The Perks of Positive Parenting
Parenting is a tight rope walk. There are no role models because very child is unique and every parent is different. While there are hundreds of books about parenting and huge discussions, both online and offline about styles of parenting, I sincerely believe there can be no rule book. What worked for one parent and child may not necessarily work for another.
It’s the road unknown, though it has been travelled so often. While we surely can draw from the experiences of others and look up to how we were reared in our childhood, each parent will have to chart his or her own journey. So how does one parent a child for the unknown future using unknown techniques?
Society keeps throwing models of parenting at us. We have our parents, friendly neighbourhood uncles and aunts, and at times even strangers who will give you free doses of parenting advice. There will be people at random corners dolling out what you need to do with your child or for your child. The markets are abuzz with schools and organizations who claim they are giving you the best for your child.
In all this chaos, how do you sift information and do what’s needed for your child?
Believe in your child.
As soon as a child is born, we usually hear many of these statements- looks like the father, acts like the mother, just like uncle etc. While these are definitely expressed out of love and affection for the child, begin your parenting journey with the fact that your child is not a replica of the father or the mother or of any other relative. The child is an individual who deserves to grow into his or her own space.
Observe your child.
Recently I was telling my daughter, how she as a baby would refuse to be swaddled and tied up into a bundle (as is traditionally done with babies after their bath). She would fight her way out and sleep only once her arms and legs were free. She turned towards me and said,’ Amma! I think I just knew nothing can tie me down.’ Yes, even babies display their inherent personality if we care to see.
Be aware of their ideas and accept them.
As children grow up, they have their own dreams and ideas. Sometimes they follow norms. My daughter went through the Hannah Montana and ‘I love pink’ phase. My son went through the ‘ I want to be an engine driver to a car designer phase’. At no point, belittle any of these. These ideas may or may not match your ideas for them. But know that they come into the world to live their life, not yours.
Help them discover their strengths.
Society and schools are framed to show what a huge failure you are. Winners are felicitated. Rankers are awarded. Teach your child that one needs to be a winner to one’s conscience. They may or may not do well in school. The academic performance doesn’t indicate their strengths. Learn to recognise their potential. As parents, we usually focus so much on the academic part of schooling that we don’t realise that maybe that’s not what the child wants. Sports, music, dance, painting, coding, languages and so many other areas of learning may fascinate the child. Observe what the natural inclination of the child is. Strengthen this. Empower your child to make choices.
Encourage and empower
My son loves to read brochures and user manuals. He began this as a child of seven. No new equipment could come into our home without him not having read up the manual. Our initial amusement turned into thankfulness when we realised that he is the only one at home who would immediately know what’s wrong in a machine when it stopped. Today this habit has helped him tremendously. He will not debate without facts. He will ensure he has the right information before taking a decision. He will not jump to conclusions. Empower your child to do the right things.
Be a learner
This means that one needs to be aware of more than rules and regulations. While we tend to follow rules, because it’s either the ‘done for years’ thing or it’s the best we know. A parent has to be a learner. Each day your child will teach you new things. New challenges will unfold every day. Be mindful of what your children teach you. You do not have to do things just because the grandmothers of the world did it before you. While I don’t deny the value of traditional wisdom, I would advise prudence while choosing to follow everything. The ideas of yesterday may not work for the children of today.
Teach your children the importance of consequences.
They need to know their actions have repercussions and consequences. Consequences are different from punishments. Children understand and relate to consequences better than punishments. Punishments may not deter future misbehaviours. Consequences will help them know that their actions will have repercussions. Punishments make the child feel bad about him/her. Consequences make them reflect on their actions. If your child is throwing toys around, stack away the toys till he/she promises not to repeat the action. Beating him/her is no solution. You will only have an angrier child and a highly irritated you at hand.
Teach them what the right approach is when they have gone wrong. Very common statements made by parents and teachers are ‘ You could have done better!’ Such statements confuse the child. If they had known the way, wouldn’t they have done it that way? They did the task in the way they knew. A parent has to teach them the right way to do it. Simply telling them that they didn’t rise to your expectations only increases stress in them. Define your expectations clearly and also show them the path to travel.
Constantly reaffirm your faith in them.
When they are babies, we encourage them to fall and learn. But soon we get fixated with milestones. Nowadays there is immense pressure from parents on what their children need to know by a certain age. That’s not important. What’s most important is to teach them to know that everything is not about success alone. It’s about the journey. One may fall, one may fail and one may not reach the goal in the first attempt. But one has to persist and persevere. That is the key to success. A positive parent hones this skill rather than focusing on information overload in the child.
You are the safe zone of your child. Most children do not feel this. When a child doesn’t feel safe with the parent, he or she feels safe nowhere. Parents who regularly chide their children or feel that punishing them is the way out have children who will break the rules more frequently. Such children either become rebels without a cause or silence themselves. They do not confide in anyone. The parent has to be the first safe zone for a child.
Parenting is a lifelong commitment. Once a parent, you cannot reverse the role! It’s a one-way road. Tread softly, strongly and surely.
About the author
An educator for the past two decades, Priya is a postgraduate in English literature and has done her graduation and pedagogy training from the renowned Regional Institute of Education, Mysore. Having worked in reputed schools in Mumbai, she then moved on the curriculum design and teacher training. She is passionate about children and their learning. She has participated in induction of newly recruited staff members at schools and also been instrumental in training them to the required pedagogical styles of the schools. She is a voracious reader, a writer and an artist.She has also been actively involved with ICSE and IGCSE schools in curriculum development, pedagogy implementation and other aspects of teacher training. She has also been instrumental in setting up assessments and reporting patterns for CBSE schools.