Where do we draw the line?

It happened when I was not prepared for it. I certainly was not expecting it. When my daughter first told me that she didn’t need me to come with her. It was for a play date I think. Now it has become routine – at times she is very clear about when she wants to go somewhere without Mamma or Appa chaperoning her. She gets agitated when we insist that we will come. I do realize that this is not about us and I should not feel bad about it.

Where do we draw the line?

She is growing up now, and has a circle of friends that she feels the need to conform to. She does not see many children who are chaperoned around by their parents (like she is) so she feels the need to do the same. Initially it irked me no end – ‘Does this peer pressure thingamajig rear its head up so early?’ I wondered.

There were other things too that got our antennas up. She wanted to get a fringe for her hair. My husband and I were united in our opposition. The choice was hers we told her – either she could grow her hair longer or get a short haircut – no fringes for her.  And that was final. After months of back and forth – she gave up and I think (hope?) understood why we would not allow her a fringe.

Then there is the ubiquitous iPad. Every child seems to have one. My kid doesn’t have it – and I don’t think ever will! This is a difficult one for all of us involved. She goes to homes where other kids play games incessantly on their iPads, where the conversation in school is about ‘high-scores’ in this game or that. Where there are birthday parties themed on iPad games. Oh heck – even the chess teacher uses it as a teaching aid.

My husband and I contemplated on this for a while. This was something that wasn’t going away. And though we were clearly against buying a tablet for our home we could not blame the Kidlet for being curious about it. We thankfully found a solution to it quite simply. I have an iPhone and I did end up downloading a few apps on it for Kidlet. But by virtue of it being my phone – it becomes restricted access to the Kidlet– which is what we wanted all along. She does not feel left out of the iPad conversations and I know that she is not overdoing it. I am not sure if this is ideal – but it works for us.

I sometimes wonder if I am enabling my child to become a conformist. But do I really want her to feel left out like a sore thumb? It was not her decision to study in the city, in a certain school with a certain socio-economic set. However there are certain values and beliefs that I cannot let go of while parenting her. It is a tightrope walk to reconcile the two.

At five years of age, these conflicts are still difficult to resolve. I still drop my child to play dates but let her go in with her minder. I understand that hurting her feelings will not do either of us any good – whilst I am still largely assured of her safety. Many of these calls are taken with a quick cost-benefit analysis. These are few of the questions that I ask myself:

  1. Is it something that conflicts with our values as a family?
  2. Is it something that will endanger her in any way?
  3. Is it something that is really important to her? (tricky to figure out)
  4. Would it have a financial implication? (also viewed with respect to point 1)

I am aware that there are many parents of older children who write at and read ‘Parentous’ and have already been down this path. And it would really help to know their perspective on this issue. Where is it that you draw the line and when is it that you agree to bend the rules?

Nidhi Dorairaj Bruce is a Freelance writer from Mumbai. With no formal education in Parenting, she has been getting on-the-job training ever since her daughter, affectionately referred to as ‘the kidlet’, arrived on the scene 5 years ago. On Twitter, you can connect with Nidhi @typewritermom

  • Roshni

    I think the points you have outlined are great! That should definitely cover the majority of your concerns while giving concessions to her freedom and wishes.

    I can draw from my own experience as a child. My parents were definitely old school and insisted on chaperoning me everywhere, even in my teens!! It was mortifying!! Now, I drop my son (8 years old) off for playdates, but I definitely go in to say hello to the parents. I would do the same, if I had a daughter, btw.

    My son has a Wii now. All his friends had Wii’s and DS’s since they were 5 or 6. My husband and I thought that was just too early, but now, he deserves it. As you mention, it is peer pressure; all his friends want to play on the Wii when they come for a playdate and it is not fair to him that he is the only one who doesn’t have it, and he is now sensible enough to know how long he can play on it.

