Are We Fit To Be Parents?



My learning on people started in IIPM classrooms... in classes of Dr N R Chatterjee and Dr J K Mitra – both ex Deans of FMS Delhi, my gurus, gods of psychology and great human beings. Their classes made me so mesmerised that though I took finance as my elective, I attended all classes of HR too and became a very keen student of psychology and behavioural sciences. With time, this took me beyond classroom books to the world of Eric Berne's Transactional Analysis to books like ‘Born to Win’ to the world of Sigmund Freud and Karl Jung. At one point of time in my life, I went so much into this that I ended up reading semimedical books like abnormal psychology etc! After I became a leadership trainer, the learning only kept growing. But all that was nothing till my son, Che, was born in the year that marked the beginning of the new millennium!

It’s been almost ten years now and the human behaviour I have focussed upon most during this decade has been child behaviour. I have since then almost raised four kids. No, they aren’t all mine! But one can find me oft en with them in my free time – Che and the three other kids of my three friends! And I hope I have been raising them happily to become happy kids! Today, speaking on kids – how to bring them up – in informal and formal forums like schools etc has become one of my favourite topics, simply because the more I see parents around me – stressed and successful – the more I see their kids going wrong! I will share here only a few key things which decide if we are fit to be parents and raise happy kids or not.

I have seen we mostly bring up kids without realising that this is our biggest contribution to this earth and its well being. The kids who had a grandfather who always told them that one day they will become Presidents of the USA and gave them that confidence from their early childhood actually went on to become John F Kennedy and Robert Kennedy. At the same time, the kid of the boy from an abusive family with constant negative reinforcements went on to become Lee Oswald, the man who murdered John F Kennedy. What I am trying to say is that we are the ones who will decide if tomorrow’s world will be a happy world or a sad world. Children are what we make of them. Today, science has also proven beyond all doubts that genes decide less than a percent of human beings psychology. It’s their upbringing that decides it. Genes only determine various biological aspects inside the body, and not psychological. Neither does a kid become great because of genes nor useless because of the same. We make what a kid is to become; so we parents – and to some extent teachers – are wholly responsible for what he becomes.

That brings us to the point: So what should we do to bring up great kids and become worthy of being parents? Well, if there is just one thing we must believe in and we must tell our kids – and I have always told all kids – it is, “Love is more important than material things.” It is almost like the magic potion for happiness. We need to believe “passionately” that love is more important than any material item in this world. If we don’t believe in it but tell our kids the same, one day they will question us about why we’re not following the same philosophy we preached. And all the teaching will go waste. But once you believe in it passionately, things will all be different. You just have to keep explaining this to your child from the age of 6 months – only this simple line. And before 6 months? Just love him endlessly through physical touch and positive reinforcements and smiles. That’s our only job as parents.

But what about the daily problems of your kids doing some things that are not right? Well, every time the child does something you don’t want her to do, your only job is to explain the same with a smile and friendly manner – whatever be the age of the child. A child’s life has to be necessarily full of positive strokes and “adult to adult ego state” conversations on every topic of importance. An adult to adult ego state conversation is where we don’t use either our “parent ego state” of making authoritative sweeping statements without feeling the need to clarify to the child, or the “child ego state” displaying excessive emotions of any kind. So, it’s a conversation which is based on talks, facts and logic but explained sweetly. This is the only solution to all our issues of how to handle problems. Whenever a child knows that the parent has endless time to explain things and is free of any fear of being admonished, he expresses himself freely and then listens invariably to what’s logical – just because he feels respected and loved. And it has never ever failed to work in my last one decade of bringing up the four kids!

One might immediately question, what happens when a kid gets adamant and throws a tantrum and starts crying? Well, kids are too intelligent. They do that only when they know it succeeds! So the best way is to again take the kid in an embrace and tell firmly that whatever he wants, he will not get, however much he cries.

