Written by Ashwin Dewan and published on 24 June 2021.
The different parenting approaches of two famous sportsmen, a cricketer and a footballer have been much talked about. Incidentally, few valuable parenting lessons emerge from their approaches. Let's take a look!
Two fathers. Poles apart. One is Mo Salah, a famous professional footballer and the other, Shahid Afridi, a retired cricketer who was a star player of the Pakistan cricket team in his time. United by sports but divided in their parenting approaches, they were recently the ‘talk of the town’ with respect to their contrasting opinions on ‘girls in sports’ particularly their daughters.
Shahid Afridi had a lot of things to say about parenting in his tell-all autobiography Game Changer. The book brought to light his admission that he was not in favor of letting his daughters play outdoor sports. As expected, this statement was met with severe backlash on social media all over. The public argued that at a time when people should ‘bat’ for female empowerment, Afridi’s statement was akin to taking two steps backward.
Even as this was happening in the subcontinent, on the other side of the world, in England to be precise…
Mo Salah, a Liverpool player and considered to be one of the best footballers in the world, provided a perfect example of what the public terms as a fine example of parenting. After a match against Manchester City, a rival football club, the world witnessed Salah’s young daughter, Makka dribble a ball across the field to score a goal even as the proud father looked on.
After this video went viral, netizens were quick to comment and compare the actions of Mo Salah with Shahid Afridi. And if one were to closely examine the two incidents in parenting, a couple of invaluable lessons can be learned from the two episodes. Here is our take:
As evident in the manner in which Salah’s daughter dribbled the ball across the field, in what is considered be a 'man’s game', never for a single moment let your daughter believe that she is not capable of doing things that society labels as a ‘man’s job’. Being a girl should in no way, be a deterrent to chasing one’s dreams. Let your daughter know that the sky is the limit, and nothing is impossible if she sets her heart to it. Let’s raise confident and fearless daughters, not girls who must think and rethink about taking up something they want to, because of what ‘society will say’. Encourage your daughter to take up what she wants to do, irrespective of the so-called gender roles established by predefined notions of society.
It becomes pivotal as parents to change our misogynist perceptions and challenge the prevailing gender stereotypes, to allow our daughter's personalities to blossom and flourish. As our daughters grow, they should develop their own independent sense of self and worth, which includes their gender identity. However, if you as a parent, disregard gender stereotyping, that’s great and the way to go.
However, your kids may still be exposed to other people’s opinions, in environments outside of homes like schools, playgrounds and family gatherings. Their tender minds can easily be influenced by ideas incepted by external forces in a patriarchal society including people and media. As a parent, if you come across misogynist outlooks portrayed in a TV show or a movie, use it as a teaching moment and converse with your daughter and let her know that this kind of attitude is not healthy. Even when you observe friends and families make frivolous comments about your daughter not conceding to society’s perception of what is expected from a girl. Take that opportunity to stand up for your daughter and educate your loved ones on your take on the issue. With each view expressed, with each voice raised, you can bring about a change in mindsets.
We are never too young or old to learn something new. There is so much to learn from the world around us. Be it a new language, art or sport. Mohammed Salah’s daughter seems to be showing interest and learning to play football; instead of shunning it, it should be encouraged. By exposing your children to a wide variety of things to learn, you are enabling them to develop their minds and explore their talents and personalities. These could determine their path to happiness and personal goals. Let gender bias not stop your son from learning Bharatanatyam or your daughter from football.
So, the next time, your daughter says she wants to play the guitar or become a cricketer, let her follow her instincts with your wholehearted support. Happy Parenting!