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.. because to err is human, and parents are humans too! Children occupy centrestage in their parents’ lives; we do so much for our children, and try our best to give them a good upbringing. How, then, do so many children grow up ill-adjusted to adult life?
It is not our intention to demean anybody’s efforts. We hand it to you – you are doing more than just the best for your child. However, what many of us fail to realise – doing a lot is NOT the same as doing the right thing. If a plant needs to be out in the sunlight, you cannot cover it up, place it in the darkest corner of your house, and expect it to thrive. Some of us may even go so far as to saying, “How dare you say I don’t care for you? I protected you from the sun!” but is that really what the plant needed to thrive?
9 Common Indian Parenting Mistakes, and How They Affect Our Children
Here are 9 of the most common parenting mistakes that most of us commit, and ways to fix them.
1. Sorry, Not Sorry
“Have there been instances when a heartfelt apology would have meant a world of difference to me? Of course. Would I have grown up to be a more confident adult, had I been offered an apology when it was due? I have no doubt about it.” – Lukasz Laniecki, Quora
Let’s be honest – aren’t we all guilty of this one? While some of us may refuse to accept our mistake only in selective matters, many of us NEVER say sorry to our children (even when we well know we’re guilty!). One of the obvious outcomes of this is that children do not learn to say sorry. However, a more serious effect of this is that: children may develop a habit of rationalising wrong behaviour. This is going to leave them ill-equipped to become mature, and ‘adult’.
Fix It: Start with the small things. Next time you are in the kitchen and your little one comes in the way, and you scold her, apologise. It won’t come easy, and will take a lot of conscious thinking and effort on your part. But it is an important step to raise conscientious children.
2. Helicopter Parenting
Do you know names and addresses of all her friends? Do you know how much she scored on each of her class tests? Do you hover over her while she is having her meal, ensuring she finishes everything on her plate? Do you go to her sports/hobby classes and sit through them till they finish so you can observe her performance and bring her home yourself? Many Indian moms (and dads) do this; many Indian parents are “helicopter parents”.
This behaviour on our part usually arises from fear, care and love. We may mean well when we follow the helicopter parenting style as our intention is just to protect and look after our kids. However, let’s pause for a moment and think – how are our children going to survive when we are not around, if we don’t let these crucial abilities develop?
Fix It: Give your children enough breathing space, room to make mistakes, and freedom to explore life. Make sure they imbibe your morals, values, and lessons, rather than your ‘instructions’; they will automatically develop a sense of right and wrong and make good choices.
3. Dismissing their Problems/Questions
There are many things about our children’s lives that we dismiss. Two of the worst things to dismiss are our children’s questions, and their problems. Somehow it is unfathomable for us that a small child or a school-going kid can have legit problems that warrant due attention.
Dismissing our children’s questions as unimportant, irrelevant, bizarre or audacious, stunts their curiosity. It stunts their creativity. Dismissing our children’s problems as non-existential, conjured-up, or trivial, leads them to developing an inferiority complex, low self-worth, and can even affect their ideas about self-respect.
Fix It: When your child talks to you, listen. Put things aside and give your child the time and attention she deserves. Parents have their hands full and a child’s questions may be unending! But let’s make the effort to take their concerns seriously, and address their issues sincerely.
4. Treating them like a ‘Kid’
While dismissal may be more common in younger kids, this particular parenting mistake is more common in older kids. Many a time, parents refuse to see their growing children as individual human beings in their own right. They continue to ‘parent’ them, even as they start becoming independent, going to college, and going to work, and sometimes even after marriage. For many Indian parents it seems almost impossible to step out of their role of ‘parents’ and give up on their duties and responsibilities as one.
This can be damaging in many ways. For as long as you keep preparing the road for your child, instead of preparing your child for the road, you are going to leave your child ill-equipped to take on even some of the most basic challenges of life.
Fix It: Let them adult. Let them become independent. Instead of doing things for them and patronising them all the time, equip them to make sane choices in life. That’s more important for true survival.
5. Picking Inappropriate Nicknames
While most of us are aware enough to not call anybody bad names in front of the child, there is another kind of name-calling that can do equal damage.
We are talking about nicknames.
While we may not think much about them, nicknames can greatly affect a child. Being teased or given a nickname based on one’s size, colour, features, can be very damaging to the self-image of a child. Such kids may subconsciously limit their potential because they believe they are a certain kind/type of individual and hence do not deserve or are not allowed to want or desire certain things in life. For example, a fat kid may not feel worthy enough to apply for a certain job because he equates his self-worth to his size, making him feel like the job is ‘out of his league’.
