By Lina Ashar
How joyous it must be for a mother or father to receive a gift that validates their position as a parent. But do ornaments like a cup that says ‘World’s Best Mom’ or a frame ‘World’s Greatest Dad’ endorse our worth as perfect parents or propagate an idea that is defiantly unreachable?
We all strive to be the best parents that we can be, so why do we chase after the thought of being a perfect parent? The idea, by itself, is a fallacy that perpetuates the belief that there exists a perfect form of parenting that applies to all children, irrespective of preferences or circumstances. However, as much as we try, every parent must adapt and change their style to meet each child’s unique needs. There can be no fixed or perfect form of parenting.
So, if we can’t be perfect parents, then what can we be?
Ultimately, we must understand that we’re humans making all the same mistakes that most parents will make. And to that end, we need to understand that we can learn from our mistakes, just as we should teach our children to learn from theirs. The important point is to not compare our parenting styles and refrain from comparing our children with others. I strongly believe that every child is different and there is never going to be a standard blueprint of dealing with children. We need to come up with unique strategies that are independent of our own conditioning.
Some time ago, I had come across a parent who had been obese as a child and worried about her child facing the same problems. She had started stopping her child from eating cheese, chocolate, etc, due to her own fears. I understand the parent’s concerns, however, we must not pre-empt or project our own experiences on children. We need to base our strategies on a child’s unique needs. Parents must choose methods and words that work for the child’s circumstances.
It is as important to disciple children as it is to hear them out. If you give your children a say in their matters, they will gain a sense of self-realisation, autonomy and control, while at the same time gain an ability to vocalise their wants and needs from you, as parents.
Additionally, parents should not feel guilty about their circumstances; this is especially applicable in today’s world, where both parents are working. Going to work should not be equated with neglecting children. Working mothers, in particular, should not be relegated to the role of stay-at-home moms. Dr. Aletha Huston, a researcher at the University of Texas stated, “The mother is an important source of care, but then she doesn’t have to be there 24 hours a day to build a strong relationship with her child.” Children need to experience rich interactions that allow language and emotional development, but that can be achieved by dedicating time, after work, for the same.
Irrespective of our shortfalls or circumstances, we must note that it is less important to be perfect parents as it is to be effective parents. And to do so, we need only to fulfill the following three conditions:
*Spend enough quality time with our children.
*Help them build a positive childhood.
*Teach them empathy and the importance of giving.
Perfection, whether pushed on children or parents, is equally damaging. Parenting shouldn’t be an arduous challenge; both parents and children can enjoy the moment and create fond memories of parenthood and childhood respectively. After all, parenting is a work in progress and we must realise that we will grow and develop as the best parents that we can be if we continue to observe, communicate and be involved with our children.
(The author is founder, Kangaroo Kids and Billabong.)
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