The tyranny of children calling the shots, the sad state of parents at the beck and call of the child, the collapse of parenting – this seems to be the present state of parenting. To the untrained eye, the changing behavioural patterns in children seem evident. A power-packed conclave, organised by Chellamey, ParentCircle’s sister publication (Tamil) addressed some of the key points related to the subject. A distinguished panel of experts, comprising Dr V Irai Anbu IAS, writer and motivator, Dr Jayanthasri Balakrishnan, Professor PSG College of Arts and Science, Coimbatore and a hugely popular orator, and Dr E S Krishnamoorthy, Founder, NeuroKrish, Chennai, discuss the evolving trends in the parenting spectrum. Here are key points from the eminent participants.
Listen to children
Dr Krishnamoorthy (ESK): Each child is different from the other. Some need guidance to survive. There are some like me who need to be left alone. That’s what you call temperament. The important thing to remember is that the biology and genetics is within this. How we are going to get the best out of that in a child is what we have to focus on. Today, we live in a world of abundance. But, there is potential in abundance and abundance-thinking. We don’t have to teach our children that abundance is wrong. We have to get them to view it as an opportunity. It is not a virtue to be deprived; but, it is a crime to not make use of the opportunities we have.
Dr Irai Anbu:The major complaint of parents is that children don’t listen to them. Parents don’t behave in a way that makes the child respect them. When we belittle the child, that’s when he retaliates with disdain. Every child is brilliant. What they need to bring out the brilliance in them are freedom and opportunities. Children are more than the marks they get.
Dr Jayanthasri: What looks like obstinacy on one side can be viewed as determination from the other. Children get this attitude from the elders around them. ‘Disobedient’ has become a blanket term. We use it for everything we disapprove.
Respect in the family
Jayanthasri: ‘What is right’ leads to a discussion; ‘who is right’ gets us into a debate. That’s what it has come to in families these days. If children witness one parent shame the other, then the child has no respect for them. Respect is the biggest form of love and kindness you can show someone. Without that kind of respect, parents become a caricature in the eyes of the children. If parents can do that to each other, the child will do that to them too.
ESK: Are we respectful to the child? The child has its own views, ideas and principles – you need to consider that. Is there logic to his thoughts? Is it acceptable? That sort of open-mindedness is important. The idea that the child can be smarter than us should be welcome. ‘I know everything and I’ll tell you what to do and you’ll do what I say’, is a bad attitude when it comes to parenting. Instead, a parent has to be a senior friend to the child.
Teach, don’t preach!
ESK: We teach children not to lie; and in the same breath we answer the phone and automatically lie that we are just stepping into the office. We don’t practice what we preach. The child doesn’t get that. By being inconsistent, parents are being irresponsible.
Irai Anbu: The western society is more role-conscious; we have done away with it. Children don’t know what their responsibilities are anymore. The idea of the parent is that in the time it takes to walk down to the store to buy groceries, the child could study some more. They fail to see that the child can learn a lot more from the short trip to the store. That’s how we did it. So, in a new environment, children are not able to cope; they are easily duped by others.
Then versus now
ESK: I am a bossy person and I was a bossy child too. Looking back, I was happy, had no reason to complain. But, did I enjoy people talking down to me like they knew better? No. Did I like being ordered around? No. Yes, in a family, everyone needs to know the hierarchy. There needs to be a certain structure and some discipline. But, how we do it, for what purpose, and for whom, are some of the things we need to think about. Our children are growing up with major awareness. Information is available instantly. The only thing you can add to that is your experience. Growing up in a world of information, is it advice that they need or a friend to talk and share their experience with? We need to think about the era that we are in to understand why children are the way they are.
Jayanthasri: Growing up, there was no scope for dismissing the hierarchy in the family. There was no reason to violate it. We knew that instinctively. And parents were right. There was no other way to it. The democracy we grew up with was vastly different from what you see today; it meant shared responsibility. Our parents were strict, in a good way. Contrastingly, the present crop of parents is apologetic for even the mildest form of admonishment; even if that is actually in the best interests of the child.
Irai Anbu: Parents must understand the difference between conditioning and disciplining. If parents are very strict, children are drawn to the smallest kindness elsewhere. It’s a very tricky issue to handle. You can’t treat children the way your parents treated you; you can’t be too strict with them. We studied in a homogenous school where everyone walked to school and back. Now, children are not satisfied in getting to school by car; they want a car that’s better than someone else’s. Comparison comes in. How did that happen? Parents start it; they compare their children with the ones next door. Is that right?
The ‘right’ parenting or is there one?
ESK: It is important to create not just a good physical space for our children, but also an intellectual, emotional and social space for them to grow. There is neither right nor wrong parenting. It is all value-based. But, most importantly, listen to your child. He/she is trying to tell you something. Don’t think that you know it all.
Irai Anbu: Both, the democratic style where there is complete freedom, and the authoritarian style where there is absolute restriction, are wrong. Authoritative style is the best where you give freedom when needed while exercising control when required.
Jayanthasri: Parenting is all about trial and error. When children realise they are socially relevant, they start looking past the confines of the house. Remember, an arrow mark has never travelled along with the traveller, it only points the way. If parents present themselves as integrated individuals, then children will grow up to be so too.
Pursuit of happiness
ESK: A bossy child can be a future leader. Don’t look at it as trouble but as an opportunity. We often only look at the negative traits. We need to focus on the positive ones and nurture them. Recognise the bossy child. He’s going to do the things you never could, in his own way. Children are not happy because they are living other people’s dream. As a parent, I can listen to his dream and tell him realistically that this is all that I can do to support him. The key is to merge your dream with your child’s and find the common goal. Your child’s happiness is what makes you happy. For the pursuit of happiness, we have to understand our children and their dreams.
Jayanthasri: The problem is when the dad and mom want the child to grow up to be like them; and so the child ends up not being able to be himself. Every child doesn’t have to be a Cordelia. But, the biggest plus point of being one is the ability to say I love you as much a daughter should love a father, nothing more and nothing less. To get to that kind of normalcy in children, parents should get rid of everything ‘pseudo’ amongst them.
A day to remember
A packed auditorium walked back with lessons of a lifetime from the best-known names in the space of parenting. To sum up what our experts said, we have to acknowledge that times have changed. Our children’s childhood is vastly different from that of our own, simply because the world they are growing up in has completely changed from the one we are used to. Let us respect them. Everything else will fall in place. Yes, parents are not rattled and will never be!