa Claus come riding on his sleigh when it’s dark, to bring gifts and goodies for children…. in the first place it’s possible that he/she developed fear for the dark due to some statement or action of yours! Perhaps at some time you had threatened to lock him/her up in a dark room if he/she  didn’t drink up milk! A child’s fear for something is always associated with his/her experience. So, analyze what could be at the root of this fear and try and strike at it patiently.
The fear of examination could be due to your constantly nagging him/her to study and ‘come first’. You perhaps compare him/her to ‘Puri aunty’s son or ‘Asha mausi’s daughter who study six hours a day. All this builds up a tension which results in phobia. Probe into his/her mind, bring out the deeply imbedded qualms and help him/her to nurse more positive attitudes.
Some children are very attached to an old rag doll or a torn end of a bed sheet or a mucky pillow. Understand their need for some concrete proof of security. To a teenager, however old he/she is, a teddy bear she/he played with as a child may be still a precious object. Don’t ‘pooh pooh’ this and humiliate his ‘baby tendency’. You see, as a teenager’s responsibilities in life increase, he/she would like to cling on to some relic of his carefree days, as a link with the past. Leave him/her alone. He/she will work out his/her own release from such attachments. Your bullying or decrying only precipitates matters.
Don’t ridicule the Mooney look on your daughter or son’s face – following a ‘crush’ or infatuation. To them it’s the grand feeling of love unfolding itself. It’s amazing how teenagers snap out of romantic entanglements if you treat them as seriously as they do! Resistance on your part acts as the ‘thorn’ which makes the ’rose’ that much more attractive!
With due apologies to Shelly, I’d say that a parent, to be good, ‘must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of the child; the pains and pleasure of his child must become his own! A parent must be understanding – which means, tolerance, empathy and the belief that love matters more than anything!’

Monday, January 27, 2014

MOMISMS.. V....Are you an overprotective parent?

“Mummy, I want to go and play cricket”
“No, no, you will hurt yourself. Play cards in the room”.
“Mummy, I want a blade to sharpen my pencil”.
“You will cut your finger. Let me do it for you”.
“Mummy, can I go to Shalu’s house next door?”
“Wait-don’t go alone. I’ll send ‘Bai’”.
When will parents realize that they can’t protect their children at all times from all kinds of danger? Children, these days, are exposed to many hazards and if a parent wants to keep her child away from it all, she will have either put the child back in the womb or wrap her in cotton wool and stack her away in a fire proof, unbreakable, shock-proof closet! Over protecting a child and showing undue concern, only results in the parent developing ulcers and the child becoming timid and weak. Train your child to face the dangers of life by letting him learn the hard way- but unobtrusively keep a watch on him, lest he hurts himself! It’s like pushing a non-swimmer into the well with a rope round his waist!
The first instinctive tendency of a parent is to protect the child-especially as he is so helpless. This is fair enough. Keep away pointed or sharp toys of lead or any other metal and let him only have soft toys to play with. See that all plug points are well covered if within reach and keep the bathroom door closed. All breakable things can be stacked away and table cloth and other linen he is likely to pull, beyond his reach. If you are living in a multi-storied apartment, keep the balcony door shut and get parallel bars at six-inch interval, put on the windows. All these are necessary precautions you have to take, for the safety of the child. If you are busy in t he kitchen or washing, either put the child to sleep or let him play in a play-pen with his toys. Don’t ever make the mistake of carrying him and go on with your chores.
So far so good. To what extent do you go on taking precautions? This is where discretion and a sense of balance come in. You will have to first gauge the measure of your child’s capacity to take care of himself. When he goes to school, for example, you could start off by accompanying him up to school, then, you could help him cross the road and allow him to make the rest of the way himself; next time you could watch him cross and the last step will be waving him off at the gate. It is important that you simultaneously inculcate a sense of self-protection by making him aware of possible dangers. Teach him to look right and left while crossing the road, walk on the pavement, avoid jay walking or darting across etc.
As he grows older, these constant reminders will become part of his self-preservation kit and he is able to fend for himself.
You must advise your children not to eat food sold in unhygienic places. Some mothers go to extremes when the child is small, to feed him with food sterilized to ridiculous proportions. This way, they only lessen the immunity of the child and lower his resistance. He should be gradually weaned away from boiled bottle and made to get used to the polluted environment.
Let’s go to the playground. Some mothers don’t let their children out of their sight and insist on watching every movement of theirs. A few falls, cuts and bruises will not harm them. To every parent, the child is precious and it is but natural that it should be protected. But if you want your child to be a successful adult who can hold his own, you must let him be a successful child and for that remember, the shell must break, before the bird can fly. The shell of love should not turn out to be a cloister for confinement.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

MOMISMS IV...Are you A Model Parent?

‘Say sorry when you belch’ scolded the father and the little one promptly said, “but papa, you don’t”! In the adult world, the theory ‘do as I say and not as I do’ – might work, but to a child, living examples mean more than empty axioms. For all its innocence, the young mind, uncluttered by hypocrisy or guile, is very analytical and can go into the root of a matter by a simple question. Every moment his eyes and ears absorb what the environment offers and he emulates the example set. As always, the onus rests on the parents – being the first adults the child comes into contact with.
It’s a pleasure to see well behaved children. The tone they use, their mannerisms, their vocabulary – all reflect the home they come from and their background. When a child misbehaves, it is natural to say ‘how badly trained he is’. He is too young to be held responsible for his actions, which are after all prompted by his instinctive desire to imitate. To a child, the father and mother are models, and he fashions himself on the lines of what he sees in them. As a parent; how do you fare before his innocent scrutiny? Children are very sensitive to tone and its nuances. When you speak to your spouse, your friends, your servants, your superiors or subordinates, your tone varies accordingly. Unconsciously, the little one picks up the same attitude your tone implies, with the respective person. Like speaking to your domestic staff – are you loud and aggressive? If you catch your child speaking to the domestic staff in an authoritative way, you can be sure he has picked it from you! If you find him making derogatory remarks about any person, it’s because he is only transmitting your opinion! He’s after all too young to judge for himself and your prejudices become his, your bias, his.
It’s a common human failing to discuss one’s boss or superior’s eccentricities (and by some curious law of nature, bosses and superiors seem endowed with many). The little fellow, listening to this gets a feeling that people with some authority over one, can be discussed this way behind their back. So the first person he can think of is his teacher. He regales his parents with the teacher’s mannerisms, mimics him and calls him names. From this stems his disrespect for the teacher and later indiscipline and unruliness. All because you couldn’t wait till he was out of ear shot before criticizing your boss.
There’s a very fine story of the little boy who wanted to preserve the earthenware pot in which his father made him carry food for his old and feeble grandfather, living in a hut. The little boy told his father that when he became old, he would also be served in the same pot through his grandson! Your attitude towards people and your dealings with them is keenly watched by that great imitator. If you are brusque or abrupt with your aged parents, be sure that will be the treatment your son will mate out to you!
How often do you use words like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’? Do you curb your impulse to swear at times of stress? Are you ‘stormy’ when in rage?
Do you have a nice word for anyone – be it a salesman or beggar who comes to your door step? Do you go out of your way to be hospitable to guess who might drop in when you want to go out yourself? Are you ‘mad’ at some unknown caller at the other end who might have unfortunately dialed your number? The little one is ever watchful and mentally making note of what you say. Even the best dress looks ugly on a misshapen tailor’s dummy. Your child is your adornment and shows off your worth in his behavior. Before you chide him and wonder what’s wrong with him, peep into your inner looking glass and see if you have been a model parent! Your child is only an extension of yourself!