“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!”