Mom and columnist Twinkle Khanna agrees, “We go through Sanskrit tomes, consult astrologers and after grave contemplation decide on an illustrious sounding name for our offspring. However, the moment the umbilical cord is cut, the name immediately changes to ‘Aru’ or ‘Pintu’ or something like that! They sound cute, definitely, but when our kids grow up, they may actually find these less cute and more embarrassing.”
On the other hand, while sarcasm is a great form of humour, a child who is exposed to it since childhood can grow up to be a bitter person. He may normalise sarcasm and adapt it as a regular part of his communication, which in turn will affect the kind and quality of relationships he has with other people as he grows up.
Fix It: Do not give your children such seemingly innocent nicknames like ‘golu’, ‘dholu’, ‘sukadu’, ‘rotlu’, etc. Make a conscious effort to avoid such nicknames.
6. My Way or the Highway
This style of parenting is called authoritarian parenting. Of the different styles of parenting, this one can be especially damaging.
Many Indian parents want their children to follow certain things, do exactly as they are told, and have the same opinions as they do. The idea that our child might have different views is hugely unsettling for many of us; it is even considered a form of rebellion in India. We may do this out of a sense of protection, or because of our concept of a ‘moral and well-behaved child’. But this can be very damaging for the child’s emotional development as well as independent thinking.
Fix It: Flip your perspective. Try to step into your child’s shoes and understand where she is coming from. Realise that you don’t ‘own’ your child, and that she may grow up to be a totally different person from what you want her to be, and that’s okay! That’s not a bad thing.
7. Daily Habits
It has now been established that parents’ everyday habits – like smoking, drinking, partying, eating habits, etc. – have a direct impact on their children. While most of us might instinctively know that smoking and drinking habits of parents do encourage kids to follow in their footsteps, it might be a little amusing to think the same is relevant for eating habits as well.
This is, however, a big untapped means for us to nip childhood obesity in the bud. Imagine if we all started eating healthy, with proper portion control, and made wise food choices. Not only will our health drastically improve, we will be shaping our future generations well too.
Fix It: Be conscious and aware of the choices you make in front of your child – do you buy packaged water, or carry a bottle with you? Do you go for a second helping on the desserts? Do you get drunk or tipsy in front of your child? Children see, children do.
8. Guilting into Bad Parenting
Here are a few signs to identify this kind of parenting: do you give in to your children’s demands more often than not? Does it make you uncomfortable when your child is angry or pissed off at you because you didn’t give him what he wanted? When you try to parent your child, are you able to hold your ground, or does your child get his way? If you answered ‘yes’ to these questions, your style of parenting is ‘indulgent parenting’.
Many parents might think this is okay; it is alright to indulge your children. However, it can have serious consequences too. Overindulgence of your children will lead them to thinking that that’s how happiness is created in life – by acquiring things you want. Such children may develop compulsive behaviours, such as addictions, later on in life.
Fix It: Do not be desperate to get your child’s approval and stay in his good books all the time. Teach him how to accept a ‘no’, because life is not always going to say ‘yes’ to everything he wants. If you know what you are standing for or doing or saying is right, let your child realise this. Give your child space and time to come to terms with it.
9. Not Practicing What We Preach
This one is especially important when trying to reinforce concepts about gender roles and equality. If you say ‘men and women are equal’, your son and daughter should see that in the house. That means – your husband should set the dinner table sometimes, and you should drive the car sometimes when the family steps out for an ice-cream. That means – if you let your son sit in front of the TV while you serve him dinner in his hand, you should do the same for your daughter (although we think it would be best to NOT do it for either of them!).
You cannot allow your actions and your words to be out of sync, if you truly want your children to imbibe your upbringing. Young children may not understand the weight of your words, or their importance. But they are definitely observing you, watching your every move. We know that can be a rather stressful thought, but it doesn’t have to be.
Fix It: be more aware of your actions and words. If your child ever questions you about them, take his questions for what they are – just questions. Do not look at his questions as a challenge to your authority, but more as a reflection of your actions.
Being a parent isn’t an easy job – it requires a lot of patience, foresight and dedication, and doesn’t allow for any breaks/holidays! What you’re doing every day for your kids is amazing and we salute you. It can be difficult to sometimes take the hard decision and risk making your child unhappy or cranky. However, as parents, we need to think about our kids’ future. In the words of mommy blogger Kristina Kuzmic, “If you’re trying to do the right thing and parent your children, them not liking you is not terminal. You know what’s terminal? Them turning into entitled bratty adults that the rest of the world now has to deal with.”
Let’s fix these parenting mistakes and prevent our child from developing issues in the future. Happy mommying!