Parenting today has changed drastically from what it used to be over a few decades ago. The rapid advent of social media, nuclear families and a radical change in lifestyle has made it even more challenging than ever before.
Ask any grandmother and she will proudly proclaim that raising seven children was a no brainer. Today raising even one child comes with a ton of baggage. Parenting has become heavy and weighs you down. And this is not because we are incompetent or don’t know better. Life has become such that we are forced to be constantly distracted, we are forced to constantly make choices and above all we are afraid to face unhappiness, in our own lives and those of our children.
And because of this, even though we may think that we are doing our very best for our children, sometimes we may be doing more harm than good. And I too am guilty of this type of “pseudo good parenting.” But does that mean I am a bad parent? Well, all it means is that, “there is room for improvement.”
Now what exactly does it mean when we ask ourselves “am I a good parent?”
Good parenting means that we are providing a stable nurturing environment where in our children thrive physically, emotionally, culturally, morally and spiritually. The first two aspects are generally taken care of, almost mechanically. However, the last three are most challenging and often face the most neglect, especially when both parents are working and the child is at the mercy of care takers.
So here is a checklist reminder to ensure good parenting habits for all of us:
This aspect deals with their diet and exercise. I think most parents strive to give their children the best of foods and exercise options in the form of various sporting activities. However, the important point here is to make sure we stress more on nutrition rather than taste. Many times in our quest to please their taste buds we often sideline the nutritional aspect, so that must be avoided. For e.g. baked v/s fried, junk v/s healthy foods etc.
The emotional quotient of children these days is so fragile that it almost seems like we are raising tea cups. Little things upset them and our guilt stricken soul always tends to give in. When we allow ourselves to be emotionally manipulated by our children we are doing not only them harm but ourselves. Cultivating mentally strong children who can face challenges in life means allowing them to fail, not giving in to every demand even if it is trivial, being frugal even if we can afford it, teaching them the importance of hard work and showing by example that life is not always a bed of roses.
As more and more Indian families are experiencing the nuclear wave, the aspect of culture is somewhere getting lost. We no more have grandma at arm’s length advising us about the details of a particular festival. Well Google has somewhat substituted the grandma void, but each part of India is so diverse in its culture that honestly, Google will never be able to completely fill that void. Equally important is, to understand that while we get swooned by the mindless Halloween trick or treat that we don’t forget Lohri. My husband tells me that when they were kids, traditionally during Lohri, they would go door to door and the neighbours would give them revadi and moongfali. A tradition no one follows now, but we are so quick to ape Halloween. Why can’t we instill grandeur and pomp into our own cultural festivals rather than blindly aping the ones outside our country? As parents, it is imperative to make sure that our children know about the festivities associated with our culture and imbibe them well for generations to follow. Festivals are one aspect of our culture. The others are food, clothing, language and lifestyle in general and it is our responsibility as parents to pass them on to our children. Now-a-days, many families in their quest to teach children English early on are failing to stress the importance of speaking in their mother tongue and it won’t be long before, just like Sanskrit, many mother tongues become extinct.
A morally responsible society can do wonders, but for that we need morally responsible citizens. Today we are those responsible citizens and tomorrow our children will become the torchbearers of this responsibility provided we cultivate such qualities in them. I don’t think there is any parent who would want their children to be liars, cheaters, envious or manipulative. So next time when we try to slip in a little lie here and a little cheating there, remember that we are responsible for building their character. Our actions make impressions in their mind and these impressions over a period of time become their nature. It is said “Don’t worry that your children don’t listen to you, worry that they are always watching you.” So be watchful of your own behaviour, be truthful and honest in your dealings with others, don’t jump the red light, don’t buy half ticket for your 7 year old and then tell the TC that he is 5 because that is exactly what he/she will do when they grow up.
This one takes the biggest back seat while trying to be a good parent. Ever noticed how children don’t ‘like’ going to any place of worship? And ever noticed how children don’t ‘like’ eating palak or doodhi? The difference is the same, the former being healthy for the soul and the latter for the body. Yet most parents will force their children to eat sabzi every day, but seldom do parents force their children to adopt spiritual practice. Why? Isn’t it as important? In fact, this is the foundation on which their happiness quotient is dependant. It is not how much bank balance you will leave them rather the spiritual values they inherit from you that will come in handy. And so, if we all want our children to be happy no matter what, let us promise ourselves one thing today, that we will engage them (our self included) in some spiritual practice on a daily basis.
And in our quest to be a good parent let us ponder upon this very important quote “Prepare not the road for your child, but your child for the road.”