As a corporate professional, one’s mind is attuned to think in terms of expectations, KRAs, deadlines, quality etc. as means to attaining success. This is likely to have a spillover in your personal life because every challenge becomes a matter of your honor and an opportunity to prove your capability. Because you are used to accepting professional challenges you take your parenting tasks equally seriously and embark upon completing them with similar vigor as you would do your professional tasks. Gradually, you realize you are exhausted and frustrated at the same time. You set certain expectations of yourself and your kid. When they are not met with, a sense of failure sets in. You feel that your efforts have not been acknowledged by your kid. You become even more desperate to get your kids to fall in line with your demands. You find yourself working harder but achieving lesser as a parent. It becomes like a viscous circle where one failure leads to further effort; but increased effort does not always result in expected results; thus with your expectations not met, there is a heightened sense of failure. And the cycle goes on. The extent of this vicious circle is severe for working mothers, who are continuously juggling between roles at work and home.
My appeal to all such mothers is to chill a bit, sit back and think about their situation like this – Your child is not your boss. He has a simple expectation from you i.e unconditional love and support. All that she expects of you is to be there whenever she turns around. And vice versa, you are not your child’s boss – you are her caretaker, guardian and a facilitator. So getting upset over showdowns with your kid is just a sign of your weakness as a person who takes life too seriously.
Fear no Judgment
Your child is not a job that has been handed over to you. She is a blessing from God who has entrusted you with the responsibility to nurture her. There will be challenges in this journey, but do not let “what other people will think” be a governing factor for your parenting style. Every parent wants their child to do well in life, yet every child is unique. Thus it is imperative for us parents to understand that the yardstick of success for every child will be different. It’s like when you have two kids, you realize that you cannot compare the siblings in the same household. Then how is it even fair to compare two children in the same class or school. There’s no doubting the fact that you ought to do our job as a facilitator to the best of your capability. But it’s not fair to take the task of making your child excel in different aspects of life as the sole objective of parenthood. Let not, “What will people think or say” be the guiding light for your strict or stern -behavior towards your child. As long as you are giving your best of efforts for creating a healthy environment for your child’s growth you need not worry about setting performance goals for your child.
To tell you a personal experience, I have often feared myself as being judged for being an in-efficient mother as far as my son’s eating habits are concerned. He was just not interested in eating anything. I would turn paranoid worrying about his inadequate diet. I had observed other parents distracting their kids through television cartoon or other electronic gadgets and get them to gulp food down their throat. For a certain duration of time I too retorted to such ways of thrusting food down his system. It helped me draw a nice picture in terms of how much food I had put into his system in terms of quantity. But I knew this habit wasn’t going to do any good to him in the long run. I consulted my son’s course coorinator and presented my case to her. She gave me a simple plan to follow. Her suggestion was that instead of thrusting a meal on the kid, I prepare him for the same and let him eat on his own. He may not eat the full portion, but let whatever goes into his mouth be through his own hands. This would require a couple of days’ patience to refrain from getting frustrated and worried about an amount of food the child is having.
I followed this advice verbatim and stopped putting anything in my son’s mouth with my hands. I would prepare him mentally to have food by telling him the importance of having good food at the right time. I served him food along with other members of the family. Obviously he did not yield in the beginning. A bite or two and he would be bored out of his meal. I would simply put the plate away and proceed with other activities. Two such days of insufficient meal and I was being nagged by my in-laws for being too harsh on my son. But I did not give in to the pressure and continued with my insistence on him having his food on his own. Slowly my little boy has begun to yield. He comes back from school and asks for his lunch, sits down to have his lunch on his own. His portion size is still not up to the mark, yet is good enough to not cause any serious health concerns.
I might sound like contradicting myself from the popular “Unconditional Love & Support Theory” of motherhood norm. But sometimes just stepping down or taking a backseat helps you look at the larger picture and nurture a better relationship with your child.
I heard this from one of the facilitators at my son’s school. So the story goes like this – A friend (who we will call Pradeep) of this story teller had an eight year old daughter (let’s call her Tia), who was in the habit of waking up late for school. Pradeep was fed up of rushing through the morning ablutions with Tia and then just managing to reach the school on time. Everyday he had to accompany Tia to school in a private cab because she had missed the school bus. Subsequently, Pradeep would himself get late for the office. So fed-up was he that his entire morning would go in rushing and cursing his little girl. No amount of scolding led to a change in her behavior. During a general chat session, when the school facilitator a friend of Pradeep came to know about this scenario, he suggested Pradeep to a course of action the next day.
So next day Pradeep and his wife tried waking up Tia a couple of times and after sometime they stopped doing it. Pradeep got ready for office and sat down to have breakfast. The girl noticed that her parents were not bickering on her waking up anymore, felt suspicious and walked upto her father.
“Dad! Aren’t you going to ask me to get ready for school?”
“No Dear! No use rushing now. You have already missed your chance to catch your bus. So enjoy your holiday”
“But Dad!There still is time. If I rush we can make it to the school by cab.”
“Sweetheart I have an early meeting today. Can’t drop you to school and your mother can’t leave the home cause there’s your younger brother to take care of”
“But Dad! We can’t miss school. It will be an unplanned leave. I will be fined for this. Please give me 5 minutes I’ll get ready and please drop me to school.”
But Pradeep as advised by his friend remained very firm and refused to give in. He rather added – “Tia dear! I also need to tell you that for the next one week I will have to leave for work a little early. So I will not be able to accompany you to school. Your mother feels it’ll be unsafe to let you go alone in the cab. So I suggest that you put in an application for a leave the entire next week.”
As per Pradeep’s wife’s account, Tia seemed thrilled at a leave out of nowhere initially, but as the day progressed she started missing her routine at school and began to trouble her mom to drop her to school. The mother explained to Tia that the time to enter the school was over and now she would not be allowed entry.
In the evening when Pradeep returned home, he checked with Tia if she had enjoyed her holiday. Tia was aghast and replied with a new tantrum saying I missed a day of my studies and all the fun with friends because you refused to drop me to school. Pradeep did not react. In a very composed tone, he replied saying that he had a job too and needed to get there on time, so he is very sorry that he will not be able to continue to take her to school via cab and retired to his bedroom.
The next morning, to the parents’ surprise, Tia woke up herself and got ready on her own in time to catch the bus. Pradeep asked her very nonchalantly, “What was the need to hurry? You are not used to getting up early and getting ready” To which the eight year old wise Tia replied, “Dad! I was missing my friends and fun activities at school. If you are in a hurry to go to your office, I better catch the bus to school.” Tia turned around seeking her mother, who had volunteered to accompany her to the bus stand; and Pradeep sat their smiling.
A quick analysis of the day that had just gone by, Pradeep realized that months of shouting and nagging could not do what a day of silence but firmness had done. All that he had done was, step back a little, and control his urge to get worried about missing a day’s school.
It may not be implied that the scenario elaborated above will always yield the same results in the same time span. But the idea is to understand that let not any matter become a tussle of the ego with your child. Children have a higher sense of self respect or ego if you please to call it so. Do not hurt it by overruling it. Yet establish rules that will help them to respect your decisions and make their own decisions in the right direction.