"No one knows my child better than me" is the line I have heard a million times while talking to fellow parents. But I am not particularly fond of that line. Because in the urge to prove ourselves right we prove our children wrong!! Let me explain. These are some real life situations I have witnessed (with fictitious names):
6yr old Aarav is sitting for lunch in his aunt's house with his cousin. His cousin asks for one more helping of carrot halwa. Aarav eyes the delicious looking halwa noticing which his aunt offers it to him. Just when he is about to accept his mother intervenes with "Oh, Aarav never has carrot halwa at home, infact he hates carrots". Aarav quickly takes his outstretched hands back and smiles at his aunt, after which his mother continues talking with his aunt for next 15 minutes about how Aarav is such a fussy eater and how he doesn't like to try new food at all.
8 year old Tanmay is about to start his homework. He takes out his book and begins to write. Just then his mother starts complaining to the neighbour about how her son hates doing his homework and how she has a very tough time getting it done from him. Tanmay slowly closes his books and runs out to play.
3 yr old Mahika has gotten into the habit of pulling people's hair. Whenever she goes near strangers her mother warns them loudly about her daughter's habit and goes on to further explain how she has got this genes from her husband's side of the family and how she has always been like this since a toddler.
15 yr old Vishal meets guests at his home. After customary greetings they enquire about his ambitions for his future. Even before he utters a word Vishal's father starts talking loudly about how his son wants to become a doctor and how he is a very shy child who doesn't talk much with anyone. To that he adds one more line- " I know my Son better than anybody and I know what's good for him".
All the parents reading this, please don't get me wrong. I have no intention of judging anyone. Neither am I that perfect parent who has never been in one of the above mentioned situations. But almost every time, I have bitten my tongue in regret and wondered why my instinct to prove to the world that I know my child like the back of my hand completely overpowered my ability to think and say what would be beneficial to my child and apt for the situation.
As parents we often have this strong desire to prove to the world that we can accurately predict our children's thoughts, actions and behavior most of the times. This is also the truth in most cases. But I find myself asking these questions again and again. Do we really need to prove that as a part of good parenting skills we almost always need to know each and every thing about them? Do our children really benefit from this? Does our constant need to know their every move, every single time do them any good or is it counterproductive? Cant we just relax and give them a benefit of doubt? Why can't we resist judging them for everything that they do? If my son hates kidney beans doesn't he have the freedom of loving it someday? If my daughter doesn't like yellow colour, can't she choose that colour ever again?
I have often noticed how parents are so eager to fit their children into convenient boxes which suit their personality the most and tick them once done. Some examples:
"Oh, my little one is a fussy eater. He eats only potatoes and onions. He hates everything else"
"My child hates music, he can't stand it."
"My daughter loves purple. So I make sure everything from her clothes, to bag to hairbands to bracelet is in that colour. Otherwise she throws a tantrum."
The moment they protest to fit into the boxes we give them, we either admonish them or find a new box to fit them in. It is neither fair to them nor to us. Here are some reasons why:
Our children don't need to fit in the personality moulds that we or anyone else provides them.
They have the freedom to change their tastes, reasons, choices and decisions at any given point of time.
Their ability to adapt to situations should not be restricted by our continuous reinforcements of their tendencies.
We as parents should feel confident of our parenting skills without having to prove them time and again.
Just knowing what our children are going to do or say next does not make us better parents.
Our children come to this world through us. But they have every right to shape their own personalities in the way they want.
Its not correct to judge our children all the time just because we are adults and are their primary caretakers. Can we handle being judged all the time for everything that we do?
We have this responsibility towards our children to encourage what is best for them irrespective of whether we approve of it personally or not.
Lastly our children have a life of their own in this world. Even if it is our duty to guide them, they have every right to live it in their own terms, by their own rules without being forcibly influenced by us.
In this light, I want to say that even if I know and understand my child better than anyone else that alone does not prove that I am a good parent. On the contrary I would rather admit that there are many things that I don't know about my kid, and I would very happily discover them one by one, especially if he willingly leads the way.