Your role as a parent!
Most of us take our role as a parent way too seriously. We feel completely responsible for our offspring’s welfare. We consider it our duty to guide them in all aspects of their lives. After all we are the parents; we know what is best for our children. If we will not guide them, who will?
All these arguments are well-intentioned and I have no issues with these. But in our desire to do the best for our children, we forget to give them ample doses of love, affection, and understanding. We think that too much love would spoil them. We believe in discipline more than understanding.
In my view, all that we parents ever need to do is to provide generous dollops of love and acceptance to our children. In the absence of a warm and loving atmosphere, no child can ever achieve her full potential. Even discipline does not really work in a hostile environment. In my practice as a life skills coach, I come across individuals with low self-esteem, which stems from their childhood. Unless the home atmosphere is warm, caring, safe, protective, and friendly, a child cannot be self-confident. And as you well know, self-esteem is the most critical factor in achieving success in life.
Don’t Kill Their Enthusiasm
When we like ourselves for what we are, we are more likely to work hard and achieve more. Observe your children. Your encouraging, loving words are their biggest motivators. The moment you put them down, their enthusiasm to do anything vanishes in thin air. If your children are not doing well at school, first look at your home environment. Be objective. Ask yourself; are you the cause of their poor self-esteem? Most of the times, we unfavorably compare our children to their friends. What do you think it does to their self-image? We think that by shaming them, we are motivating them to excel. We couldn’t be more wrong. Apply this rule to yourself. Do you strive to work harder if someone ridicules you? No. You would build up frustration, and anger towards that person. That is exactly what is happening in your home. Pay attention to it and take corrective measures.
My favorite line is a cry from a child, “Mum, love me the most, when I deserve it the least.” This line haunts me. Yes, when we think that our child does not deserve any love because he has been naughty, disobedient, destructive, or a failure; that is when she needs our love the most. Our job at these times is to trust our children and help them discover the talents, abilities, resources, and the personal best that is hidden behind their rough and unappealing exteriors.
We feel let down and disappointed by our children, if they do not tow our line. We label them as ‘difficult’ children. Have you ever wondered if the children feel the same way about us as well? Have we ever given unconditional love to our children? Why do we always have to be judgmental at every step? Our parenting years (and our children’s ears!) are full of ‘good boy’, ‘bad boy’, ‘good girl’, and ‘bad girl’ at each step and after each action. From praise to disgrace, such adjectives confuse children. Their self-worth fluctuates from minute to minute.
Look at their strengths – Not flaws!
Our 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. We do not focus on their good qualities, assets, and strengths, especially when these do not meet with our pre-conceived notions of what is good and what is bad. If we are constantly reminded of our shortcomings, we start believing in them. Our children do the same. By telling them about their strengths, we help them believe in themselves. Their worth increases in their own eyes. They feel capable of making a difference in the world. This empowered attitude leads them to success in whatever field they choose.
So let us get out of our cocooned worlds of expectations and reasoning. Let us pay more attention to playing with our children and understanding them. The time spent together with them is something that we should treasure more than anything else. I believe that our children are our ‘gurus’. There is a lot that we can learn from them. Just observing them is an education by itself.
Are we ready for this new challenge?!?
The first step towards meeting this challenge is spending quality time with your children. Children love to do things with their parents. They feel most loved when their parents make time for them. Otherwise they feel disconnected and empty from inside. So play with your children, do activities like cooking and running errands together. Talk to them about ‘their’ day and ‘your’ day, and see them blossom.
Children also feel loved when you do things ‘for’ them. Make a special breakfast for your son, or help your daughter study for a test; teach your child how to ride her bike. But remember that there is a fine line between doing too much for your children, and doing things as an expression of love. Let them do for themselves what they are capable of doing. Just be flexible with help. Don’t make them entirely dependent upon you.
Some children love to hear words of praise or other affirming statements such as ‘I love you’. Sometimes the words you use can make or break your child’s spirit. Your kind and encouraging words can lift your child up, while harsh words spoken in anger can wound a child. Try sticking sweet notes in your child’s Tiffin box, highlight her/his talents and achievements, and create a special nickname for your little one. These gestures will boost the confidence of your child.
Some children are particularly cuddly. They like to be hugged, while some others do not wish to be held. Such children need physical contact to feel loved. Some parents find it extremely difficult to be physically affectionate with their children because they themselves were never loved that way by their parents. If your child keeps hanging on to you or constantly touches you, it is a sign that she needs to be hugged, kissed, and patted on the back. Even tousling their hair, or wrestling with them will satisfy them.
What is the role of gifts in bringing up your children? Most children appreciate receiving gifts. Their faces light up, they talk animatedly and cherish their gift for a long time. A gift need not be expensive to be special. But do not give gifts to substitute for your time, hugs, affirming words, and things done for your child. Then it becomes a bribe; let us not bribe our kids. A child whose emotional love tank is full will be more responsive, co-operative, and happier than the one whose tank is always devoid of love.
So, pay attention to your children. Listen to their requests. Pay attention to their complaints. Be patient with them, and understand what they might need from you. After all, love is the foundation of every child’s happiness and sense of security.
Let us re-visit Kahlil Gibran’s famous poem in The Prophet.
Your children are not your children.
They are sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
Which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams!
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward, nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of infinite,
And He bends you with His might.
That His arrows may go swift and far!
Let your bending in the Archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
So He loves also the bow that is stable.
Chitra Jha is a healer, writer, corporate trainer and verbal ability instructor.