A question that I’m asked frequently by a lot of people – what kind of a relationship do you share with your children? I often find it funny that parents ask me this question. What am I supposed to answer…I share a great relationship with my daughters.
I was pondering this question as I was recovering from a bout of viral the last couple of days. It struck me that the people who have asked me this question aren’t very sure about their own relationship with their children. I am no one to sermonize others on bringing up kids…I have had my fair share of doubts of being an effective parent versus a good parent. However, I have to thank my daughters, Urvashi & Urmila for endorsing time and again that I managed to be both on different occasions… 🙂
The thought process continued and it reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend who also has teenage children. My friend summarised our chat very effectively and I’m sharing some of those pointers here. Even if it helps one parent out there, I’m happy!
Communicate Easily & Freely: I have noticed kids respond to communication in any form. This is a process that must happen from birth. Communication means sharing. Very often parents expect their kids to come and talk to them, but, rarely share what is on their mind. Of course the child must be at an age & in a position to understand what the parents are sharing. This communication changes as the kids grow from childhood to adolescence…what’s important is to keep the process going on.
Allow Questions: I have been working with the youth on different projects. While addressing a batch of college students recently on their participation in the nation building process, I had the opportunity to interact with students and faculty. As usual, I noticed the faculty pushing the students to ask questions as soon as the talk was over. And, as usual, the students hesitated to ask questions in public. I don’t blame the students here. As a society, we do not encourage our young ones to ask questions. Children must have the liberty to ask…if we as parents are incapable of answering their questions, it is not the fault of the child. It is our problem…we need to find the relevant answer to satisfy the question.
Encourage Decision Making: Both my daughters were encouraged to take decisions from their primary school days relevant to their age. The pros and cons were explained and they were told the consequences of not taking a decision. Even in adult life, most people are scared of taking decisions because they want their decisions to be right. My question to such people – if you don’t take a decision, how will you know whether it is right or wrong? Allow your kids the luxury of making their own decisions. They will automatically take responsibility and ownership for it. And even if it turns out to be a mistake, so what? Haven’t we made our share of mistakes in life?
Allow Them Their Mistakes: I have noticed parents constantly cautioning their children about situations, people, relationships in life. I understand that as parents we do not want our children to go through rough times, get cheated, ragged, bullied. Tell me, how much will you protect them? One day, they will have to face the world on their own! Then what? Children brought up in that environment have a warped sense of life and end up thinking that the world owes them everything. While as parents we know, that is a far cry from the truth.
Share Your Story: a lot of kids grow up thinking their parents are super heroes in the initial years. And then the teenage years descend on your off springs and their view starts changing. Erma Bombeck (one of my favourite authors) says, “Have you any idea how many children it takes to turn off one light in the kitchen Three. It takes one to say What light and two more to say I didn’t turn it on.” That’s what teenage years do. One thing that stood me in good stead was sharing my teenage years with my daughters when they had “curious” questions. It helped them to know that their mother had gone through similar experiences in life. I was declared “normal” by my kids… 🙂
The worst thing I could have done was to have a “holier than thou” approach in front of them…Jane Nelsen very nicely puts it, “Where did we ever get the crazy idea that in order to make children do better, first we have to make them feel worse? Think of the last time you felt humiliated or treated unfairly. Did you feel like cooperating or doing better?”
Finally, it’s not just children who grow. Parents grow with them. I have grown with my lovely daughters. As much as I wait to see what they do with their lives, they are also watching me to see what I do with mine. While I tell them to reach for the stars, the moon & the sun…I am reaching for my own stars, moon and the sun!!!