One of the major relationships to have undergone a sea change during the past few decades is the parent-child relationship. From being a straight forward relationship where the parents had a complete hold over their child's activities, the relationship has evolved into one marked by power struggles, arguments and conflicts. At some point in the midst of modern parenting, a discovery hits us square in the eye: we realise that from the start, parenting has rendered us helpless. Irrespective of any amount of money, education or the prior experience we may possess handling children, when our own child comes into this world, we feel powerless, inadequate and even frustrated. What's more, the wisdom of grandmothers and elders also seems to have lost its magic; strategies that worked for our parents and grandparents now sound irrelevant; even solutions to parenting problems from friends are like ill-fitting clothes "too tight in some places and too airy in others. Nothing, it seems, can help us through these tough spots. The need, then, is for new age parenting techniques: where conservatism and liberalism go hand in hand, where both freedom and control are exercised, thereby creating a balance, a harmony and a feeling of trust within the family. With my own experience as a teacher who has interacted with many parents, as well as being the mother of two teenage daughters, I was well placed to have a better understanding of modern-day parenting conundrums and to fully appreciate parents" concerns about the need for someone to guide them. Thus, this need inspired me to pen down my thoughts and the techniques that would be useful in nurturing and handling children. The pages that follow will endeavour to make you a role-model parent for your children in order to ensure a stable, responsible and mature new generation.
Although parenting can be a most joyful relationship, always brace yourself for a bumpy but beautiful ride! I end with a blessing that comes straight from the heart of one parent to another: May the road rise up to meet you.
CHAP. 5: The Importance of Communicating with Children
* Parents need to spend quality time with their children.
* Talk to them on various issues.
* Be a good listener.
Communication is a very important part of any good relationship. This is especially true for the relationship between parents and their children. But this task becomes more complex while dealing with children. One reason for complications in the relationship is that parents often see themselves as Managers of their children. They are constantly organising their children's lives, laying the ground rules, doing their homework, making sure they are in bed on time and, in general, constantly hectoring them not to do this or not to do that. Due to their hectic lifestyles and time pressures, today's parents spend little quality time with their children, which is so crucial for understanding how children feel, what they require, what problems they may be facing at school or at play and so on.
This arrangement works fine till the children are small. As they grow up, though, the parents feel that providing material comforts for the child is what counts. Parents simply don't make proper efforts to spend quality time with their children. How often do we spend time discussing what the kids feel about themselves, their school, studies, friends, hobbies, interests, etc? In many families, when the child goes to school, the father is asleep and when the father returns home late at night, the child is already fast asleep. Even holidays are spent either socialising or visiting relatives or friends.
Honestly speaking, how much quality time do we really spend with our children? Meals are eaten at different times and often in individual rooms. Even when the family is together, do the members really communicate? The only time the family is seen spending time together is before the idiot box watching inane serials that are hung up on unsavoury episodes of marital infidelity, week after week, which is hardly conducive for family bonding and responsible parenthood. If the parents want to remain close to their children, the communication bridge between parents and children needs to be crossed. Parenting should be handled in such a manner that the children consider their parents as friends. Children should never feel hesitant or reluctant to talk to them, asking for advice or raising queries. Parents can also take the initiative and discuss various topics like sports, movies, actors, songs, current affairs, society, moral values etc, so as to connect with the child and have an insight into their minds. It also gives parents an opportunity to establish themselves as role models, helping children learn by answering their queries and disseminating their knowledge and experience of the years. Times are changing rapidly, and so are the values in life. Our children are growing up in a highly educated and technologically sophisticated environment. Kids have unlimited access to information and events around them through the print and electronic media, particularly the Internet. Some of these information outlets are double-edged swords, though, and the parents need to keep track of their children's activities to ensure their impressionable minds do not fall prey to negative influences. If parents talk to the children freely and give them a patient hearing, the kids will not need to seek external sources for help and redressal of their problem. It is only through open and regular communication that parents can know what is going on in their children's minds. If the children feel that parents do not listen to them or fail to pay proper attention, they will slowly seek external sources to ventilate their grievances and gradually drift apart. A time could come when this drift widens and the relationship takes an irreconcilable turn. Children may then seek their own space and have no qualms about living separately, as is the norm in western countries. At all times, parents should refrain from adopting a "We know it all" or "We told you so" attitude, which can cause major problems in communicating smoothly with children. The word "communication" is often widely misunderstood when it comes to children. It is not only about understanding what a child is saying, but also comprehending the true reasons for a child's viewpoint or attitude. At their tender age, children are not adept at communication and may not be able to explain their true feelings or requirements in so many words. Sometimes one may have to read between the lines and judge by their actions and expressions to properly understand what they are saying or mean to say. Children have their own ways of doing things, which make sense only to them. Where possible, parents need to give a broad margin and not insist that the parental way is the only right way. If the child has to be taught to do something in the right way, tact and persuasion are much better tools than admonitions. The best way to understand a child better and gauge his mindset is to be a good listener. A classic example of a good listener is the family doctor. Consider how patiently s/he listens to all problems of patients. Be it medical or personal, the doctor always devotes total attention listening to all what the patient has to say. Listening not only helps the doctor in proper diagnosis and effective medication, but also relieves the patient from the agony of unwanted and misplaced thoughts. Sometimes, simply the act of patient listening by the doctor has a therapeutic effect.
Most people under severe depression are known to suffer from a feeling that no one cares about them or listens to them. Proper communication and empathy with our children is very important if we are to avoid learning a hard lesson in life that of being paid back in our own coin. Many elderly people feel neglected and unwanted because their grown-up kids no longer listen to or understand them. If parents make it a habit to spend quality time imparting the right values to their children, the chances of parents being neglected or abandoned by their children in the sunset years would diminish to a commensurate degree. The main reason for the generation gap between parents and children is due to poor communication channels. It is miscommunication, in fact, which is the cause of most conflicts in the family. But proper communication is easier said than done. Very few people are willing to listen to what others have to say. Most of us are good speakers, but poor listeners. Everyone wants to state his point of view and be heard by all and sundry. We are ever eager to grab attention and exhibit our superiority by speaking out our thoughts first, but unwilling to give a patient ear to others. Parents spend a lot of time communicating with their children, when the latter do something wrong. But we also need to have meaningful conversations with children when there is nothing wrong. Communication and conversations must be thought of as preventives not curatives. Only then will we really get to know our children properly, and understand their true thoughts and feelings. And then we might be surprised to realise how thoughtful and considerate our children are. Listening often brings parents closer to children and facilitates bonding. Sometimes, children only need their parents undivided attention. When parents listen attentively, children feel valued and respected and half of their problems are resolved simply through the expedient of listening. Which is why, listening is not only a good teacher but also a good healer.