Parenting is no easy feat, but did you know that unconditional love towards your child can help your own spiritual growth? Interesting? Read on for more.
By Mahalakshmi Rajagopal
A few weeks ago, a couple visited me with their 6-year-old child. They handed me a psychoeducation assessment of their child which stated that he had an IQ of 82 and was learning disabled. My screening, however, revealed a bright child with good communication and observation skills. His learning disabilities however, had not been assessed.
On further discussion, I realised (to my dismay) that the parents of the child were on opposite sides about the child and his challenges. While the mother strongly felt that the child had some difficulty, the father felt he was simply playful. The mother arranged assessments for the child just to prove her point to the father and not to identify the child’s difficulty. Documenting a case history seemed impossible.
At the end of the session, the only notable conclusion was a complete disharmony between the parents and nothing to do with the child. It was heart-breaking to observe how two individuals, pushed by their strong desire to ‘win’ were actually shattering the present and the future of a bright child. The parents should have realised that irrespective of the innate potential of the child, the love he experiences in his close environment will be a better predictor of his overall development and achievements in the years to come.
Well, parenting is surely a serious responsibility, but I would rather perceive the role of parents as a spiritual journey. The role commences the day the two individuals decide to start a family. While today’s parents are extremely sensitive to the various materialistic and physical needs of their little ones, they mostly ignore their emotional and spiritual needs.
Studies have proven that love promotes health. This is very true and probably the only mantra that parents need to believe in. Having said that, love does not mean indulgence or pampering. Love means unconditionally accepting the child, irrespective of her special needs or deviant behaviour. Love also means being receptive to the feedback from the environment about the child and being open to the various experiences that are essential for him to learn and grow in a healthy manner.
Some simple guidelines for parents to practice unconditional love daily:
Parents should make a sincere effort to sort out differences with each other and live in harmony. This is the best gift any parent can give her child. Parents should unconditionally love and respect each other. They must perceive their whole family as one unit. A family where one parent dominates or belittles or cheats the other is a bad situation to be in. Exposing a child to such unhealthy family dynamics can foster various insecurities in him. So, parents must ensure the environment at home is filled with pure love.
With the fast rate of growth in one’s socio-economic status, parents often mistake indulgence for an expression of love. Such an overindulged child grows up having unrealistic demands and becomes self-centred and selfish. Parents should also self-check their own false perceptions of using material gains to project status. Parents should always remember to fulfill the needs of the child, but must be more selective in fulfilling the wants of the child.
Parents often tend to equate the child’s behaviour with who he is by saying things like, ‘bad boy, you hit your brother’. As a result, they condemn the child along with the behaviour. Instead, parents should emphasise their dislike of the child’s behaviour and not the child by saying, ‘I did not like the way you hit your brother’.
Any consequence a child must face should be aimed at bringing about a change in the child’s behaviour and not at hurting the child himself. Consequences a child faces should be specific actions aimed at teaching and reinforcing appropriate behaviour. They should never become punishments used to demean the child.
Children are continuously learning, they learn from what they see rather than what they hear. So, if parents wish their child to practise punctuality, they should be practising it themselves in their daily life. If they wish for the child to develop integrity, they should role model the same.
Parents need to be realistic about their child’s capabilities, desires and dreams. They should accept that it is very common for children to deviate and falter. Such failures should not lead to labelling or condemnation. Instead, every child needs a loving embrace, positive guidance and encouragement to try again.
Parents should invest time and energy to understand their child’s personality, ability, interests, strengths and weaknesses. This will help the parents connect and communicate better with the child and give appropriate guidance.
Every parent needs to learn to be super patient. Every parent is different, and every child is different, each with his or her own personality, likes and dislikes. Patience is the key. SELF-
It may be last on this list, but it is the first thing every parent must work on – overcoming his/her own anxieties, insecurities, emotional instabilities, aggressive tendencies, rigidity and unrealistic perceptions. A parent must first gain inner peace to be able to practise calm and positive parenting.
…Parenting is a beautiful spiritual journey. Through the years, this divine role will transform you into a better human being – and that is a spiritual progress in itself. As I conclude this article, this one-liner will answer it all for you:
There is no such thing as a perfect parent. So just be a real one. – Sue Atkins
Mahalakshmi Rajagopal is a psychologist and the founder of Sahayam Intervention Centre, a holistic wellness centre in New Delhi.
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