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Are You A Short-term Parent?

Imagine this: You arrive at the daycare to pick your little one up and you see her wrestling on the ground with another child, what do you do?

Or this: Your child comes home in a foul mood because his teacher gave him a C grade on his essay – the very same one you had appreciated just yesterday and assured him that it was “awesome” – and he now wants you to negotiate with his teacher for a better grade. What do you do?

Or even this: Your little one has just left on his school bus. You wave him goodbye and come back to see that he has left his lunch bag home. Of course his school serves decent food and he carries lunch money with him; but you feel you’d rather see to it that his lunch gets delivered to him at school. What do you do?

And finally this: You are at the playground and your little one falls from the monkey bar and scrapes his knee. What do you do?

Faced with these and similar situations, most parents I know would be only too happy to rush in and help their little darlings. These parents also help their children with homework, project work, school assignments, even stay up with them late in the night if need be and ensure that their children know that they are there for them – any time of the day or night – if they need parental support.

These are the parents of my generation – the Involved Parents – who don’t blink an eye before they decide to step in and rescue their children, are happy to shower lavish praise on their children and praise them for even their smallest of achievements!

These parents know their children’s schedule, are connected with their children via mobile phones and social media; and also keep themselves updated with what games their children play and who their friends are! This does not necessarily make them helicopter parents mind you, because after all, they are just looking out for their children, aren’t they? No, they are not helicopter parents, but they are the new-age Buddy Parents! They know that the world being what it is today, it is really important to stay connected with their children. They prefer to be in the know. And that is why they are there for their children, at all times, no matter what. That’s cool.

But what they forget is that one of the most important things in life is balance. For all the love you shower on your little ones, it is important to make them accountable and responsible for their actions too. For all the help you extend to them in their hour of need, you need to teach them to help themselves at times too. For every battle you are only too happy to fight for them, it is important to let them resolve some of their own conflicts too. What most engaged parents forget and do not teach their young ones, is that all actions have consequences. And not all consequences are favourable.

By merely helping our children and not expecting anything from them in return, we are teaching them to lean on to someone for help at their convenience, not necessarily being ready to give something in return. By negotiating with our children’s teachers for better grades for them, we are teaching them that no matter what they do, ‘we will always rescue them.’ By delivering that lunch box to them that they forgot, we are telling them that they do not have to be responsible for remembering their own things. By helping our children out even before they ask for help, we are over protecting them. We are being mere short-term parents!

These children, who have always had their parents, literally, looking out for them at every turn, are raised as insulated kids who are ill-prepared for the world! According to an article I read recently: “Pain is a necessary teacher. Psychologists in Europe have discovered that if a child doesn’t play outside and is never allowed to experience a skinned knee or a broken bone, they frequently have phobias as adults. Interviews with young adults who never played on jungle gyms reveal they’re fearful of normal risks and commitment. The truth is, kids need to fall a few times to learn it is normal; teens likely need to break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend to appreciate the emotional maturity that lasting relationships require.

And this is so true – not only for physical pain but for pain of all kinds! However, most of us parents today are only too happy to rescue our children and praise all their efforts; in the process, inadvertently raising young adults who are ill-equipped to deal with the real world which is nothing like the one we try to give them! The article I mentioned above, also goes on to mention that because most parents rarely allow children to take risks, we have a situation today where “psychologists are discovering a syndrome as they counsel teens: High Arrogance, Low Self-Esteem. They’re cocky, but deep down their confidence is hollow, because it’s built off of watching YouTube videos, and perhaps not achieving something meaningful.

As parents, of course, we mean well. We don’t really mean to raise maladjusted kids. But without meaning to, that is exactly what we do! We don’t let them take risks, we rescue them the first chance we get and we handhold them through everything – for as long as we can. But we have no answer for the question: And then what? What happens when these children grow up? We are obviously not going to be around forever to help them, are we? So what happens then?

Well, that is exactly why being a short-term parent doesn’t help. The role of a parent is to raise children to live a happy and contented life independently – independent even of the parents! The goal of parenting is not to raise help-seekers, but to raise confident individuals who can take on the role of help-providers when the time comes.

And how do we do that?

1. By helping our children take calculated risks.
2. By preparing them to both win and lose.
3. By not showering them with material reward for the things that are clearly expected of them.
4. By choosing for them positive risk taking adventures such as a particular sport or letting them take up a challenging job etc.
5. By affirming smart risk-taking behaviour and hard work.
6. And finally, by providing them intrinsic motivation and unconditional love

Dear fellow parents, as we have read in countless WhatsApp messages and forwards – Our children are not our masterpiece. They are not our medals.

Let them fail, Let them fall;
Let them work for what they really want!