    My son now wants a Nintendo DS, “since all his friends have one”. We have put our foot down (one major electronic item is more than enough) and told him that if he really wanted it, he has to get it himself. Of course, he’s stubborn…..he’s started saving up! :/

    • Nidhi

      Good to know that, Roshni 🙂 I am guessing that this hankering over electronic toys is just going to be on the upswing from now on ! I better be prepared – thanks for sharing your strategies too.

  • In situations like this, one question pops up that I read somewhere long ago, “How will your decision matter 5 years or 10 years down the line?”. The answer to that is the answer to our dilemmas almost all the time 🙂

    • Nidhi

      Thats a great strategy Bindu – I use it for making decisions for myself sometimes – but it never occurred to me to use it for taking such kidlet related decisions too ! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Jane

    You’ve voiced the eternal dilemna – and very well. There doesn’t seem to be a one-size-fits-all remedy, does there? I pick my battles. I allow my 2 little boys to choose who their friends will be, and won’t be, and who they will play with. But I make them ask before going to anyone’s house. I let them go out to play unchaperoned. But no crossing roads! Of course, the lines are forever blurring. Sigh!

    • Nidhi

      Hey Jane – looks like your comment appeared after all 🙂 I agree with you when you say that one size doesn’t fit all – and its a mix of our personalities, situations and upbringing at the end of the day.

  • jane

    I typed a long comment and it disappeared

  • Nidhi, I guess I have been brought up by same set of parents like you guys. Since I dont have handy reference of my kids, I am taking the liberty of explaining it from my point of view. How I felt when I was a kid. I still remember I begged for that barbie doll house. I was hell bent on getting that because others had. Mom was strictly against the useless expenditure however dad took me to a woodcraftsman place and told me how a real doll house really is. How I can get to be a part of the process. How I can design the way the stairs should be et al. This made me value the wood-crafter’s art more than the plastic bubble bath I was after. I guess alternative parenting is what my parents believed in. Sometimes one needs to trick the little minds so that they learn to value and appreciate. 🙂

    • Nidhi

      Thats a lovely story you shared 🙂 I really admire your parents for taking that extra effort, which in the long run has enhanced your perspective so much! Really, kudos to them!

  • Paan Singh Tomar

    When I opened the link from twitter my wife came shouting, “You still sitting here!!!” when your blog opened she appreciated my sitting and joined me, we read it together. Half way through….. it appeared that you were talking about our daughter then realized that she is just five and our 15. That’s the difference a small town and big city can make. We have a son also who is 9. The home has a desktop, psp, ipad, three mobiles (son is still to get one), BSNL landline, official phone-landline and WiFi.

    MyView: I come from a humble background who survived on 10 rupees a month as pocket money in a boarding school which was subsidised to 15 rupees a month fees to incl fees, hostel, dress, food, books, and notebooks, in short everything. I was always short of all good things in life. Probably this aspect somehow somewhere involuntarily forces me to give everything my kids want till my pocket allows. I really cannot think of drawing that line.

    MyWifeView: She is the best wife and mother. She is of my view with a rider that the value of money must be taught to children first. The introduction to internet (monitored access to free access) has to be progressive with age. The environment that we provide to a child is more important than the danger of playdates or these smart gadgets. *The environment at school and at home.* Choose a school because of teachers and not due to the paraphernalia like buildings and sports activities or academic excellence. HOME – The most important learning place has to be conducive, parents are the Gods in this temple and the best followers are their children. Parenting is the religion and the outcome depends whether parents are good gods or worst gods.

    DrawingThatLine: Believe it or not…..”The best kids will always cross it.”

    • Nidhi

      Hi Paan Singh Tomar – first of all – THANK YOU for reading and replying in such great detail! It really made my day 🙂
      I totally understand it when you say how we are tempted to give our kids what we did not have as children (I am also from a small town you see). It is quite a tightrope – and though I am apprehensive of your saying ‘The best kids will always cross it’…I know that it is indeed a high possibility! Sigh!

