By Roohi Saluja December 2004 Only wise and loving parenting will enable a child to realise his/her true potential, to be a loving and gentle human being and to develop robust self-esteem. here, three successful parents share their secrets Set your children freeswami nikhilananda, acharya, chinmaya mission, on the fine art of parentingWhy are families falling apart? The problem is overindulgence in the present in a way that completely negates the future. We are ensnared in selfish acts, with the ‘I’ (aham) overpowering our entire being. There’s nothing wrong in drawing water from a flowing river, but blocking it from flowing further is not right. The human race must continue. Families must continue. Is it right to say that a child chooses his parents?The atma is like a seed seeking a suitable environment to grow and flourish. As soon as it finds the right place, it enters the mother’s womb. This is the moment of conception. Thus, in a sense, it is right to say that a child selects his own parents. What is the right kind of parenting?In the first five years of a child, the mother plays a dominant role. She must shower the child with unconditional love. It is at this age that he/she learns to love in return. Respect your child. We often try to fiddle with a child—hold him, shake him or kiss him against his wishes. This is not respectful. From 6-10 years, values need to be instilled in a child. Here, the father’s role becomes crucial, while the mother’s role takes a new turn. Do not pass on your insecurities, doubts and fears to your child. Teach him healthy competition, and that success and failure go hand-in-hand. Above 15 years of age, it’s time to become a friend to your child. Keep instructing him, but change the mode of instruction. As parents, how can we control our anger?Control your expectations. Don’t overload the child with irrational demands. Instead, vent your frustrations through spiritual practices like meditation. You need to respect your child’s feelings. Treat him/her as your friend. Just like you don’t own your friends, you don’t own your children either. Set them free and don’t be afraid of losing them. Like your true friends, they too will come back to you, love you, care for you and respect you. But then friends are not as intrinsic a part of you as your own children? Dependence of any kind will only cause sorrow. Friendship is a beautiful relationship that knows no boundaries. You can be friend to an old man, a young child, an animal, and yet, the love and respect remains the same. Develop a mature friendship with your children. Spend quality time with them and allow them to grow. And where does one draw a line between freedom and discipline?Freedom can only be given if one is responsible enough to handle it. It’s like living in a free society. If you are not responsible, you can be punished, fined or even prosecuted. Similarly make your child responsible. Give freedom gradually. Warn him/her about the pitfalls, without instilling fear. Can love be taught to a child? Love can be taught to your child by having a loving heart yourself. As I said earlier, give your child unconditional love before he turns five. This way he will learn to love you in return. A child is blessed with a remarkable sixth sense. He/she can discern real love from artificial love. Physical touch is also an important part of expressing love. Contrary to popular belief, one must express love naturally and spontaneously. Only then can it be conveyed in its true sense. We adults have a vacuum inside us. We lack true love, and feed ourselves on attachment and perversion. This is the root cause of our sorrows, doubts, fears and insecurities, which we unknowingly are passing on to our children. Roohi Saluja Of materialism, motherhood and mindfulness how do you insulate your children against the philosophy of plenty? ‘Live in an attitude of abundance,’ urge the New Age gurus. It is the most charming, almost bewitching dictum—to live with faith in the infinite benevolence of an infinite universe and to respond to all urges, however infinite they may be. The soul indeed should know no limitations, no material restrictions. Only then, fulfilled, will it learn that material is immaterial and soar forth free.The idea is enchanting. But in real life, I trip upon the concept of abundance continuously. I am the mother of two young children and parenting provides me a touchstone, a constant ‘kasauti’ for testing the gold content of a concept—and abundance, I find, doesn’t come through with 24K purity—it’s a mixture of elements, a complex compound. So how does one convey abundance as a value to one’s children? I walk into the rooms of my own children and those of their friends. Broken Batmans, abandoned Barbies, heaps of assorted board games and a collection of video game CDs are overwhelming. I think back upon my own childhood—the precious doll and shared Mechano set, whose memory does not fail to thrill! Or still further back to the languorous afternoons spent with marbles, pebbles, and sticks as playthings. Are today’s children’s abundance of playthings a lack of satisfaction, and were not yesterday’s children’s, with the abundance of opportunities for creative play and inventiveness, better off?The explosion of materialistic values all around us interferes with the picture-perfect-abundance-ideal, blurring its clarity for me. Where does abundance end and lack begin? Today with our ever-new models of faster, bigger, swishier cars and smaller, sleeker cell phones, we seem to be at the acme of abundance. Isn’t this profusion of gizmos and gadgets a huge lack—of stillness, space, silence and time? What happens between the abundant, beautiful, easy flowing mindset, and the hollow craving, engendered by an acquisitive lifestyle? ‘Simple living and high thinking,’ went the old dictum, and my own parents’ generation had no problem handing it to us as a core value. But we, with our newfound belief in ‘abundance’, get confused. As parents we are no longer clear about steering our children into choices of simplicity for we are scared that denial and disciplining will create their own set of problems, messing up their inner script in ways unintended. The value system of simplicity has been dethroned by the value system of abundance in the New Age, and there are moments when I feel that perhaps it’s not such a great gain.Excessive engagement with the material clutters up the space-time continuum, binding time and mind together into a knot, trying to lasso into life the next object of desire. And then, the next. Simplicity on the other hand, seems to have inherent in it, the opportunity for high thinking and spiritual growth. Thus as parents we need to think of ways to steer our children into choices, which are nourishing and wholesome for their spiritual growth and personal development without making them feel deprived or denied. We cannot simply wait and watch the mountain of waste, in their rooms and in their world, grow. The circle of desire can be broken but in a positive, affirmative way. We need to help our children discover the Middle Path. For instance, while eating a meal, the key to satiation lies in mindfulness, of giving each morsel respect and attention, of savouring the food fully, thereby sending messages of fulfillment to the brain. This is perhaps the way out of every material conundrum—whatever gizmo, gadget, comfort or toy, the heart longs for—let the mind be in it fully, in a spirit of delight and fulfillment. The quick rush of enjoyment which consumption brings may never yield to puritan denial but mellow feelings of satisfaction may conquer constant craving—lengthening the gap, the pause, the space between that ‘which is’ and that ‘which is next’ on the shopping list. In such a suspended moment of satisfaction, one may come face to face with what abundance truly means. Manjul Bajaj Ever watched a bird building its nest? Day by day, from the time the sun rises to the time the sun sets, the proud parents diligently collect twigs and leaves, preparing to welcome the young one on its way. And then, when the baby bird opens its teeny eyes to the world, screeching and squealing for food, watch how the mother bird gently fixes her beak in the tiny mouth, dropping the morsel, grain-by-grain—an extraordinary experience, beyond words and human telling, even impossible to capture in the lens! Such is the experience of parenting. A child is born to a couple and a family begins. If man is a social being, families are intrinsic to his survival. And yet, with multiple pressures weighing on us, while joint families is a distant phenomenon, even nuclear familial bonds are fraying at the seams. Delhi-based Dr Monica Kumar, consulting child psychiatrist at Vidyasagar Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (VIMHANS), says, “Cases of divorce and single parenting are numerous nowadays. Another common phenomenon is internal divorce. Although under a single roof, the couple stop communicating with each other and the child becomes the go-between forcing him to assume a mature role that he cannot handle.” Stephen R. Covey, motivational writer and trainer, writes in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, “Social life is fractured. We now live in a world that values personal freedom and independence more than responsibility and interdependence…escape from responsibility and accountability is available everywhere.” “It’s not that parents are unaware of their responsibility,” says Geeta Chandran, Bharatanatyam dancer and a mother of one. “Rather, they try to fill in the gaps by showering material comf
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