While on my morning run, I heard this cute sounding ad on the FM radio. It has a series of statements from children, presumably in the age-group of 12-18 years talking to their parents. The statements go like this:
“Papa, why don’t you let me meet my friends?”
“Mumma, why can’t I play with my friends?”
“Why don’t you let me be myself?”
“I scored low last year, but I will do my best to fulfill your wishes this year.”
“I am scared of both of you.”
“I feel I will break down.”
The ad ends with the punch line: Issued in public interest by Mirinda. Mirinda contains no fruit juice or fruit pulp.
You would have got the idea. Portray the parents as devils to sell your sugar and color infested product, support by a huge celebrity, who may claim after five years that he or she was not aware of the ill-effects of Mirinda. By that time their movies will be doing just fine and they may not need money from dubious endorsements.
I leave it to kids to decide whether they want the parents or the soft-drink.
But for parents, it is important to take a step back and note whether their kids see them in this category. The age-group of 12-18 is such that more often than not, parents do fall in a repulsive category.
Parents must practice Moderation
What we need is a bit of moderation. I see parents in extreme categories around me. One, the parents are so liberal that they allow anything and everything to the child. They believe saying no to any demand may harm the child’s development, at least in the initial years. But by the time, the initial years are over, it is too late to start saying no in any case. The other category of parents, say no before thinking anything. No is their default answer. Few times, they convert the no to yes after being forced to consider the situation. A very small minority of parents, carefully weigh pros and cons before giving their joint verdict.
As I referred in my earlier post, When to Say No to Kids?, when you say a carefully weighed yes or no, it has a positive impact on the child. Coupled with proper explanation it can avoid you getting placed in the category of devils. Some people may say that they don’t care if their child thinks they are badly restrictive, but in the long run, it does matter.
The thin dividing line in parenting
Even parents who spoil the child by saying yes initially due to love and later due to the precedents, regret it because ultimately, when they have to put their foot down, they become devils overnight. In such cases, the communication breaks down and the child assumes that the parents have started this new draconian era that will last forever. Hence, their best bet is to overthrow the policy at the onset by not giving in.
Coming to exam time pressures, we need to explain to the child that there is no gain without pain. The child needs to decide the amount of effort to be put in. It cannot be zero obviously. As they say, ‘You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink’. So, you will not achieve much just by forcing the child to sit in an isolated room.
As a parent, you need to work on your child’s habits gradually. If you allowed the smartphone and unlimited access to internet from sixth standard, by the time the child is in for board exams, the smartphone habits are too deeply ingrained. A board exam may look like an abrupt event from outside but it is not. Just because the child reached a particular class doesn’t mean that he or she will give up all addiction to phones or snapchat and sit for studies for many hours.
Habits start early and can last long. Please do not expect the child to change overnight in a board exam year.
Healthy habits of moderate internet, moderate friends interaction, moderate diet and moderate entertainment have to be worked upon very early on.
Be careful about how far you push your child
If you try to force a drastic change from outside, the result will be your child making one of those statements which I quoted in the beginning. Child and teenage suicides as well as the cases of running away from home are on the rise because of undue pressure from parents. Its not only the cola companies but uglier products like cigarette, alcohol and drugs that are lurking in the corner to seduce unsuspecting children.
On a separate note, have respect for the child’s abilities and interests. At the cost of sounding clichéd, I will say every child is different. If your child is good in arts and creative field, don’t try to turn him/her into a scientist or engineer. If the child is good in sports and shows promise, he/she will have to compromise on studies. In today’s world, the winner takes it all and it doesn’t pay to be mediocre.
If the child has figured out couple of areas of interest, let him/her focus on them.
In the new era driven by multiple disruptions in the way we live our lives, the traditional systems of learning and examination is losing their relevance very fast. If our children are not focused on getting 99.999 percent marks in spite of our best but gentle efforts, I think we can breathe easy as compared to the parents in 80’s and 90’s.
I am working on what to advise my kids when they are 15 and here is a tentative list you may want to add to, 15 Tips for My Children When They are 15.
Feel free to leave your comments or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
A seeker and explorer in the quest for lasting happiness, health and well-being. An MBA from XLRI Jamshedpur and a Mechanical Engineer from IIT Delhi. Has been a senior banker with large global banks like Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and ANZ Bank. Working in these demanding global institutions with a gruelling schedule and plenty of business travel. Was fortunate to realise the importance of health and wellbeing early on. Learnt and practiced many wellbeing tools and techniques to focus on his own well-being while balancing the demands of a high-profile career and a lovely family.