But that doesn’t mean that you love him any less. So as long as he cries, you will keep loving him, but won’t allow him to do what he wants. The kid will cry louder, will try to force himself to freedom, but all you have to do is just embrace the kid, let him cry and constantly tell him that the more he cries, the more you would love him – because you really do love him. And then tell him that though you feel bad when he cries, he still would not get his way ever with adamancy, and that once he finishes crying, you will both talk logically on why you can’t let him do what he wants to. Or buy what he wants to. And constantly remind the child that love is more important than anything else in the world. So, if it’s a toy the child is asking for, the point to be made is that love is more important than the toy and that the kid will get all the love in the world but not the toy, as there are too many kids in the world whose fathers don’t love them as much, but give them lots of toys – tell your child that he surely doesn’t want to be in that kind of a home. The child starts realizing the logic sooner than you can imagine. Almost the first full sentence all the kids around me ever said was, “Love is more important than toys.”

So that brings us to the biggest mistakes we make as parents! Well, the single biggest mistake we make as parents and teachers is to physically hit a child. The softest of slaps is absolutely unwarranted and damaging. You hit a child and you have laid the foundation stone of a future road-rage protagonist. And it’s the biggest unacceptable shame for any parent or teacher. There is absolutely “NO JUSTIFICATION FOR IT.” Parents try to justify it by saying that they are so stressed, and at times, hitting is the only way out. Nothing is a further farce. Your love for your child is actually so less at that moment that you actually take a shortcut to set things right. And this is one shortcut that is most costly in life. A child is the strongest creature possible. A child can tolerate any amount of your hits, till he is alive. And he gets used to it. It only alienates the child further, makes him more adamant and resolved to repeat the same; and damages his psychology forever. Or else, it makes him most meek and ruins his personality. And we want neither. On an extreme end, the more a child is from an abusive family, family of drunkards, broken families, the more the possibility of him landing in a jail one day. For all studies on criminals show only these common traits. So, the saying ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ couldn’t be more wrong. But that doesn’t mean you should let your child do anything he wishes to. As I said, you have to make him do the right things through love and explanation. And for that, you have to believe love is the most important thing in life. If you do, you will have all the time and patience to shower love on your child and explain things to him.

The second most common mistake parents do is misbehaving with the child; and then out of guilt, buying him gifts. Do that and you have taught the child just the opposite of giving love the maximum importance. It means gifts and material things are more important. And he will learn to value love by toys. No child around me knows me for giving them gifts. However, they do know me for loving them the most. And I can assure you they love me more than their other gift giving uncles! In fact, despite my fervent requests to all my friends to get only love and no gift s on Che's birthday, they end up getting gifts. But they must know Che doesn’t get them. Che, me and Rajita (my wife, who does everything exactly the way I am writing, and more, as I will explain later) have a pact that he will get to keep gift s of only six of the most important people in our lives – as they love him too much and their gift s are what he wants as they’re chosen with lots of thought and they keep giving him love throughout the year. He could choose any four other gift s out of the rest of the gift s and also all the books he gets. In turn, he has to give away to our Great Indian Dream Foundation kids, double the number of toys! He loves the arrangement. Now he waits for every birthday, more to go and give than to get. The same rule applies to every toy he wants us to buy for him. If we agree, he has to give away two! And you bet it makes him more humane and loving.

The final big mistake parents do is make statements like, “I spend quality time.” Well, the truth is there is nothing called quality time for a child. The only thing that the child understands is “quantity time.” Yes, there will be times when one of you will be busier and you must therefore spend a great Sunday with him. But you can’t become weekend parents in the name of quality time. Because then, the people whom he spends quantity time with will decide what he becomes and not you. And that’s taking a huge chance unless you know that those are people with the values I just spoke about.

I would want to sign off by saying when my best friend had a daughter, I told him to immediately get his father to stay with them. If grandparents are alive, that’s the best gift for your kid. Staying with them, children learn how to be more considerate in life; and you again realise the importance of your parents in your life. That’s the real test to find out whether we’re fit to become parents... for to be good parents, we got to become good children first. I wish lots of love and a life full of happiness to all my readers, their parents and their children.

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