The Downside of Respectful Parenting

I was walking in the compound of our building when I came across a group of toddlers and their mothers playing in the children’s play area. It was a pleasant change to see the children playing with their Yummy Mummies rather than the usual gaggle of nannies who normally accompanied them.

Suddenly Preesha, a determined little 2½ going on 40 year old ( you know those precocious little darlings don’t you?) walked up to the slide with her favourite doll Mary tucked firmly under her arm.

Beta, don’t go on the slide with Mary,” urged the mom who looked at the exceptionally tall slide and the huge gap between the steps leading to the top. It was quite a dangerous task for a wobbly little toddler to manage without help. Normally, Preesha is accompanied by the maid who walks behind her, closer than a shadow and ensured that the little one didn’t come to any harm. But obviously there was no way Yummy Mummy could walk behind her so she did the next best thing – prevent her daughter from using the slide.

But Preesha was made of sterner stuff. She pursed her lips and marched straight on, clutching the doll even more firmly under her arm. My heart thumped anxiously as the girl took the first step.

“Sweetie, come down, please,” implored Yummy Mummy as Preesha took the second step undaunted and unfazed. With every step upward, Yummy Mummy tried to reason with Preesha to not use the slide.

“It’s too high!”

“But I want to go.”

“It’s dangerous! You’ll fall and get hurt.”

‘No, I won’t.”

“We can go to the slide in the other park.”

“But I want to go on this one!”

And the little girl teetered to the top, looked down triumphantly at her mother whose hands didn’t even reach halfway up the steps and slid down. All the while my heart was in my mouth and couldn’t imagine how such a little child (baby almost) could get away with such obvious disobedience and willfulness. Surely the mother could control her child in a better way than merely cajoling and bribing?

Seeing her friend sliding down, Amaira, the other little girl decided to follow suit. Dusting off the sand from the sand pit in which both the girls were playing, she began to march off.

“And where are you off to Missy?” said Yummy Mummy No. 2 who raised her eyebrows and changed her tone a bit.

“To slide down.”

“You can’t slide down. It’s too high and you’ll fall.”

“But Preesha did it.”

“But you’re NOT Preesha. And I don’t want you to do it.”

Amaira wasn’t too happy with her mother’s decision but obeyed her all the same.

How did Yummy Mummy No. 2 manage it, I thought. After all both mothers were friends from the same school and had babies the same age. Both mothers encouraged their children to be independent and self sufficient yet one mother had more control over her child than the other.

Apparently it was all a questioning of parenting – Respectful Parenting v Tough Love

Respectful Parenting is the modern parenting technique where the child’s little ego is respected and his wishes are of prime importance. I find mothers who rear their children respectfully are actually raising little tyrants, children who aren’t scared of their mothers or any authority for that matter. While these children may become bold and fearless adults, raising these little monsters (for that’s what they really are) is very, very difficult for the carer. Every little task becomes a major battle, exhausting the carer and the bystander with the complex negotiations that go on behind a simple task like putting on one’s shoes and going out.

Respectful parenting means  spending precious moments just arguing and bargaining with a little child who won’t listen; it means making multiple dishes for the child who eats what he wishes to eat; it means cleaning up the mess  because nothing is out of bounds.

Give me Tough Love any day because boundaries never really hurt anyone. Do they?

As a mother of two thirty-year old daughters and a grandmother of two, Sunita Rajwade has been there and done that. A hands on mom, she has seen two girls grow successfully through babyhood, toddler hood, adolescence and adulthood; solving their maths problems and contributing to their angst of growing up with a mom “who doesn’t understand”. But now as a grandmother, she’s being appreciated for her “wisdom” and “understanding” and would like to share her experiences of this wonderful journey from motherhood to grand-motherhood.