By Chitra Jha May 2013 It’s the hardest job in the world. Fortunately, it’s also the most joyous. For all thebrave-heartswalking on the path ofparenthood, Chitra Jha offers a helping hand and a guiding voice My husband and I didn’t know anything about Conscious Parenting when we realized that we were going to be parents – in nine months time! What? How? Why? Oh, no! Our responses remained anything but ‘happy’ during the first month, but thankfully we pulled ourselves up soon enough and ‘accepted’ our new status along with all that comes along! I remember the shift that happened, the moment I accepted our little love-seedling growing in my womb. That moment has defined my role as a parent, ever since. In that moment, I understood that our children want only one thing from us. ACCEPTANCE I conceived our second child when the first one was all of seven months; but this time it was a conscious conception. We wanted a play-mate for our son asap. Raising two children of almost the same age was like raising twins! I learnt a lot with them and from them. Now, my boys, Shujoy and Shurjo, are 26 and 25 years old; and I can proudly say that I have loved every moment of being a parent. My life wouldn’t have been ‘complete’ without playing this all-important role. Parenting is the most pleasurable as well as the most challenging job we undertake as human beings. Yet, there are no schools, colleges, or universities that prepare us for this important assignment. Our parenting skills are at best learnt from our parents, friends, doctors, neighbors, self-help books, and natural instincts. We learn on the job, fumbling and faltering along the way, creating doubts not just in our own minds, but also in the minds of our young wards. There is no doubt that all parents love their children and wish the very best for them. However, parents around the world remain unhappy or dissatisfied with the outcome of their efforts, making it painfully clear that something is lacking in the way we bring up our children, the future generations of this planet. What is it about parenting that creates such a lot of stress in our life? My sister and a parent of two young boys, Pratibha Kang, says, “In today’s modern society, most parents are tossed about and driven by compulsions of work, homemaking, and payment of bills. These distractions do not allow them to parent their children ‘intentionally,’ and parenting just happens as a byproduct of living together. Thus parents merely raise children but not responsible adults, and that becomes the cause of their sorrows and worries.” Another parent friend adds, “Parenting is like learning to ride a bike. At first, it is difficult to find balance, but after a few falls and skinned knees, one ultimately learns to tip less in either direction, and remains in balance. Similarly in parenting, when we go too far, one way or another, life gives us a scrape, a bump, or a knock on the head, and we begin to find value in balance.” Why do we invite a ‘knock’ from life? What are some of the common mistakes that we as parents make? As I compiled many responses, a long list emerged. Common parenting mistakes One-shoe-fits-all approach Parents usually forget that each child is a unique individual. Hence, they follow the ‘one-shoe-fits-all’ approach, which stifles creativity, and creates many emotional blocks. This is the most common mistake parents make. Unwarranted reliance on caregivers Many parents remain too busy to spend time with their children. More often than not, they hand them over to other caregivers, without bothering about the kind of worldview inculcated in them. Using television as a baby-sitter Most parents use television as a babysitter and let their kids sit for hours, watching violent cartoon characters, listening to biased news, and following serials that teach nothing. This mental diet affects their minds and attitudes. Consequently, children while away important time needed for play, exercise, and pursuit of creative and inventive activities. Paying more attention to negativebehavior Some parents tend to overlook their children’s good behavior, taking it for granted, but immediately notice and punish them for their bad behavior. Their attention is more focused on the socks left on the floor, unmade beds, badly done homework, bad influence of friends, poor grades, and complaints from the teachers. They do not focus on a child’s good qualities, assets, and strengths, especially when these do not meet with their preconceived notions of what is good and what is bad. Thus, more often than not, children get more attention for being bad than for being good. Moreover, since children thrive on attention, they continue doing those actions which draw more attention. In their frustration, parents often resort to scolding, yelling, slapping, and spanking, and create further unwanted behavior in their children. Unrealistic praise On the other hand, many parents offer unrealistic, outrageous encouragement to their children in the form of flattery. When these children fail to receive similar compliments from the rest of the world, they become confused and feel that their parents have lied to them. This feeling robs them of their natural self-esteem and harms their sense of self. They also stop trusting their parents’ words. Always agreeing/avoiding conflict Some parents do not wish to upset their children by having a different opinion from them. This behavior sets children up for a life of confusion and angst over people with different beliefs than theirs. “Parents need to live like they are under a surveillance camera full time. Even when we aren’t aware, little eyes are watching and little ears are listening.”-Jessina Merchant, Parenting coach, Kochi This also teaches intolerance and produces rigid behavior such as ‘my way or the highway’. Such children become unapproachable and unpleasant to be around. Not saying ‘No’ Many parents have a hard time saying ‘no’ to their children because they want their children to like them. In order to appear cool, they encourage their children to do as they please. Showering with material goods In this era of technology, most parents equip their children with cell phones, install TV in their rooms, buy video games, and other fancy game consoles. Most of these material goods are given as a substitute for actual time and attention by the parents. Inculcating a competitive mindset Many parents push and encourage their children to learn at a faster pace, and outdo other children at school. This competition is nothing but an advanced version of comparison. Wanting to be better, brighter, and smarter than others, may provide an impetus to begin with, but becomes a hindrance later on. Poor role models Many parents are poor role models for their children, because their expectations do not find an expression in themselves. For example, parents want their children to obey them, while they themselves do not obey either their elders or the laws of the land. Many mothers dress like their teenage daughters, and are obsessed with weight loss and looking good. Many parents indulge in drinking, smoking, and partying, as much as their adolescents do. They cheat, lie, and hide their income from the tax authorities. They indulge in extra-marital affairs and cyber-sex, and are addicted to cell phones, TV, and social networking sites. They display road rage, and bribe the policemen. In short, they do all that their children do, and much more besides that. However, most parents do not see the contradictions in their personal standards. They forget that the way parents think, speak, and act teaches a child how to think, speak, and act. Unnecessary worry Most parents tend to worry too much about their children’s well-being, sending waves of negative energy towards them, which attracts exactly the scenarios that worry parents. Not enough fun Most parents remain so involved with their day-to-day responsibilities of work, such as taking care of the children, their homework, extracurricular activities, grocery shopping, that they forget to enjoy simple fun moments with their children. Parental quarrels and arguments It is unfortunate but true that most parents handle their marital and other problems rather poorly. Parental quarrels and arguments create fear and uncertainty in children, making them feel unsafe and insecure. Wanting to produce all-rounders Most parents want their children to be all-round performers, because society places a premium on children’s versatility and the number of things they can do. Thus, parents provide ‘taxi-service,’ shepherding their children from one class to another. Their child’s performance and others’ approval becomes the measuring stick for their own self-worth. Such parents micro-manage their children, taking their behavior, successes, failures, achievements, and disappointments rather personally. Tension and speed-oriented home environment An average home environment is usually tense and speed-oriented, with directions like, ‘Hurry up and do this…. We are getting late… Tomorrow is this exam…. It is time for that class… etc. Children who do not toe the line are labelled as ‘difficult’ children. Some parents try to enforce their authority forcefully which causes children to rebel. They may not rebel immediately but the seeds of rebellion are sown, which flower during teenage years. Faulty motivation Some parents motivate their children to excel by shaming, ridiculing, or inducing guilt. They withhold love when the child has been naughty, disobedient, destructive, or a failure.
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