My brother shared an article which resulted in a volley of thoughts in my mind. Penned by American syndicated columnist and family psychologist John Rosemond, the piece is based on the premise that there is no justifiable explanation that gives kids the coveted position as the most important people in the family (titled Your kids should not be the most important). No points for guessing, our children will most certainly not side with the arguments. But parents with whom I discussed the piece unanimously supported the author’s viewpoints.
Rosemond presented the simple logic that it is parents who take care of all the “worry and want” and leave no stone unturned to make it possible for their kids to lead an easy life. Hence the question of considering them as most important does not arise. To quote him: “The most important person in an army is the general. The most important person in a corporation is the CEO. The most important person in a classroom is the teacher. And the most important person in a family are the parents.” This might sound a little dictatorial and draw some flak. The wiser step would be to strike a middle ground and come up with the proposition that the child and the parent each have a respective place which is unique.
Most of us parents do not even realize that the preferences of our children subconsciously take priority over ours. Our likes take a back seat, and we often accommodate with their tastes and choices. How many parents may have sat through a movie which they never enjoyed or eaten at a joint against their wishes simply to make their kids happy? The list will definitely be a long one!
The greatest challenge that parents face today is to strike a balance between strictness and leniency. There is a tendency to go overboard in making a child happy coupled with a nagging fear among many that they might hurt the kid’s feelings. A young mother once quite proudly said at a social gathering that her six-year old never gave any trouble besides scribbling with crayons on the walls. I was stunned beyond words as to how casual she could be about the matter. I personally felt that the little girl at that age was old enough to understand that writing on the walls was just not acceptable. I attended a Catholic convent where discipline was the order of the day. Even at home, amidst the love and pampering, my parents made sure rules were observed. My brother and I knew what was expected from us: we were to conduct ourselves with polite manners in front of others; we would have to wake up in the morning at a specific time and sit down to study at a particular hour. We abided by those rules and never felt they were stifling.
While endorsing the notion that parents need to discipline their kids, I am all in favor of the fact that it should be done in a way that does not make the children scared of their parents. Fear and respect are two different attributes that are at war in this situation. The true winner of the parenting trophy is the parent whose child obeys out of love and reverence and not out of fear.
Coming to what kids expect from their parents these days, it would be like comparing apples to oranges if I were to liken the situation to our times. It would be wrong to generalize, but all thanks to the booming rate at which the world is progressing with everything going global, the levels of expectations for today’s youngsters have gone up. As a child of the late sixties, I along with my sibling grew up minus gizmos and gadgets. Our parents gave us the very best they could provide, and we too were so easily satisfied with the simple things. An ice cream treat or a trip to the local park or the movies would make us extremely happy. Perhaps these “perks” are taken for granted today.
I am no parenting guru to come up with lofty ideals to raise the most perfect kids. However, through experience and observation, I have seen the emerging trends. Parenting has changed immensely over the years, and theories that were in vogue during our childhood are now perhaps considered null and void by today’s generation.
Every parent dreams of being the perfect guardian to his or her kids. There is obviously no foolproof formula that guarantees that perfection. Parenting rests on the edifices of energy, effort, patience, and courage. Also, it is basically one’s instinct that is the lodestar in the journey. Belief in one’s self is the keystone of successful parenting. And in the words of Dr. Benjamin Spock, the mantra is “Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.”