As I was leaving my clinic one afternoon, I saw two mothers fighting over the allegation that son of one (M) had first hit the other one (S) and caused a big bruise. M’s mother was vehemently denying and kept insisting ‘My son can never start a fight!’
I thought, with kids being what they are, most parents would believe the allegation and may say, ‘I am sure he has done it’ and start reprimanding the child without even verifying the facts; and here this mother is so sure of her son! Is she sure of her upbringing or is the child so docile that she is certain, he will never start a fight? The mother, ideally, should have said ‘let me talk to him and find, if he did it; why did he do it?’
How much faith you should have in your child? This is one of the many tightropes, parents walk; more so today. One extreme is “my child can do no WRONG!” and other one is “You can never do anything RIGHT!”
It goes without saying, having faith or trusting your child is very important. Words matter – you may speak eloquently to encourage your child; but faith matters more. After all those words of encouragement at the first allegation against your child, if you turn around and scream at him, those words have no value! Every child needs lots of encouragement and also faith of his parents. Only a child who has faith of parents can garner faith of peers when a teenager and faith of colleagues when an adult.
Trust in your child has to come up in little doses; step wise. Like how you give freedom in little doses and step it up gradually. I will share an example, my youngest (V) when 11 yr, one day complained, ‘I have to be home from my friend’s party by 8 pm whereas Didi (B, then 16) can stay out till 9’!! I explained to her, ‘When B was your age, her limit also was 8; when she showed that she can be trusted to respect limits set, the limit is advanced. At 18 the limit may be 10 pm but that will depend on her respecting the trust imposed’. Today V is 28 and has never complained and never abused my faith in her.
On the other hand, while we all would love to believe ‘my child is an angel, can never hit anyone’; turning a blind eye to their transgressions or always living in denial mode is also not the answer. Such parents tend to cover up mis-deeds of the child just to preserve the facade they have created. These parents make all sorts of excuses for their kids and they expect everyone else to, also believe their own incorrect vision about their child. Slowly, the child begins to believe that he/ she can do NO wrong and if someone is calling it wrong, the authority figure (teacher or parent of another child or an aunt) are bullying him/ her.
Such protected children or who believe they are perfect (how easy it is to believe it; more so if your parents say that) grow up to be either depressed or not adjusting well in life. Their parents never let them just live and learn – learn consequences – learn to cope – and learn to say “I am sorry! I made a mistake, I hit him with a bat and I am responsible.” And promise never to do it again.
Faith/ trust in your child should be on a ‘slider’ model; it can progress with him/ her respecting freedom given; limits/ rules set or it can slide down with any proven transgression/ act of misbehavior, which should then be followed with some act of discipline.
Dr Chander Asrani, father to three daughters and grand father to one, is a post-graduate in Family Medicine. He has over 35 years in clinical practice, launched www.growingwell.com in 2000 and since then has been writing on various subjects. Know more about him at about.me/drasrani.