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Give Them Your Love, but Not Your Thoughts

I had a tough time driving the girls back from school today. It’s a challenge most of the days. I have to bribe them daily to sit quietly in the car and behave so that I can drive them home safely. But at this time, the girls are a bit sleepy, tired, and a little hungry too. In short, they’re not in their best of moods.

Today, while coming back Dhvani out rightly refused to share her box of goodies (the bribe) with her friend who usually accompanies us while driving back. Not just that, few minutes back she was happily feasting on her friend’s snack box. Now she was refusing to return the favour. The little friend was in tears throughout the way requesting Dhvani to share a little. Dhvani didn’t budge.

I kept reminding her that sharing is good, but she refused to change her mind. I tried to lure her with a promise of a new gift but that just made her more upset. My constant prodding made her more irritable and then she burst into tears asking me to hold her. With steering wheel in hand, I couldn’t do that. We somehow managed to reach home.

“Dhvani, I didn’t like the way you behaved today. And I am very sad.” I told her the moment we stepped inside the house.

By this time her crying had subsided a bit. She hugged me tightly and assured me that it will not happen again. She even promised that henceforth she will share all her toys and things with her friends. She even agreed to say sorry to her friend when they meet next time. Sobbing and clinging to me, she kept repeating those words.

This incident got me thinking. I observed that whenever I try this emotional angle with my kids it often works. I find myself telling them that if you do this I shall be happy and if you don’t then it will make me very sad.

But is this right? Making kids comply to our definition of acceptable behaviour.

I have a feeling that it’s not. Sometimes, I hide behind the excuse that handling twins is so tough so it’s okay for me. But this has to stop.

Kids don’t come with a user manual and as parents it’s inevitable that we’d make mistakes while bringing up our children. Unfortunately, many of these mistakes can have irreversible impact on a child’s psyche. One of the biggest blunder a parent can do is impose his or her ideas, thoughts, and pride on the young impressionable mind.

We don’t shy away from telling our kids that their certain behaviour becomes source of embarrassment for us. How often have you heard a mom or a dad telling this to their young kids —

“When you misbehave, people think that your mom didn’t teach you anything.”

These words seem harmless. But the consequences usually show up years later. And by that time it’s too late to undo the damage.

From a very early age, we start burdening our kids with the responsibility of parental pride. Comparing them with others and unloading our half-baked ideologies on them results in only one thing — damage the process of the flowering of their natural talents. We unknowingly make our children a means to achieve our own borrowed dreams and hollow ambitions.

In their innocence children start believing that their parents’ happiness is tied to their acts and that mounts a tremendous psychological pressure. Becoming a reason for their parent’s unhappiness gives rise to guilt — the most destructive of all human emotions.

I know, issuing commands —  “Don’t Cry,” “I‘m ashamed of you,” “Because I said so” — does give a feeling of control. But it’s short lived.

Asking a child to bottle up her emotions could be detrimental to her mental health. Even if their screaming voice is driving us nuts we need to realize that it is important to allow the kids to vent their anger and then make peace with it.

Recently I have also found myself using phrases like “I m  proud of You” and “Good Job” to appreciate their efforts. I use these terms as blanket statement of encouragement. However, I assume a better way would be to say that “You did a great job” and then follow it up with few questions like —

– What made you do so?
– Why did you choose that?
– How did you do it so wonderfully well?

This gets the child thinking and opens up more channels of conversation between you and her.

Kids may demand thousand things but they just need on thing from us — Patience. Children model what they see and when we parent them with patience, we model respect, empathy, security, and good self-esteem. So, when  we “Stop, Look, and Listen” to our child, we show her that she is important, that we believe in her, and that we have empathy and compassion for her feelings.

If I had to put my finger on one thing that can transform parenting, it would be this — take the ego out of the equation. Your kids are not your kids. They have come through you but they don’t belong to you. You’re just a trustee of mother nature for bringing up her children. If you think I have just said something profound, then they’re not my words. They come from Khalil Gibran who said —

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.