  • Meera

    I am at the same place as you are, with a 4.5 year old boy. What helps is that he is really sure of what he wants (and what he doesn’t want, even if we want to buy it for him!) We give in to him only if he repeatedly asks for it, over a month’s time (usually flavors of the season wear off by then).

    As regards iPad, we do have one, and he does use it to watch select videos or play apps. But it is a sunday treat for him and there are several sundays when he doesn’t ask for it, or doesn’t get it (as withdrawal of privileges).

    For playdates, no go for alone time. I am a bit of a helicopter parent! I have to be there! Button can laugh at me or fight me, but I will be around. For as long as it takes for me to believe that he can go alone.

    • Nidhi

      Hi Meera … I realized what an helicopter parent I had become when other parents started sending messages to school through me – because I am always there to pick up Kidlet :/ I am glad to know that your son is not addicted to the iPad – there is hope after all 🙂

  • R

    Not a big fan of fringes myself, be rest assured that this is just a phase, a small bubble….there’s plenty more to come and some big shock waves too! However ultimately you child will always be a reflection of you in whatever you do or say.

    If I were you, I would buy an iPad and let her use it too, it is not a question of failing your principles or spoiling her but aiding her to keep up with the times, technology and more so not being left behind. That’s very important for any child to one among the group.

    • Nidhi

      I know R – it is sort of inevitable with the iPad/other techie stuff isn’t it ? Though I am going to hold my ground until I actually see the value in it myself – till now we have done just fine, my daughter plays some games on my phone to satisfy whatever touch-screen urges she might have 😉

  • I have very similar feelings about the iPad and just like you said about your phone, in our home the iPad is primarily used by hubby so only around for a little while with the children. Works well I think, doesn’t get them bored with it, and we know exactly what they’re playing and for how long :).
    Loved your list of questions, makes a lot of sense to think about how the small stuff is actually going to impact the big picture, before taking that decision.

    • Nidhi

      Good to know that you also have a similar method of restricting access, Aparna 🙂

  • chattywren

    I think there is no yes/no answer for material stuff. There are wants and there are needs. So I would take that approach. For the rest of the stuff, one has to lay down the rule regarding do’s and don’ts and also be open to negotiation so long as it works for all.

    • Nidhi

      Oh dear – I know! Though I sometimes wish there was a handy booklet for wants/needs classification 😉 Would take some pain out of decision making!

  • Reading your post and all the comments that follow, I would like to add two aspects that we probably need to look at:

    1. Do you want your child to live by your principles or by the values of her peer-group? Evidently, this is not an easy one to answer. While every parent would, ideally, like her child to live by her principles, we must realise that what was good for us will not hold true in their world. So there needs to be a little give-and-take. While long-term values – integrity, basic respect, humility, etc – are important, no matter the era, I think we can afford to let go off some of the more unimportant details – those which don’t really change who they are as people. So this would mean, letting them be more independent, more questioning, and also, more responsible for their choices and decisions.
    2. Do you want your child to give in to peer pressure or live life on her own terms? This one is a no-brainer, right? Of course, live life on her own terms. But again, I don’t think the answer is so easy. As adults, we are more convinced of the need to be uninfluenced by others, by deciding what is right for ourselves, but in children, it isn’t as easy. Of course, it it more important for a child of five to have the same toys that her friends do, or for a pre-teen of 12 to go out for movies with the rest of her friends. Remember how heart-breaking it was for us when we were left out of stuff, or perceived as ‘uncool’? If this means that we need to buy our kids some things that we don’t really approve of (like an iPad), I think it’s far better to buy it for them and then work in controls and rules (like playing only for an hour every weekend). This way, they are also part of their peer group discussions, and yet following boundaries that you set for them.

    But what would I know? I am struggling to bring up my five-year old in a modern world, equipped only with my traditional values!!!

    Kritika Srinivasan

  • Hi Nidhi………. I connected on so many levels on this!!! Believe it or not – I’ve written pages and pages on the same dilemma! Wonderfully written!

    • Nidhi

      Thank you Meena 🙂 Parentous brings us together even in our dilemmas, no ?