By Sabrina Almeida
Mississauga, July 24 (CINEWS) Growing up I don’t recall my mum or dad pondering over parenting styles. Whatever they did seemed to come from a sense of conviction about how it had to be done and they didn’t have any other kids to practise on either. I didn’t turn out too bad from their lack of choices and neither did cousins, neighbours or friends! Virtually everyone I knew had the same philosophy of ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’. The maxim seemed to work then and even when many of us became parents.
Coming to North America changed things a bit as I adopted the approach of reasoning with my children (‘authoritative’ rather than ‘authoritarian) but my maxim remained the same. In fact, my older one often comments about how his younger brother was ‘spared’ (meaning he never got a spanking) and is ‘spoilt’ as a result of it. This is all lighthearted bantering of course but it sometimes causes me to think about what the outcome might have been if things were different. My younger one is a bit of a free spirit and unlikely to do anything he doesn’t want to even if the sky is falling down. Yet even he knows when to toe the line.
While I don’t support spanking or any other form of corporal punishment, I have come across more than one situation where reasoning just won’t do the job. You could say that seeing a child throwing tantrums in the grocery store or restaurant or slacking off in school brings out the tiger mom in me. A recent article I read online about a diner owner in Maine yelling at a child who was having a meltdown in her restaurant, and how her actions upset the parents is a case in point. Of course I wouldn’t appreciate anyone yelling at my boys, but more importantly it would never get to that point. Screaming children are likely to become screaming adults who want their own way all the time. It causes issues in their personal, social and professional lives. Certain behaviours simply cannot be unlearned.
Interestingly enough my optician seemed to share my views and that of the Maine diner owner. A teenager had come in with his mother to collect a pair of spectacles while I was there last Saturday. It was a replacement pair as his original ones broke. He had also misplaced the case and spectacles cleaning cloth, and asked for new ones. This upset the optician greatly and prompted a lecture from her about how he should be more responsible. His mother stood by and didn’t say a word to defend her son or admonish him. The boldness of the optician surprised me. After he left we continued talking about discipline and responsibility. She was of the opinion that after 12, a child is unteachable as his/her habits are already formed. I believe she is right. In fact I recall having read somewhere that your child’s personality is formed by the tender age of 6.
No doubt parenting is a tough job and no amount of experience helps as each child is different. But I believe we have to get our mantra right no matter what approach we adopt.
There is a global shift in child rearing towards permissiveness based on protecting a child’s self-esteem. Even in countries like India where the “rod” was previously overused in many homes and schools there has been a complete turnabout resulting in many disciplinary issues.
I’ve heard many parents say they want to be friends to their children. In my humble opinion this is a recipe for disaster whether you have a toddler or a teenagers. Yes, we always strive to keep the doors of communication open, but we’re the adults in the relationship and cannot hand over our responsibilities to the kids. No matter how smart or mature they lack the perspective and experience adults are meant to have. I’m not suggesting we adopt ‘helicopter parenting’ where we encase them in bubble wrap. Simply that we get the parent-child equation right. I’d love for my children to make their own decisions but I’d still like to discuss it with them to ensure they have it right rather than just turn over the steering wheel before they are ready.
Now that my boys are older we often have conversations about parenting styles. Though they joke about being ‘made’ to walk the fine line, I have realized they respect it and have no patience with kids who have been allowed their own free will. It’s funny to see them look at me with raised eyebrows if we come across child who is misbehaving.
It pains me to see children wrestle control from their parents. In many of these cases the parents too are taking the easy way out. After all it takes far less effort to let your kids do what they want. But remember the problems are also more difficult to fix and you have no one to blame but yourself!
Thinking you’re always right or that you must have it your way all the time is not a positive trait. Nor is it a good way to build self-esteem and character.