The importance of saying no

be the bad guy
Last Updated : 17 February 2017, 19:06 IST

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Quizzed about skipping classes, teen jumps to his death,” screamed the city headlines recently. Child psychologists, neighbours, teachers and peers  all had their own take on the untimely demise.

Academicians contemplated diluting the examination system further. Activists demanded that the pressure on children be eased. Meanwhile, the parents were left bereft, grappling with unanswerable questions. Their future would be grey for years to come.

To quote Tennyson’s lines from The Charge of the Light Brigade, “theirs not to make reply, theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die!” Today’s parents face a situation similar to that of the soldiers in the Crimean War. They just need to follow orders given by their children; for all said and done, parents are solely responsible for the actions of their progeny.

There was a heated discussion on this topic amongst us, the elevated souls whose children have grown up. We all agreed that parenting was always an onerous task. Of late, it is taking a different hue because of multiple challenges that are being thrown our way. We are slowly and steadily subjected to a great inflow of information and our discretionary power is tested more now.

Is love impairing our judgement?

I was at a dentist’s recently. A toddler picked up a pack of ornamental pebbles from the centre table, ripped it open and started giving it out to everyone in the waiting room.  No doubt it was cute, but what was not so admirable was the mother’s inability to say a no to the child damaging the clinic’s property.

Many children go through life never hearing the word ‘no’ or understanding the need for discipline, unaware that a great deal of disservice is being done to them while they’re growing up. They need to be taught that they can’t have everything their way. Boundaries need to be established early. The best gifts we can give our children are all intangible and yet they are substantial.

The modern belief that children will learn responsibility, compassion and gratitude by themselves is counterproductive. These lessons need to be taught at home by frequently saying ‘no’ to their whims and fancies even if we, as parents, can afford to satisfy them. Broke your favourite toy? Well, bad luck. And no, you don’t immediately get a replacement.

By giving them everything they ask for, we fail to teach children to entertain themselves. As a result, they learn boredom and ennui too early and this leads them to experiment with things that give them a sense of euphoria however transient it may be.

What could be the reason for giving in? Having children late or having an only child leads to people wanting to pamper the little ones. They wish to give them everything they didn’t have growing up, and they fail to teach them discipline.

Do not coddle the kids

Another major parenting lesson is not to insulate the child from every kind of pain and danger that can creep into their lives. It is imperative that we prepare our children for the road and not make the road ready for children. Experiencing pain and discomfort is  a part of growing up.

It’s but natural to want to protect our children from all kinds of hurt, be it bullying, failure, criticism etc…but somewhere we forget to let them live.

The goal for all of us is to learn from each experience and try to be reasonable about what we have control over, and what is beyond our control.

One of the most predominant memories of my childhood are our dinner time tales. We all gathered around the table for dinner and shared the happenings of the day. This way, we knew that my ‘stay at home’ mother was not twiddling her thumbs the entire day and we were aware of the sacrifices my father made to support the growing family. We grew up having enough but never a lot. Our daily discussions also ensured that talking about various aspects of life were stuck in our minds to be recollected years later. My two older sisters added to my bank of knowledge.

Teach them how to prioritise

Our aim in life is to raise good children, good citizens and good human beings. In this context, to believe in them and help them grow is what parents should focus on. Walking the talk is even more important in present times. If your own focus is to earn money and not give sufficient time to relationships, then the message goes to your child loud and clear. No amount of explanation or reasoning is going to help the child think differently. Every step of the way, our children are watching us and that to a great extent makes them the way they are.

Sometimes, it amazes me that a set of beautiful people can have a child go completely wayward. Working in the field of education, I know for fact that there are huge chunks in their children’s life that the parents are completely unaware of. They boast about how their toddler knows how to operate mobile phones better than them, and once the child grows up, they taunt them for always being on the phone. We need to keep away from technology if we want our child to pay attention to what we say. We show them, with our actions, what our priorities are.

Power of communication

Communication channels should be kept open between parents and children. We need to talk about sex, drugs, money and other tricky subjects. Let nothing be taboo. Whenever we feel the need to control or pull back some privileges, let us not hesitate. Developing a thick hide whenever the children ignore us and taking it in stride pays off. There are no children who have not thrown the words, ‘mean’, ‘partial’ at their parents, particularly at moms.

I had read somewhere that raising a child is akin to painting a picture stroke by stroke, in strange combinations of colours and hues, without knowing how the final image will turn out. There really is no yardstick by which you measure your success as parents.

If your children are there for you without being constantly by your side, are responsible for their actions, stop depending on you after a certain age either financially, emotionally or physically (unless they have health issues), then you can pat yourselves on the back for a job well done and learn to live your life without breathing down their necks. As parents, make them aware that if they need safety, if they need complete acceptance, if they need unconditional love, they can always come to you.

Published 17 February 2017, 15:49 IST

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