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Parenting fears: Is there a right way?

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Of late, we are seeing an increase in the number of students taking rash steps on account of studies, unable to cope with pressure and the fear of facing the society, including one's own parents. As is wont with the online space we are quick to take sides and debate the incidents, the merits, and demerits of various parenting styles. A classic case of 'have an opinion, express it'. Yet, for all its faults, the social media also rises in humanity to calls of distress and shows care and empathy as seen in many a case of missing loved ones being found by the virtual human chains.

So, when this delicate layer of goodness within the virtual world is ripped apart by callous attitudes, I feel disappointed and wonder about the future of compassion. The case, in this instance, is a young student who decided to walk out of her home because of low scores. It was not a step taken in a moment of weakness, we learnt later, but of thoughtful, careful planning. The trauma and trouble she put not just her family into but the entire community of strangers that helped to trace her to safety got trivialised as she spoke confidently in front of the camera accounting in detail how she travelled and survived on a shoestring budget, barely seeming repentant of her deed. The parents too seemed to be taken in by their child's ingenuity.

If ever there's a job that does not require a prior experience, provides no roadmap, is extremely demanding and confusing, it's got to be parenting.  The dividends, though delayed, are richer than the salary any job would provide, but oh boy, the journey is arduous, to say the least. Fraught with worries, self-doubt, and questions at every step and phase of the child, the parent truly grows up with the kid.

Parenting today, in a nuclear setting, means a chance to be a hands-on parent, to challenge and change archaic, rigid methods of disciplining and conscientiously nurture the generation next. Also, today, there's the internet and social media. A place teeming with articles on how to be a better parent, how to raise better kids, why the parents err, and why the children err. So, that should be make up for the lack of hands-on support, right?

That's the tricky part. While I cannot deny the advantages of having a wealth of information at hand, most of it well-researched and well-meaning, it does not necessarily make the task at hand any simpler. If anything, today, we parents face the challenges in a two-fold manner. We not only have to walk the tight-rope alone, we also do that under the limelight of the ever critical and watchful society.

We new-age parents truly want to create a better world for our children and do not hesitate to question our methods. And, while our newsfeed is filled with all the supposed model methods of parenting, we do not have the model child for whom these methods were devised or tried upon. Our child is always different. Every child is different. And, no one method can apply or fit like a glove magically.

If we critiqued the old methods of parenting, we are faltering no less than our own parents. We do not want to reprimand the child too harshly because we want to bring up empathetic people. We are careful not to question a low academic performance because we fear the child might take extreme steps and we only want to encourage progressive learning and not cut-throat competition. While these are well-intentioned goals, somewhere we are failing to factor in an important aspect.

Trusting our instincts 
We are so entangled in the external feed of what ought to be done that we have lost the connect with our internal voice. The voice that may not conform to the teachings and findings of better parenting yet might be right; right for us, for our child. We tread on eggshells fearing to make mistakes because we believe that our mistakes will cost our child's future. One moment we give in to rage at our child's mistakes and the other moment, when the inner critic seasoned with external knowledge rebukes us, we placate using rash promises. We border on extreme reactions confusing the child further.

I wonder if the girl's parents are similarly confused. If they realise the negative impact of showcasing the brighter side of their child's errant behaviour. It was such a lucky chance that she did not get into a bigger trouble, the horrifying ones that dominate the headlines these days. I wonder if the girl realised this. I wonder if we, as a parenting generation, are raising a more confused lot who want to succeed but do not wish to undergo the exacting tests in life, who want to take the easy way out and look to blame the parents and society for their stumbling blocks.

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What are your thoughts? I'd love to hear.


Comments

  1. My son is 17 and younger one 11. I can understand exactly what you are saying. It is extremely difficult to manage teens. It is like you are hit by a tornado and dont know what to do. I had read another blog which said that we should set up our children to face failure. Reprimanding for the right reasons is still important. There are some rules which cannot be broken even by rebellious teens. It is equally important ignore some behavior and to guide them as at this age, they are confused. Peer pressure is another factor here.
    I feel the parents of the girl should not have allowed a TV interview. The news would have died down. Now everyone is discussing the girl.

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    1. Latha, completely agree. The TV interview was totally unwarranted. At least we'd have remained unaware of the baffling mindsets around.

