Parental guidance

The idea is to help our children learn to be strong, resilient and self-sufficient

By Sangbarta Chattopadhyay & Namita Bhuta
  • Published 24.06.18
  •  

Most parents will agree that their parenting goals are largely to ensure that their children know how to navigate through life — how to be happy in whatever they do, and how to deal with the ups and downs of life. 

Yet, as parents, we often get short-sighted by our own insecurities and fears. We get enchanted and distracted by our child’s small achievements — which we think are the indicators of their future success — and tend to forget the actual goals of parenting. 

We want our children to have strong self-esteem, yet we get frustrated by the most trivial setback they may have had, like coming last in the swimming competition. We judge them and scold them when they achieve less than what we had expected of them, which makes sure their self-worth takes a beating and they always associate self-worth with an external proof of success. 

We then get shocked when they break down at the smallest sign of failure or when they are unable to take a ‘no’, either from us or others or life itself. When they show no skill to deal with any adverse situation that life throws at them, we fail to recognise and acknowledge our own contribution in what they have become. 

Here’s a list of parenting paradoxes that we often fall victim to...

• We want to make them strong, resilient and self-sufficient, but in reality, we try to fight our children’s battles for them so that they can live life without struggle or pain.

• We fight with their school teachers for the extra half a mark and highlight to them how that half mark is a matter of life and death, yet we are shocked when a student takes their life because they got a few marks less than expected.

• We want our kid to be smart, creative and problem solvers, but we force them to follow convention and discourage any out-of-the-box thinking.

• We try to control our children, put them in safety boxes and then wonder why they are not learning any interpersonal skills, or why they are alone, disconnected, lonely and depressed.

If you’ve ticked right for one or more of the above boxes, you may want to broaden your understanding of what is happening here and how you may impart the values that will stand your children in good stead. These seven steps will go a long way in helping your children build joyful, meaningful lives. And because parents are the living role models for their children, it all starts with you.

Resilience 

Resilience, or the ability to bounce back after setbacks, is a vital skill. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope”.

In life, sometimes one has to forgive and forget. Brooding over what happened in the past or about things which we have no control over is mostly counterproductive. We need to teach our children this by being an example. 

When children fail, as it is inevitable sometimes, teach them to take failure in their stride and let them know that their effort and sincerity matters a lot more than the result, in the long run.

Kindness 

A kind heart is usually a happy heart. Encourage kindness not just for people but for all living beings. When your children brings home a sick puppy home, don’t shout at them. Instead, help them to nurse it or find an appropriate shelter. Don’t discourage their tender hearts or ridicule and trivialise their emotions. Avoid saying no just because it causes inconvenience to you. 

Learning to give without gaining anything (tangible) goes a long way in boosting a child’s emotional well-being. Add little acts of compassion in your daily life as well because children learn by example and our actions speak louder than words.

Nurturing connections 

When children make friends, encourage them to invest in and care for these relationships. Let them meet their friends under your supervision if need be, but don’t turn them down. The ability to make new friends is a great skill to have. Teach them to connect to people from different backgrounds, regardless of caste, creed or social status. If you have concern about a particular friend or group of friends, talk to you child, explain your concerns and point out which actions of their friends you disapprove of, rather than mocking or judging their friend. 

Help your children to learn from the best qualities of their friends and overlook and filter out the negative ones. When your child has a non-serious fight with their friend, motivate them to resolve it themselves rather than you intervening and calling the parent of the other child. This will build their communication and conflict resolution skills. In today’s globalised world, one needs to be open, flexible and inclusive to be successful.

Sincerity, discipline and diligence 

Instead of focusing on their intelligence or talent, pay attention to the role of sincerity, discipline and diligence in their lives. These values are the cornerstones of being successful in all aspects of life. So when your kid is struggling with a math problem and sincerely trying to solve it for hours, encourage and reward them for their effort instead of lecturing on wasting time over one sum. When we focus only on a specific or perfect outcome for every act, we prime our children to be anxious and stressful later in life. Appreciate the effort even if it hasn’t yielded a tangible result.

Creativity 

Encourage and support your child to have a hobby and help them explore and express their creativity. Having a hobby is not to make them the next famous artist or musician; it’s meant to let them ideate and imagine and remain engaged in a creative process and have fun. Urge them to focus on enjoying the process.

Acceptance 

Acceptance is an important value. Whether it is about accepting oneself, others or situations in life, as role models for our children it is important to impart this value. Are you critical of your child’s physical appearance? Are you quick to pass judgement on others? When faced with challenges, do you react by getting hyper, stressed, or making a scene? Do you respond in a temperamental way each time your child does something undesirable? How you behave with your children as well as others can influence how your child behaves.

You build your child’s self-esteem when you encourage them to accept themselves. Accepting other people as they are, along with their shortcomings, helps to make your child build healthier relationships. And how they deal with challenges will determine how they cope with stress.

Gratefulness

A sense of entitlement can creep in our children when we are trying to do our best for them. Discourage this firmly but calmly. Teach them to remain grateful for all that they have. Teach them by walking the talk yourself. Show that you focus more on what you have rather than what you don’t have. If they can start being thankful for everything they have, it will help them have a healthy mind and happy life.

Dr Sangbarta Chattopadhyay and Dr Namita Bhuta are medical practitioners and practising psychotherapists. They are trained Family and Structural Constellation leaders