The Tough Call To Play Good cop, Bad cop!

I recently came across an article on how strict parenting could afford to be. Honestly, it is a very contentious topic to discuss. Rather, I only browse through forums to understand what modern day parents have to say. For instance, spanking and shouting have been labelled as cardinal sins in parenting. Some went to the extent of quoting countless articles by renowned child psychologists on the cons of strict parenting. After going through it, I almost lost my verve to debate on this, or even voice an opinion on what I feel. Apparently, we live in a democracy. And, I realized I need to place my point too, in a saner manner though.

If you have gone through my earlier articles, you might have caught a few glimpses from my own childhood as I narrate my son’s. Well, I never touched the topics about how difficult I had been as a child, how many times I have fought with mum over curfew timings, how many times Dad and I have had stand-offs on my uncontrolled shopping sprees when I worked in a city away from them. Not that I cautiously avoided mentioning the bumps and the hiccups part of parenting, but I did not feel the need to express it until a beautiful article resonating with my thoughts caught my eye.

I have not exactly been a demanding child in my childhood. However, I did manage to accelerate the greying process of my mother’s hair by always escaping the study routines she set for me. Yes, she was my tutor and, I have given her a tough time in my schooling years. For instance, if I was not forced to sit and study, I would have happily flunked all subjects. Rather, I was way too blasé about academics. Math was perhaps the one subject that motivated me to study and, the one and only reason for doing it well was that, I could listen to BSB and Enrique playing in the background. This habit of mine used to drive my mother to her wit’s end.

Considering my mother is blessed with concentration and determination of Swami Vivekananda, she indeed had the toughest time of her life raising a single child that was neither determined nor had an iota of concentration for anything for more than a minute! She did use spanking as her last resort and surprisingly, it worked in my case. She put all those ladies meets, dinner parties and a lot of social engagements in the family on the back burner just to help me understand the subjects that I later fell in love with! Be it solving riders in trigonometry or understanding vectors; be it figuring out the concept of electromagnetic waves or understanding the nuances of organic chemistry, my mother has been by my side ensuring that I loved what I learned and importantly, understood what I loved! And boy, how she did it!

Yes, I have been spanked badly for reading Reader’s Digests and India Todays and Outlooks hidden between the pages of Pradeep’s Physics, a few days before my board exams! Yes, she was hurt and very very angry. At the time, I was angry too and, we had our share of ugly fights! My father who has forever remained as cool as a cucumber handled the women in his life with panache. He would counsel us individually and then, say – “Heaven is not going to fall! Take a chill pill, both of you!”

To me, he would say, “See, if you don’t do well, you might end up in a mediocre college which you may not like. But then, excellence in life has nothing to do with marks. But remember, excellence in life has everything to do with hard work. If you work hard now, you might end up in a good college and gain good exposure. The choice is yours!” His statement about excellence has stayed with me since then. Later, during my college years, I realized what an amazing teacher my mother was. And as funny as it sounds, I used to go back home on weekends to get tutored by her!

Today, I am a mother to a five year old and, I have understood why Chanakya’s quote on parenting makes absolute sense in the actual world – “Treat your child like a darling for the first five years. For the next five years, scold them. By the time, they turn sixteen treat them like a friend. After all, your grown up children are your best friends!” And yes, my parents with whom I have fought and argued a lot are not only my best friends but also my husband’s.

It is funny that psychologists are dissecting human minds and are busy churning out theories on how spanking affects mental growth and how a shout invokes fear! When I asked my mother about her growing years, she said, “Your grandparents had four children to raise. I was the second eldest. And believe me, I have been spanked and shouted upon more than anyone else by my mother! And yet, I never hated her or I never turned out into an anti-social element as today’s so called learned men predict! I loved my mom and I love her to pieces because I have seen how she has struggled with along with my father to provide us with good food, clothes, schooling and a lot more, things they had always been deprived of!

And when we have behaved unreasonably, she did have every right to get angry on us. After all, we are her own. If she cannot get angry with us, as much as she has the right to love us, what is the point of nurturing a human bond? But then, I won’t advice spanking in the first go. See, we all are intricately woven together like a spider’s web. There ought to be some tangles and some pathways. Tangles don’t indicate unrest always and, pathways don’t hint at an ever green hassle free road. And remember, a sane parent will never ever do anything to sabotage his or her child’s psyche!”

Ironically, today’s parents discuss all the hunky dory aspects of parenting. No one wants to talk about how the rough phases in parenting are crossed. And it bothers me. We must speak about it too without being afraid of being judged.

To a certain extent, we need to be strict with our children. A child has to understand positive and negative emotions and importantly, must know the difference. For instance, a child throwing an indefinite tantrum of wanting to visit a restaurant or throwing food around just for fun cannot be overlooked as a part of child’s growing up. Somewhere, a sternness in the tone is needed. And if, the tone doesn’t work, the adage ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child’ rings loud and true.

Somewhere down the line, we have missed the essence of sane parenting. We have swayed more towards what the West thinks about parenting. So, I just have one question for the parents of today who claim they are doing it the right way – “Have you never disobeyed or put up a bad show in front of parents at any point of time? Have you never lied to them? Have you never fought with them for something or the other, serious or otherwise? Have you never had even one difference of opinion with your parents?”

Now, I personally do know a few handful who were born with an innate maturity and calmness and, have been the eye candies for the world. I adore them and I feel somewhat proud to know such humans. But I was nothing like that and I know there will be many like me, who had a rebellious streak despite having the coolest parents on earth! The point is, every individual’s personality is an outcome of a unique genetic sequence. Every child is different from the other. So, is every parent. And so, there is no parenting manual that can make you the perfect parent!

And yes, I grew up watching Tom and Jerry and no, I don’t feel like hurting my best friend! I sang ‘Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall’ to my heart’s content and no, I am not violent (Many articles feel such rhymes are violent in nature!) Stop fussing over psychology of a child and start raising children well. Teach them to do certain tasks like preparing their uniform for the next day, making a simple sandwich, polishing their shoes and, even picking up their own plates by themselves at an early age. Be the example to them and you will be raising responsible children.

Instead of discussing child psychology and then pampering your child silly, teach them the power of self dependence. As far as pampering is concerned, there are uncles, aunts and grandparents for that! So, leave the forte of pampering to them. The agenda is to teach our children to value what they get – the freedom, the privilege and the very life they are blessed with.

Happy parenting!

Narayani Karthik is an army wife who is a software engineer by profession. After a three year stint in the IT industry, she dabbled in content writing for a while before she embarked on the most beautiful journey of her life – Motherhood. After having been a Stay-At-Home-Mom for about three years, she took to teaching pre-primary children. This experience helped her gain an insight into toddlers’ behavior and psychology. Besides being a book lover, she loves to cook for her man in olive-green (Yes, she is a Proud Army Wife!) and loves to spend a lot of time with her hyper active son – Arjun. And then, in some free time that she manages from her busier than busy schedule, she loves to blog atSwimming In An Ocean Of Thoughts…..