Parenting is a paradox. It extols the role of a parent while condemning most parents. It recommends team participation and is practised in isolation. It promotes virtues and leads parents and children down the path of vices. There are numerous parenting manuals and tips and even hacks. Yet every child can trace some personality flaw or weakness back to the parenting they received. If the child doesn’t perceive any such challenges to their persona, their therapists might.
The global population doesn’t seem to be going down anytime soon and the stress on precious resources is intense. Yet having children is the most important life goal for most of humankind. Professional success does come a close second and may even be the first, but who besides any parent dares to publicly acknowledge that their work is more important than their children?
Parenting is now a tick on most people’s list and is accompanied by a lot of should and musts. Building on the need for a healthier species leading to a healthier planet, parenting is coming back into focus as the ground zero of all human activity. Rightly so, for it is here that the future of the species is determined, by the values, critical thinking abilities and emotional regulation systems passed on by the parent to the child will determine the nature of the actions and decisions the children take.
Why Do You Want To Become A Parent?
Agastya Kapoor, Chairperson, Agastya Kapoor Foundation, emphasizes that only happy parents can generate a happy generation.
Dr Cicilia Chettiar, HOD, department of psychology, Maniben Nanavati Women’s College (Mumbai), and a Managing Trustee in Agastya Kapoor Foundation has intensely specific views on parenting, which she considers a long-term investment. In a short interview with her, she offered a completely holistic perspective on effective parenting and mental health
The most essential question, one should know the answer to as a parent or before deciding to be a parent is: WHY DID YOU WANT TO BECOME A PARENT OR WHY WOULD YOU LIKE TO BECOME A PARENT?
Some usual answers are:
- That’s the way it is
- Everybody around you is doing the same thing
- Because of your motherly or fatherly love
- Want to raise children, feeling that I’m born to be a mother or father
- That’s the definition of a complete family
- After having children, parents evolve as human beings
- Want to have something of our own, which we conceive and produce
Can you imagine the power you are unleashing, and you are doing it just because everybody is doing it? There are also other ways of satisfying your parental urge or raising a good human being i.e. by adoption. Our urge to bring out better human beings can also be fulfilled by reaching out to millions of people around us who are in need. The importance of claiming kinship with only blood relatives is not as strongly felt by the younger generations as compared to their parents and grandparents.
We should not be against children or marriage or parents but we should be against any action without thinking and awareness. Mental health is all about awareness, and knowing the impact of what you are doing to yourself and others.
Long-Lasting Impact Of Parenting Style
We need to be aware or conscious of our decision to bring in another human being, as he/she will be consuming the already limited resources of our planet As a parent, you will be all over your child’s life — studies, career, marriage, etc. No matter what, parents are always a part of their child’s life.
Whether you are angry or happy, your every action or word impacts your child. Research shows emotional pain is more difficult to heal than physical pain. Strict or kind, every action has its effect on the child. Hurt weakens and love strengthens them but it doesn’t balance out or cancel out each other’s effect. Anger and harsh words are not the tools to deal with your child, you need to find ways to handle your child as and when needed. It is difficult but if you have chosen to become a parent then you have to do it or the child will grow as a critical adult. Events can be forgotten but feelings stay.
Parents need to understand and accept that they cannot always be right. Though unintentionally they can go wrong somewhere while parenting.
Everyone deserves respect, parent or children. Children do feel disrespected when you behave badly with them, hurt stays with them. Parenting is tiring and demanding but you need to find alternative ways to deal with your child other than abuse or anger.
It is very risky when parents connect their identity to their child because the child will grow and move in their life and then parents feel destroyed. Your sense of identity should come from yourself. Children are born through parents, not to parents. A child is not your property.
Parenting In The New Age
In this age of the digital revolution, technology plays an important part. Children spend a lot of time on gadgets. Manage the screen time of your child, Research shows that it messes up their brain. Let them go out and play, and experiment with nature. Some of the points to keep in mind when deciding on being a parent:
1. Why do you want a child?
a. To give yourself the joy of being a parent, OR
b. To give the child the freedom to just be
Most of us choose to have a child because it is the path laid down by society as normal, good, and necessary. It’s all about the adults, not everyone cares about what the child wants. It’s all about what the adult thinks is best for the child.
2. Know the outcomes
Understand the physical, financial, psychological, and practical realities of having a child. Children are at least 20-year investments, psychological and physical. There is no parenting manual, and you are very likely to make a lot of mistakes, no matter how hard you try. Be prepared to recognize, accept and correct them. Parents and children are flawed, try not to be the ones who’s pointing out the child’s flaws. The outcomes for you and your child can be very unpleasant.
3. Let your self-esteem come from yourself
Do not look for validation or fulfilment of your dreams from your child. Your insecurities have to be managed by your achievements, not theirs. You should be known for who you are, not for who your child is.
4. Parenting should be a teamwork
Don’t play good cop - bad cop with your kids. Let them not get a chance to manipulate you and your spouse based on your need to win over your kids. When it comes to certain things like values, make sure you and your spouse have the same idea and the same way to execute the idea.
5. Parenting is not a power tussle, you are the boss
You shouldn’t have to remind your child that you call the shots. Nor do you have to punish them into obedience. Your conduct can show them who the leader is, and they will also learn the qualities of a good leader
6. You will always be the voice in your kid’s head
No matter how unimportant you think you are, your kids will always have your voice guiding their decisions, well into their old age. Make sure it’s kind, not judgmental.
7. Eat right, sleep right, work right
If you don’t have order and discipline in the way, you conduct your life, don’t expect your kids to follow your orders to be disciplined. They model what they observe not listen to what they are told.
8. You don’t have to be friends in the early years
Understanding authority, the need to respect wisdom and experience for its benefits, and recognizing that your decision is final, as long as they are dependent on you – can make all the difference between discipline and selfish self-interest. It’s not about children following orders, it’s about recognizing that every situation has a voice of authority that should be recognized to ensure smooth and safe functioning.
9. Technology is not a must-have
It may seem impossible, but it is very possible. You can bring up a child without a TV and a mobile. You are the teacher along with the books. Don’t teach your kids distraction as a problem-solving or stress management technique. Technology takes away from the ability to focus and concentrate on any input that is not intensely entertaining.
10. Plan your retirement
a. Your good health is the best gift you can give your child.
b. Your financial stability till your death is the second-best gift. Don’t expect them to be around catering to all your needs. Expecting children to plan their lives and future around you indicate that they are your retirement plan.
In a nutshell, parenting requires sustained, focused attention and respect toward your child. Laughter, humour, kindness, and emotional stability are the tools that will help you navigate your troubled teens and the many challenges of growing up in a world where consumerism rather than creativity is the goal. Remember also to be kind to yourself, you have probably got a lot more than you signed up for.
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