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  2. This particular situation is something that made me wonder too. On the one hand was the panic the parents must have faced. On the other is the brashness of the child who ran away and more importantly, decide to talk about it to the media. Eyeball grabbing is the way to go apparently. I would hope that our parenting is the best it can be. There is no way of making sure, unfortunately. We do what we can and hope that our kids always turn to us before they turn to the extremes as in this situation.

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    1. Really, hope so, Shailaja. There's unfortunately too much of outside influence on parenting and it's getting stressful to shut it all out.

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  3. You are so right, Uma. We are treading on eggshells now. Not only fearful of how our children will react but also because people are so quick to point fingers. Where is the spontaneity in this? Also each child is different and reacts differently.

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    1. It's tough, Rachana. We can only hope that we do a decent job of bringing up our kids.

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  4. Excellent post. Every mother has to read this ....

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  5. Parenting is perhaps the most confusing thing I have ever done in my whole life - and one with the hugest consequences. I still feel all the research in the world cannot compensate for your instincts and also for advice from people close to you who know your child as well as you do. All researches are generalisations and to that extent cannot do more than provide very broad guidelines. I think in the end we will all manage because we will temper all that we read with the values that we have been brought up with. At least I hope so.

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    1. I guess so, Tulika. If we can manage to sift only the relevant insights to our own instincts,I think we'll sail through.

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  6. Uma, the day after the girl was found, the articles in the newspapers made me furious. They were assuming things that were not true. The girl is a neighbor's friend's classmate and we know the family. We know how upset they were, and bewildered because they never applied performance pressure. In fact, they told her to take it easy... but somehow, sadly, she felt the urge to disappear.

    It must have been terrible for them, as it is, to go crazy with worry over their missing daughter, and on top of that, "experts" were talking about "bad parenting" in the newspapers and offering their own take on the situation. There were parents confessing that they would never spare the rod, which in itself was disgusting.

    Parenting with love and logic is the best way. I think one thing all of us would be better off doing is, breathe. :) Life is so much better when we're kind. Love your post, Uma.

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    1. Vidya, it must have been a terrible time for the parents and we shared their agony. Hence, the aftermath has been more painful to digest.
      Love and logic is definitely the right way. Only that these must be used in the correct proportions as our instinct may guide us. Thank you, Vidya, for your comment :-)

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  7. Completely agree with you, Uma. It's all too precarious.. What is right? What is wrong? As a parent, you will always do anything in the best interests of the child. But it doesn't turn out that way every time. However, the parents should have kept it low and not agreed for the interview which only created more havoc. I didn't follow the case too closely but was very sad when the girl went missing.

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    1. True, Latha. Sometimes even the best intentions do not bring the desired results. And, that can be frightening!

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  8. A thought provoking post. Nothing seems to work with modern-day children. Parenting has really become very demanding.

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    1. Onkar, different things work with different kids. It's best not to generalize parenting and trust the gut feeling when it comes to your own kids. Thanks for reading and commenting :-)

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  9. There is no one manual or guide to follow when it comes to parenting. Different people are wired differently. However, in my capacity as a counsellor, one thing that I have noticed is that parents devote less time to their kids and make up for lost time by pampering them with gadgets and gizmos. This exposure to technology has impact more severe than people realize - children end up having a lower attention span and lesser patience levels.

    Back in the olden days, parents didn't care about what privileges were given to Sharma Ji's son, but they wanted their child to excel in academics more than Sharma Ji ka beta. These days, parents succumb to pressure - X has an XBOX so their child must have one too. Y is going for dance classes, so my child must go to. Academics still remains important.

    It's not an easy world. I think when 2 people decide to be parents, it must be an informed decision - you must be willing to invest time and energy in the child. Money and materialistic pleasures aren't everything - somewhere down the line, I think many parents seem to have forgotten that, and that is why children are unable to learn this important lesson!

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    1. Divya, you raise an important point. We have somehow substituted time with gadgets and that's also leading to a lot of dissatisfaction and a feeling of unfulfilled demands among kids. Bring up kids is not a fancy job and needs to be taken up after much deliberation. The adults embark on a un-learning and re-learning phase as the child grows up.

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  10. open up the cocktail of your choice, make some popcorn,

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