A few years ago, I used to teach computers to children of all ages ranging between seven and fifteen. It was a learning experience for me too, because I learned how not to raise my voice and still get things done. The key was to be firm while keeping the volume and tone of my voice under control as far as possible, because I knew that no matter what the provocation, striking a child was not an option.
In the three years that I taught those children, I managed to stick to my rules, and gain a reputation as being one of the “strict but good” teachers. Consequently, I began to think that when I became a parent, I would be able to raise a well-mannered child, without too much trouble.
Of course, my smug attitude did not go unnoticed by the powers that be, which is why, today I too face the dilemma that all well-meaning, parents face, namely, how and where does one draw the line?
How does one teach a three-year old that he’s not supposed to hit mamma and baba while playing, but if someone in the park hits him, he must hit back? How does one allow a child to be adventurous and climb the stairs by himself, but not pull up a chair to sit on the railing of the balcony? Quite often I’ve found myself snatching away pointy things like scissors from my son, just as he begins to test it out on the table-cloth, and saying because “Mamma says so” instead of explaining that he could get hurt because getting hurt doesn’t really deter him. There are many times when I tell myself that I’m not alone, that I shouldn’t feel guilty because I am doing what I am “for his own good” and that he’ll thank me for it later.
However, it has always been obvious to me there have definitely been times when I have said “No” out of frustration and tiredness, because counting to ten or twenty doesn’t always work.
In fact, as I sat down to write this article, my three-year old son was playing with his toys on the carpet behind me. Five minutes after I sat down, he needed to show mamma something. Most of the time I would have stopped and looked at what he wanted me to see, but this time I was hooked to the computer, in the grip of words-that-must-be-typed-or-lost-forever, so I told him to wait. Like many three-year olds, mine didn’t take too kindly to being somewhere other than the center of mamma’s universe. So there was some shouting from both sides, followed by some mouse upsetting and toy throwing from the short person and finally the inevitable happened. Stern words were spoken, and a very sad and reluctant little someone had to go stand in the corner for “not listening to mamma and hitting mamma”.
Having completely lost my chain of thought, I stomped back to the computer and in an attempt to change my mood, began aimlessly clicking through old photographs on my computer. In a while I chanced upon some baby pictures of the three-year old who was still standing in the corner. Looking at them, I realized just what a monster I was and so I called him back, gave him a hug and explained to him in as many words that he has to wait when mamma asks him to wait, and that mamma was also sorry that she shouted at him. Such is the nature of innocence, that my child kissed me back and said that he’s sorry too and he’ll not do it again. Now, from past experience, I know that he will definitely do it again, so the only way for me to avoid the situation is to control my reactions, and remember that taking a minute to humour my child is better for both of us in the long run.
In my pre-parent days, if I had heard about a parent doing this, my reaction would have been that the parent in question should not have melted and hugged their child so soon, because it would defeat the purpose of the time out. But here’s the thing, in my very limited experience of parenting my kid, I’m slowly coming to accept that there are indeed grey areas in discipline. Even though I lost my temper, the fault did not lie with my child. So my long-winded and not very elegantly put point, is that parents are human, and far from perfect . However, children mirror a lot of parental behavior, so parents, specially the short-tempered ones like me, owe it to their children to try, every time to maintain their self-control, because that’s the only way their children will learn to do so for themselves.
The Line of Control for impulsive parents may not be unbroken, but it has to exist more or less intact for the well-being and happiness of both the parents and their children.
Monishikha Roy-Choudhury is an intermittent blogger, a book lover whose latest passion is creating watercolours. In her spare time, she is also a wife and stay at home mom, and you can find out more about her life at http://minisblog.blogspot.in or see her artwork on her Facebook page, The Coloured Wall.