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May 19 2012

“PARENTING” – How much is TOO much?

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topnews.aeIt has been in my mind for couple of days now and I finally decided to word my thoughts about it. I have been thinking extensively about PARENTING, specifically from Indian context. When I say India, I am precisely referring to the structuring of the families, cultural and value system and our age old traditional legacies of INDIA.

All would agree that parenting is one of the toughest jobs and more so it has to be done well. Parents take care of all the things for kids when they are small and nurture them with intent to help them to be the best possible adults. Though, as I did share last time that I am not a parent yet, but I have many parents around me – my friends, relatives, neighbors, colleagues and many more.

I get to observe them and by the virtue of being able to compare the various styles of parenting of different parents, I feel that I have created my own understanding about the process.

Oh yes! You read it right! To me, Parenting is perhaps a process, which needs to move gradually from one stage to another, evolve from one phase to another. It has to be followed with certain considerations, keeping the desired outcome in mind. You cannot call something a process unless you know what is desired out of it and what inputs would it take to get the desired result. I am attempting to seek an answer to a very basic question about parenting – How MUCH is TOO MUCH??

This question is primarily from Indian context since we as a nation have changed a lot in last few decades. But did we evolve when it comes to parenting? Are we flexing ourselves to adapt to the changing eco-system or are we clinging on to the belief that ‘if my parents did an okay job with me then the same parenting style would work for my child as well?’

We must accept the fact that Change is inevitable. Our bodies change, our environment changes, technology changes, and our parenting skills MUST change with the times or we will have difficulty. We must look at these simple changes and then extrapolate that something is at work here bigger than us. “CHANGE” is happening hence our parenting must change. I would consistently make mistakes once I become a parent and will consistently make more mistakes as I become a grandparent. Parenting in 2012 is clearly different that 1912 and it will be much different in 2112.

From all my observation and studies, I have learnt that Recognition is a key in parenting. Recognition not of the acts of the child, but recognition of our defensive posture, our fear of doing the wrong intervention, and we must STOP externalizing blame on everything from teachers, friends, facebook, i-pads and McDonalds!
Parenting is taking responsibility. Taking responsibility – not for your children, but first and foremost for yourself.

When we recognize change and how technology has impacted everyone’s lives, as well as the want for immediate gratification (which is occurring faster and faster), then we can modify our parenting. But the question here is – How do we modify parenting? I think we need to know first  –  What are we doing? How are we fairing in what we are doing? If we are doing something completely wrong, then what is the right way of doing it?

I would share an interesting comparison done by Dan Neuharth (www.controllingparents.com). It is an attempt to depict a differentiation in the way families behave. This comparison will answer some of the questions above –

Read on:

HEALTHIER FAMILIES

CONTROLLING FAMILIES

NURTURING LOVE CONDITIONAL LOVE
Parental love is relatively constant Parental love is given as a reward but withdrawn as punishment
Children get affection, attention, and nurturing touch Parents feel their children “owe” them
Children are told they are wanted and loved Children have to “earn” parental love
RESPECT DISRESPECT
Children are seen and valued for who they are Children are treated as parental property
Children’s choices are accepted Parents use children to satisfy parental needs
OPEN COMMUNICATION STIFLED SPEECH
Speaking honestly is valued more than speaking a certain way Children are told things like “Don’t ask why” and “Don’t say no”
Questioning and dissent are allowed Questioning and dissent are discouraged
Problems are acknowledged and addressed Problems are ignored or denied
EMOTIONAL FREEDOM EMOTIONAL INTOLERANCE
It’s okay to feel sadness, fear, anger and joy Strong emotions are discouraged or blocked
Feelings are accepted as natural Feelings are considered dangerous
ENCOURAGEMENT RIDICULE
Children’s potentials are encouraged Children feel on trial
Children are praised when they succeed and given compassion when they fail Children are criticized more than praised
CONSISTENT PARENTING DOGMATIC OR CHAOTIC PARENTING
Parents set appropriate, consistent limits Discipline is often harsh and inflexible
Parents see their role as guides Parents see their role as bosses
Parents allow children reasonable control over their own bodies and activities Parents accord children little privacy
ENCOURAGEMENT OF AN INNER LIFE DENIAL OF AN INNER LIFE
Children learn compassion for themselves Children lack compassion for themselves
Parents communicate their values but allow children to develop their own values Being right is more important than learning or being curious
Learning, humor, growth and play are present Family atmosphere feels stilted or chaotic
SOCIAL CONNECTIONS SOCIAL DYSFUNCTION
Connections with others are fostered Few genuine connections exist with outsiders
Parents pass on a broader vision of responsibility to others and to society Children are told “Everyone’s out to get you”

In my opinion, if parents find themselves on the other side of the road of having a healthy family, they can take steps to correct the actions that can cause more harm than good to the very ones they are trying to love and protect.

I will share more on this topic with a specific focus a particular type of Parents – HELICOPTER PARENTS. This section will be published next week.

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