The other day, members of a school board were discussing problems and difficulties that children face these days and how we can help. That evening I read an article on “The Art of parenting to bridge the generation gap”, by Swami Parthasarathy, in the Times of India, July 17, 2015. The gist of the column is that children have boundless energy and ways of thinking that are at variance with adults’ traditional views and expectations of them. Most parents want to control the thinking, feeling, and actions of their children so that they may grow up in predictive ways that are commensurate with parents’ expectations. The restrictions they pose unfortunately work in creating, in these children, the need to either rebel against authority or to withdraw into passive obedience. These two possible outcomes are negative and cause conflict in the homes and lives of these families, schools, and society. As the author says, one solution to bridge the generation gap and avoid problems, is for parents to be good examples and role models for their children to follow.
I liked the article and agree with the sentiments expressed. What I want to add to the message and as a discussion for the school board that expressed their concern about their growing children in school, are the following two points.
- It is good to be good role models for our children. What does this mean? This means much more than just a career or a list of outward behaviors that we want our kids to emulate. It means that we live a life with values that uplift us, that keep us moral, trustworthy, honest, sincere, hard-working, kind, etc. That is a long list, isn’t it? We also want to model good behavior in terms of respecting elders, the young, the poor, the hard working, public spaces, inside and outside our homes, public furniture, etc. Positive attitude goes a long way in achieving success and being positive with our family, our work, our children, workers inside and outside our homes, friends, and even negative people, can be very instructive and therapeutic for our children to see, practice, and imbibe. What I want to stress is that generally, we like our children to be good students and to do well in their careers, but we tend to forget that all these other aspects of ‘being’ are equally, if not more, critical.
- Next, I want to emphasize one more thing. When we were growing up, that was a very different time than now. What with all this technology at our disposal, the different pressures of conforming to the ideals of young groups of friends, and media and film portrayal of societal values or lack thereof, times have drastically changed. Traditional parenting style was to tell the child what to do and to expect complete or near complete obedience from them. Parents generally knew what was good for their children and even now, we probably know what may be more appropriate for our children. But, is that always so? Our children are exposed to many other ways of being, thinking, feeling and behaving, many other types of careers than we had options for, many other types of relationships than what we knew, and generally many more choices than we ever could dream of. So, nowadays, with information being readily available through smartphones, laptops, and tablets, children have greater aspirations for themselves than we can imagine and they are much better informed than we could ever hope to be then and even now!
Definitely, how we were brought up by our parents and taught by our teachers, I might add, is not the same as how we should bring up our children. Would you say that we know what is best for our children? Do we have a right to dictate our aspirations for them, to them? In other words, do we have a right to stifle, or curtail, the creative ambitions of our children just to satisfy our perceptions of life and responsibility, and our ego? Even if expecting them to be like us, seems like the right thing to do, there is nothing to stop society from galloping ahead and for our kids to be influenced by these pressures. Rather than let them sink or swim on their own and/or be at loggerheads with them, we could be more open-minded and develop and easy rapport with our kids.
What we as responsible parents could do is to expose our children to the life values, some of which I mentioned above, and to instill in them the confidence and positive attitude that will carry them forward in their lives. What we can do is to guide and facilitate their development, offering them the tools, means, and our care, love, and support and be there for them when they need us. Yes, we can surely tell them what we expect and hope for them. However, despite our sincere efforts to convince them otherwise, if our children have other aspirations and want to follow their dream, can’t we bring ourselves to accept that? Sure, some of us will say! But, it is hard to know what and how to be a parent that is sensitive to their children’s unique needs rather than be a traditional authoritarian one.
Being authoritarian and traditional is not bad, but there is a place and time for that style and it is best to try and tweak our attitude and expectations with the times.
Hopefully, I will be able to shed some light on this topic in my next blog.
Take care, happy reflections!