Picture this: After hours of interactive games and rides in a certain kids’ zone, rounds of pizzas and ice-creams, the elder one is still whining for another something when we are heading to the car park. Irked and annoyed, I yell at her. She immediately takes a U-turn, tears in her eyes and joins her father who is walking a few steps behind us accompanied by our little man. I instantly feel sorry. Sorry for what I did to the happy state of my kid. But I was tired and overwhelmed, so I yelled, I justify. Okay, acceptable. But she was tired too, she whined. Not accepted by me, a parent!
In the quiet of the night I am left with some moments to reflect, to reflect back on how in certain situations involving the children I reacted with a conditioned mind, with a preconceived notion. If only I had had a neutral view of the situation, I would have been equipped to manage the situation better. I think. I regret. I learn. Better equipped to manage the flow of children’s emotions and my own.
When I said sorry today to her where my emotions had gone unchecked, I found myself receiving more love and respect from my children. I stood more connected to them. Apologizing for my wrongdoing, neutralizing the age and position factor, I modeled for them how to be courageous enough to admit your mistakes and say sorry!
I feel we new-age parents have more responsibility as compared to what our parents had had as we all happen to live in nuclear settings. Earlier the grandparents and other members of the family had crucial roles to play in such situations and in building children’s emotional foundation. But now the entire onus is on parents and more so on us mothers if I may say so.
We live in a world full of mental and social pressures. And children’s needs, particularly emotional ones, are not given much importance. Children need a patient and compassionate listening to their outbursts and feelings of tumult. Punishments, yelling being the least needed while we end up doing the very thing more often.
Children though little but still have real identities. Like adults they feel hunger and thirst, likewise they also need to vent out their feelings of anger and frustration like us adults. What best we can do for them in such situations is to give them a patient ear and a shoulder to cry on. Yes, CRY!
Because crying is perfectly normal! If somebody stamps on your foot, you let out a scream. If somebody stamps your mind, you scream, you cry. Crying has always been stigmatized as weak and unmanly for boys and sensitive and dramatic for girls whereas in stark contrast it is a sign of an individual strong enough to accept his or her emotions and express them freely showing lesser concern for social expectations. I see crying as a means to offload stress before it breaks you!! Well, it does work for me even though my better half doesn’t approve of it. However, it doesn’t make me feel weak in any way although does help in letting my pain out, making me feel light, with a clearer state of mind, accepting my situation better and getting back up a stronger person!
And today when I write this, I discover why women are emotionally strong beings than their male counterparts. “Don’t cry like a girl” is self-explanatory and hence proves our theorem. So next time my children cry and especially my son, I am going to accept it as a normal human phenomenon.
Children are fragile not only physically but mentally as well, lesser equipped to manage their emotions. The negative emotions, if we may say so, are as integral a part of a whole individual as positive ones. If I shun or shame the child for her negative emotions, I am putting her whole identity at risk. They are the saplings which need a lot of care unlike the grownup trees.
If I couldn’t help taking my angst out at my daughter in public, it isn’t fair on my part to expect her to be well behaved and conform to social standards at all times. It is unreasonable of parents to expect the little ones to control and manage their emotions on their own. I identify it as my role, as an adult and as a parent, to not only control my emotional state but to validate their experience and help them come out of their state of outburst.
Children learn from a very young age that saying ‘shut up’ is meant as an insult if not intended in a funny way. The last person who should be insulting a child is their parent. But there are times when I want to shut all that noise out and scream ‘shut up!’, fairly easy for me. Again patience check! Instead I try making them familiar with the situation that why I don’t want noise at the moment maybe because I have a headache or I had a long day and I want some quiet. And of course they do get some time off and on for screaming, yelling and messing around!
With the birth of our first child, a mother was also born, eager to learn effective ways to nurture a child. One thing that I have learned is not to scold a child when there is an audience. This is as humiliating for a child as for an adult. Of course there are certain decencies they have to maintain when there are people around but if they happen to do something by mistake, let the situation go and make them understand the importance of good behavior later on.
I don’t want my children to be scared of me. I would rather have them respect me. According to Pam Leo, a human development scholar, “The level of cooperation parents get from their children is usually equal to the level of connection children feel with their parents.” These words stayed with me and I shifted my focus on making my communication and connection with the children so strong that they do it out of care and love for me and not out of fear of punishment. If my kids do something for me out of care, love and respect, I stand winner as a parent.
In certain interactions with the kids, I ask myself whether my words will strengthen or weaken my connection with them. If the answer is weaken. I pause and think again. If the words have already been spoken, I apologize and move forward in a way that restores our connection. I perform a mental check and ask myself if I would speak to a close friend the way I am about to speak to my child. If the answer is no, I pause, take a deep breath and rephrase what I want to say.
There are certain family acceptable naughty things that my children do and say at home but once in public they know what they can and cannot do.
How we see them, they see themselves. Their image of self is formed in our seeing. Can it get more connected, more divine! That is the importance of being a parent..