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All of us would like our children to be honest with us, share details of their lives and keep us in the loop no matter how old they get. But the truth is, though we teach them to be honest, upright and true, we can’t really say the same for ourselves. Through the day, we can be sure to slip white lies or half-truths that save us from certain situations or keep the peace in a relationship. Yet, when it comes to our children we expect 100 % honesty because we believe they have no reason to hide anything from us. We got them into this world, for God’s sake, then, why can’t we expect to know them in and out?
The truth is that we are so close to them that very often we are blind to what others can perceive. We are not only blind to their flaws, but also to their gifts. We lose our sense of objectivity with them. We aren’t to blame. After all, love for your child is an over-powering emotion. But, coming back to what I was saying, any breach in trust - lies, excuses or arguments, result in us reacting emotionally. At first, we are hurt by it and then there is a surge of over-protectiveness.
“He/She lied to me. Why? How can I trust him/her to be honest with me?”
And then, “Why doesn’t my child listen? Is he/she in the wrong company? Is my child being influenced by others?”
Followed by, “I have to find out what’s running in his/her mind and set it right.”
The lie or the argument becomes all about the child and we wash off any responsibility from our own hands. Quite naturally, we believe that we have taught them the right values and given them a good upbringing. So, how can we be responsible?
But if we were to reflect, we might find that the fault lies in our reactions. Let’s take a hypothetical situation. Your son/daughter forgets to do his/her school assignment despite being given ample time. If your child were to tell you that he/she was given a remark for the same and made to stand in class. Your first reaction might have been,
“Why did you not do it the day you got the assignment?”
“You spend so much time playing down. Is it more important than your studies?”
“I don’t understand why you keep forgetting school work. You never forget to watch TV.”
Or maybe even,
“I don’t know when I will stop following up with you and you will become responsible.”
I am guilty of reaction 3. And I am not proud to say it. But the truth is if I had said, “It’s all right, but I hope you’ll remember to finish your work on time, here onwards,” he would have appreciated it more. He doesn’t need me picking on his flaws because he already knows them. However, I do believe that a little tough love is always good in matters of discipline. But, we can work towards that in stages. Otherwise, the next time around, he will lie and say that he submitted the assignment on time.
I’m not saying that he is never going to do it again. But the next time it happens, I will make sure he loses time on doing something he likes and probably the next time he forgets, he doesn’t get to make excuses and finishes every assignment the day it arrives. He won’t learn overnight, but he will learn if the same things are said with kindness.
While I give you the preachy bit of advice let me tell you a little about myself. I am a perfectionist and I believe that my son should automatically inherit my traits including my super-organized, methodical approach to work (even if it borders on obsessiveness). He should be a happy child and yet work like a machine, imbibing every bit of information from every book he reads, spewing out knowledge and making intelligent conversation while having a healthy interest in visual arts and music and last, but not the least, he must be a good human being. So, I basically want a dash of the free-thinker that Newton was mixed with the mad genius of Einstein sprinkled with some John Lennon and garnished with Nelson Mandela. But of course he must look and behave like my son.
No, I’m nowhere near handling parental situations perfectly. But, I’m learning and making my own mistakes along the way. And I would like to believe that if I gradually learn to accept his flaws and show him right from wrong and tell him that I’ll always be there to guide him, he will learn that it’s alright to make mistakes, but it’s more important to work towards improving.
We aren’t perfect and neither will our children be. We must accept that they have an identity of their own and it will take them down the path they choose for themselves. These little lies and arguments won’t amount to anything in the long run, as long as we correct them with kindness. So, let’s look at the big picture and aim to make our children good human beings whose moral compass does not deviate no matter what the circumstances or social pressures. The rest, only time will tell.