Even though I am not a dog-lover or an owner of a pet, I have always been fascinated by the interactions of a dog with its human family. I have also been keenly trying to decipher the behavior of a child with her family and vice-versa. Most of the time, in my experience, the dogs come out as well-behaved, obey the command, eat and excrete well, are mostly in good mood and are playful or relaxed. Whereas the human child is a constant source of apprehension for the parents and family. If you take the case of a two year old toddler, the mommy is constantly running after him to feed him, potty training is a hassle, communicating what the child wants and what the parents expect is a challenge, putting the child to sleep in tough and every night passed is a task well done. I wonder why the experience of raising a pet appears to be better than that of raising one’s own child. I may qualify this statement with the fact that I have only experienced raising kids of my own, so this is at best a hypothesis, which you should feel free to refute in the comments section.
Further thinking (there are few days when you feel like thinking about such stuff!) revealed a few pointers which I would like to throw open for discussion:
- While we don’t expect much from a pup, we start expecting the sky from very early stages of our children. Right after the first year, parents are anxious about when the child will walk, when the teething will start, when the child will start speaking properly and so on. There are a million expectations based on what we are told by elders, friends, books and social media. In spite of everyone qualifying their advice with “Every Child is Different”, the advice is taken as gospel. Right from keeping a close tab on the sleeping hours to feeding adequate food (actually, more the better) and monitoring the quantity, frequency as well as quantity of potty, the modern family is paranoid about how the child is developing. In fact, all the other points below can be clubbed under expectations. Whereas, a pup is not expected to do anything but surprise surprise, it eats the right amount of food without prodding, sleeps adequately on its own when it feels like and attends the nature’s call whenever it wants.
- Attachment and Freedom . Granted that people become attached to the pups as they develop into dogs but the level of attachment to our kids is understandably millions of times more. This attachment leads us to poke our nose into every aspect of their development to the extent that we become control freaks. A child, being the free individual he is, loathes being under any kind of control. A pup on the other hand is given more freedom within the confines of the home to explore whatever it wants. Some amount if control is necessary for the human child for training as well as safety but we end up imposing far more control than necessary. In many cases, where the doctrine of freedom is taken seriously, the child is spoilt with extra-freedom. These parents believe that even controlling the blatantly undesirable behavior of the child will inhibit his growth. The result is a brash child with little regard to discipline and rules.
- Extra Support. Human children are being provided more that required support in every aspect of life, which is making them progressively weak when it comes to handling the challenges of life. Many parents I come across, stand in the way of child becoming independent. Just because you have money and you can afford it doesn’t mean that you let your child grow weak. In middle class and higher segments of society, kids are learning to be independent later than the right age. With fewer kids (one or two) and higher income, parents can spare more time for the child. In many cases, this extra care is not helping the cause of the child. I see parents following the child in garden with a snack-box. If the child is hungry, he will eat. Period. We try to feed more than what the child needs, economize on their physical activities, provide gazettes from an early age and push them less to select the right foods. Whereas for a pup, we select the right dog-food and restrict any wrongful eating. Why can’t the same be done for our own child?
- Preparing for the rat-race. As much as I may not like it, I am preparing my kids for the upcoming rat-race of life. In fact, the rat-race has already started by the time the child is five. It is so much ingrained in our thinking that for most of the people (including myself), it is impossible to think of a different way of life. Sometimes, when I am in a good mood, I feel that the rat-race is futile but then, almost immediately, the ‘realities’ of life seize my imagination. Whereas for dog, there is no rat-race. It can afford to be a dog whole of its life.
- Living our own life, Again. Most parents are trying to live their lives again through their children. They don’t want their kids to go through the same difficulties they went through. They want their children to have all the facilities that they didn’t have. They want their children to start from a higher platform vis-à-vis from where they started. The list is endless. Alas, the real world doesn’t work like that. There is no guarantee that the child will achieve more than the parents in spite of all the facilities and luxuries thrown their way. In fact, I am afraid, it may work in opposite manner. For high achieving parents, in my view, the child may even fail to preserve what the parents accumulated. In a popular dance show on television, I noticed that all the exceptional dancers came from lower middle class families and in most cases their both or one parent was against them pursuing their passion. These challenges made the participants’ resolve stronger. On the other hand, in my society, I see parents sending their children to twenty thousand different kinds of classes and pushing them to win competitions. May be they are right, May be they are not. But coming back to our point, the lucky pup doesn’t need to go through all this. And we are fine with it.
The result of all these factors is a much happier, loving and caring dog whereas our own children are stressed and irritable. Their ability to take the blows of life getting hampered permanently, they need constant support from their well-to-do parents. Recently, I read the book – Millionaire Next Door. It describes the role of parents’ attitude in developing independent children beautifully. Highly recommended for all parents.
P.S.: When I started reading the book Millionaire Next Door, I was expecting a few tips on becoming one but I ended up learning much more about parenting!
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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.