Our role as parents is only to influence her to perform reasonably well compared to her potential
Student suicides, love traps (in some cases leading to love jihad), drugs etc. that we witness today are manifestations of school and college students being increasingly out of parental influence. We often blame the children themselves and external influences as responsible for all these issues. While this may be true, couldn’t the parents have prevented these?
Apart from trying to answer this question, this article also attempts to address the question of how to be a better parent.
There are 2 important responsibilities in life which don’t prescribe any qualifications:
(i) Being a Politician
(ii) Being a Parent.
So, we mostly don’t do well in both. We can’t prescribe qualifications in both the cases, but can we do something to equip ourselves to be better at discharging our responsibilities?
Many of us treat our children like machines and expect them to do what we want. If they are machines, they are extremely sophisticated machines and don’t come with O&M Manuals.
Grooming a child is NOT a solo game; it is a team game in which the child is the hero, and all the rest in her life are actors. As parents, we may be the next most important actors; we should only try to influence, not control, her. Her friends, teachers, and relatives could be important actors too.
We can influence by exercising our legitimate personal power rather than position power because the former is immensely more effective than the latter. You use personal power by using logic and arguments to convince her; you use position power when you say, “I’m your parent, so better do what I say”.
Every child is intrinsically wise, good, talented, and optimistic. We should not become obstacles in their path. They will build on their goodness (or otherwise) from parents (genetically and through influence processes) and from the external environment. Parents can provide the right environment and thus influence even the external environment.
It is better for our children to face adversities under controlled situations when we are around, than later in their lives.
Visualise this typical scenario in a middle-class home. A student returns after an exam. Parents anxiously ask her lots of questions on how she performed. It was the student’s Maths… monthly test in… LKG. Is this anxiety justified? We should introspect.
Sure enough, the world is full of competition. But it is also full of opportunities. If we have studied in cities/ towns, we would have realised that many academically poor performers are doing far better than many academic top performers. EQ (Emotional Quotient) is more important for success in life than that IQ (Intellectual Quotient). Academics focus only on IQ; it is our responsibility to develop EQ in our children.
A child who doesn’t pass Medical/ IIT Entrance Exam can study in any other Engineering College and go on to become a CEO or an entrepreneur. Or, do CA and become a Chartered Accountant. Or do IAS and become a bureaucrat. Or get into trading. Or become a photographer, physiotherapist,… and the opportunities are limitless. She’s likely to end up much better than what we could have wished for her. This is not to say they should not have preferred options, but just that we need not be over-worried because there are plenty of options.
No child is superior or inferior. No two children are equal either; each is unique. You are simply You. I’m me. And the child is she. And each child has immense potential. Our role as a parent is only to influence her to perform reasonably well compared to her potential, in the field of her aptitude, personality and motivation, enjoying her life in the process. Not to outperform her neighbour, brother, or cousin. Enjoying life is more important than anything else.
Around the age of 15, parents should start training children to take decisions, with some handholding, which can be slowly tapered down over the next few years. Initially, they can let the children take their own decisions on smaller issues. Slowly, they can let them take more significant decisions.
We typically want to protect our children from adverse situations. This will deny them the learning that comes only from adverse situations. It is better for our children to face adversities under controlled situations when we are around than later in their lives.
Rarely do we come across parents who wish their children to be just happy people, whatever they do, wherever.
Often, children ask questions, and we give them the impression that the questions are silly. This will damage the self-esteem of the children; they will think it’s wrong to ask questions. This will create a gap between the children and parents, which may be difficult to bridge later. If we don’t know the answer to any of their questions, we can honestly say so and motivate them to seek the answers through Google, friends and teachers.
In today’s fast-changing world, children know and learn many things parents don’t. Parents should not pretend to know it all. They should be willing to learn from their children. This will develop their self-esteem and a strong bonding between the parents and the children.
Middle-class parents typically want their children to be doctors/ engineers/ scientists/ lawyers/ whatever. They want them to work in the US/ Australia/ Singapore. But rarely do we come across parents who wish their children to be just happy people, whatever they do, wherever. We don’t discuss with our children the importance of happiness. School education doesn’t teach this either.
We can assist our children to identify their Aptitude, Personality and Motivation, and make their career choice; this way, their chances of being happy and successful in their career will be higher. I strongly recommend the book titled, “Aptitude, Personality and Motivation Tests” by Jim Barrett (Publisher: Kogan Page), for both parents and children.
Life is not full of Maths, Physics, Chemistry and biology. Everyday situations need better communication skills, interpersonal skills, team skills, social skills, mental skills, etc., which schools, unfortunately, don’t impart. So, parents need to train them in these and also give them additional exposure to external resources.
Parents are the leaders of their families. Leadership is a responsibility, not an authority. Parents should set examples. If there’s a gap between the parents’ walk and talk, it will get exposed, sooner or later, and it will hinder the child’s development.
Some parents try to lavish all goodies of life on their children, which is wrong. Children’s gratification should sometimes get delayed, and certain things should be denied too, with coherent reasons therefor. They should learn that money doesn’t grow on trees.
When children prepare for exams, parents may also have to sacrifice some of their personal, professional, TV and mobile time. Parents should learn to strike a work-life balance, and also help their children strike Play-Life-Study balance, not forcing them to spend all their time on studies. Children should have some freedom to choose how they wish to spend their leisure time.
Blue Whale Challenge, Drugs and Love Trap don’t normally happen in a family where children have the freedom to discuss any issue with their parents without inhibitions
When children don’t enjoy the trust of their parents, they could lose their self-esteem, which in rare cases could lead to drug addiction and even suicide. When they don’t have a reasonable sense of freedom at home, they start longing for the day they can get out of home permanently. In such cases, just a semblance of love shown by an outsider (even if deceitful) may be enough for them to walk out of the home without parental involvement for what they may believe is ‘love marriage’.
Blue Whale Challenge, Drugs and Love Trap don’t normally happen in a family where children have the freedom to discuss any issue with their parents without inhibitions, where parents have inculcated in their children a sense of meaning and purpose in life, where parents are continuously interacting with their children, and where parents will know if their children behave differently from normal on any day. Such children will have high self-esteem, and such parents won’t normally have problems with their children.
So, though the world outside may have some booby traps, parents who have prepared their children can ensure their children won’t fall victims; such children would consult their parents on all important issues.
1. Reference to children have been made in feminine gender in this article but the intent is gender neutral.
2. The purpose of this article is not to lay the blame for the loss of parental hold over children only on parents; it is only to say that parents can also do their bit to have a hold over their children.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.