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"Parents Approach Towards the Emerging Challenges of 2010"


The modern day parent is an unfortunately frightened one! He (and I use this in a generic way) believes that whatever he does or does not do for his child in his formative years is going to cause irreversible damage and shape the child's total personality so severely, that he literally treads on eggshells while parenting. No, I don't say that parents do not contribute to their child's well being or the converse, but to believe that a parent is totally responsible for their children smacks of a certain kind of grandiosity and leads to anxiety, causing parents to flounder. They believe that one harsh word, an act of correction, will lead to their child jumping off the cliff or running away from home or will lead to irreversible damage. To prevent against that - discipline, one of the requisites in shaping behavior - is avoided. Add to that an idea that you have to 'be a friend' to your child and what do you have? A pickle - where the parent is no more one, and instead embraces a confused role where he is neither mentor nor ally and instead is unsure as to what part to play in his child's life. The child senses the hesitancy and grabs the opportunity to mess about because he sees an insecure and inadequate father/mother. So, the emerging challenge for the parent is to learn to be one! Not a floundering, unassured, ready to befriend kind. But a confident, clear headed and friendly kind. And it is important to underscore - a friendly parent but a parent nevertheless, not a friend to or of his child.

'Do as I say, not as I do' is another adage the new age parent preaches. Because he knows that there is a huge gap between what he says and what he does! Again the emerging challenge for a parent would be to minimize this gap. Between practicing one thing and preaching another. So you have adults, who don't bat an eyelid when they party into the wee hours of the morning week after week and flip channels all Sunday long, but believe that their child must be more controlled in his partying and make use of leisure more wisely. Aha, and there's where the dichotomy begins. Yes, modeling is the best way to teach. No, not the only way but surely one of the better ways. Can your child see in you what you want him to become? So easy to sermonize but so difficult to be consistent in deeds! And as that chasm narrows, the probability increases that you may be able to shape a competent and successful child.

That leads us to the next question - do we want happy children or successful children? In my years of experience whenever a question like 'What kind of a child would you like to raise' is brought up, majority state successful children. A handful express happiness as a quality they appreciate. However, the reason for this could be due to confusion between happiness and success. Most look at the terms synonymously and believe that they go hand in hand. There is an idea that a successful person is necessarily a happy one and vice versa. That one cannot exist without the other. But nothing could be further from the truth. So what then is happiness? Is it the same as pleasure and contentment? At the risk of sounding clichéd, it is not a fruit that you can cut and eat, nor is it as abstract as 'a state of mind'. It is being completely immersed and involved in something that gives delight. Thus happiness is not a passive state of being nor is it a feeling of peace, as many believe it to be. It is action towards something that brings fulfillment. But what is fulfilling for one child may not gratify another. However, do parents recognize that? And let their children be. Allow them to choose what suits their temperament and tastes? Everyone wants to be a clone. So children run to copy and imitate, leaving on the back burner their uniqueness and individuality. The challenge for 2010 would be to foster distinctiveness as a quality to be revered rather than frowned upon. That sameness will not get one too far. That listening to the distant drummer playing its tune and having the courage to follow that tune will go a long way towards the road to happiness.

Tolerance - one of the traits whose synonyms are patience, forbearance, fortitude, endurance and resilience - are cultivated qualities. The new age parent had better use whatever it takes to build his child with this. Again the best teacher being attitudes that are inculcated as the child grows. Not giving into every whim, pandering to each need, or overindulging in satisfactions is one way to go. Deprivation, usually looked upon by most parents as something to be avoided, is not a bad word. In fact, excess spoils and corrupts to the extent that the child believes that he is special, the chosen one, that when he walks, the carpet will be rolled for his highness. Unable to bear reality when nothing of the sort happens, he becomes hostile and un-adaptable. Growing with a philosophy that one will not necessarily get what one wants, as and when he wants it, is sensible thinking. It helps the child learn the value of acceptance of reality and allows him to develop patience. The value of hard work and effort is important and to teach that nothing in this world comes without effort is imperative. Quite the contrary to the patterns that may emerge for 2010. Where ease will be the name of the game. Everything becoming available instantaneously, pronto, at once.

Summing up - parenting is like tight rope walking. No one can be a perfect parent. The more you aim for that, the more anxious you will be. Enjoying rather than proving anything to oneself or to the rest of the world, will make our task of parenting less distressing.

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