Sunday, April 14, 2013

Bringing Up Children

Bringing up children in today’s world is a humongous task for parents. Thanks to the information explosion due to television and internet, they are more smart and knowledgeable about everything. They seem to be clear about what they want and seem to have strong views on every subject. Especially when it comes to the brands of household products that are bought, whether it is a toothpaste or a two wheeler or even a four wheeler. It is called `kids pester power` in the advertising world.

When my son-in-law wanted to buy a new car, my 9 year old grand son had done a thorough study of selected cars and announced that his choice was Honda Jazz. His father had no option but to go for it.

A nephew of mine who is appearing for his 12th Board exam is very clear that he is going to study ‘Mechatronics’ – a new subject in the Engineering field which allows him to specialize in Robotics when he goes for his Masters degree. He has set his future in Robotics.

Thanks to the internet the children do a thorough research on any subject that they are interested in and go through all the processes involved – all online – to get what they want. Very often what they want may be contrary to what their parents want them to have – leading to conflicts and tensions in the family. The Parents`own inadequate knowledge on the subjects may add to the tension. My advice to such parents would be, if your children are clear about what they want and are passionate about something, encourage them to pursue their passion. Instead of forcing them to do what you think is right for them.

If you perceive certain pitfalls in their approach, you are duty bound to advise them and warn them but allow them to take a well considered decision so that they take ownership for such decisions and are prepared to face the consequences, if any. If you try this approach your children will surely shape into confident and focused individuals in life.

More than fifty five years ago, I decided to pursue a career in advertising – when it was a seller’s market and advertising was not even considered a career option. My father allowed me to have my way. A friend had rightly advised him that if your children are clear about what they want, do not interfere. He followed the same strategy with my younger brothers. All of us have done well in life, thoroughly enjoying the careers that each of us chose. We made our parents proud of us, during their lifetime.

Recently I was with a cousin with two teenage children – a boy and a girl. I was amazed to find the excellent rapport that the cousin and his wife had with their children. During the couple of hours I spent in their house, not once did I find them having a shouting match with their kids, for anything. Talking to the cousin, I found that one of the contributing factors for their bonhomie with the kids was the absence of a television set in the house – a major distraction for kids in any home. My cousin and his wife had taken a conscious decision that they would set an example by not doing what they did not want their children to do – so both the parents do not watch the TV at home. If at all they want to watch a movie or a video, they borrow it from a local video library and watch the same with the children on their PC/Laptop . This gives them enough quality time to spend with the kids, interacting with them as friends, rather than as bullying parents. Please remember that bullying parents are greatly responsible for their children becoming rebels.

A quote from an article on the subject by Farida Raj in the Hindu, is relevant here. It reinforces the point I have tried to make on bringing up children. She says,*The parent`s level of emotional acceptance of the child and their resulting attitude towards him/her play a leading role in laying the foundation for the type of personality the child will develop. The attitude of the parents is the most potent conditioning factor in the life of the child”.

The message I got was that the days of children blindly obeying the parents are gone! If you show enough understanding of their problems, be available to them whenever they want you and learn to trust them, children will respond positively. In other words be a trusted friend to your kids. At least one of the parents should assume that role! If that happens, bringing up children will really be a joy!

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