As parents, we don’t need a book or a person to teach us how to love our child. It is something that comes naturally to an individual. Parent’s love for their offspring is something that is considered to be unconditional and pious. When we become a parent, we become more inclusive to ‘Life’ and are ready to provide all the support and love and care to our child. As a parent, we constantly push our limits to provide the best of everything to our child.
While there is no denial of the limitless love, care, advocacy, and support we provide to our children, a deeper concern needs to be addressed. Parenting is definitely not an easy task and while each child is unique, there’s no one single approach that fits all. Children always learn from us. We are their first teachers and we have a great responsibility that instead of trying to fix their habits, we focus on how well we behave and practice what we say.
Since ages, many of us had been slowly poisoning our children unknowingly. In the name of Love, care, and security we are unknowingly piling their minds with vices like fear, anger, intolerance, etc. While this may sound bitter but it’s true.
Let me share some real-life experiences
This was when I was just eight years old in standard three. I returned from school extremely excited and couldn’t wait to tell Mom what happened. I was very friendly with her then and had this habit of narrating everything that happened at school. Whether it was the excitement of getting a pat on the shoulder from the class-teacher or mischievously entering the boy’s washroom, I would simply share every detail with her. And that day too, I was excited and as I sat on the dining table for lunch I narrated to her how I along with some other students of standard four climbed upstairs to peep through the windows of eight standard Biology Lab.
We did it just for fun…and but I remember always being told by our teacher that students below 5th standard were not allowed to climb upstairs. And out of inquisitiveness or just for fun, I still can’t recollect why we did that. But, yes we were excited as we somehow managed to faintly see a dummy skeleton kept at the far end of the lab.
What happened after that scares me even today… And I wish that never happened to me.
As I told laughed and shared the mischievous act with Mum, suddenly I saw her face changing color. She came closer to me, sat on the chair next to me, held my hands, and said, “You shouldn’t have done this…now that skeleton will be after you; the skeleton is of a man who ate kids. He was killed by police and his skeleton is now being used for experimentation in your school lab. And there had been several incidents when the skeleton had swallowed kids. The skeleton will now keep searching for you.”
I remember how I got goosebumps and trembled with fear listening to all this.
I was an eight-year-old and back then in the 90’s we had lesser accessibility to the internet and technology.
I believed every word she said. “So, now what do I do Mum”, I asked her trembling with fear and with tears in my eyes.
“Don’t worry, you ask God for forgiveness and also never go to the upstairs again. As long as you listen to me and your teachers, nothing will happen”, she told with a smile on her face convincing me that I was safe, provided I followed her instructions.
That night I experienced the worst form of fear. Even today, I remember how my legs constantly shook in fear. That night I couldn’t gather the courage to even pee with the restroom locked. I felt like an omnipresent EYES was spying at me and would harm me any moment. The feeling that the skeleton would be waiting for me at school to punish me was terrifying. I wished I would never have to go back to school again.
The following week I fell down twice hurting my knees, got fever and diarrhea, and two complaints registered on my fresh untouched school diary.
If all of this were merely a coincidence, it is an arguable topic.
But, the FEAR I felt at the constant thought of the skeleton chasing me gives me goose pimples even today as I am writing this.
Of course, gradually, the anxiety and panic were subsided but the Seed of fear was well implanted in my subconscious mind only to blossom and find expression in different forms later in life.
Another experience: This was a few years back during my early thirties when my 3-year-old toddler was learning to form sentences and his cognitive learning was developing.
One evening after I returned from work, I was extremely upset at something that happened at the workplace. I felt very emotionally for the hard-working and diligent Data entry operator who had to leave his job for lacking the essential quality of conforming to the senior officials and trying to work with head held high. I was very upset at the cheap politics and felt guilty about not being able to do anything about the situation in spite of trying my best.
I still remember, I was extremely disturbed and the moment I entered the house I started venting out my anger. I narrated everything to my husband and all throughout I was angry at those people, my voice was louder than usual and my three-year toddler could sense that I was very angry.
He had seen me being angry on several other occasions too, especially when I watched news of exploitation, racism, nepotism, etc. Also, I would express anger when he didn’t listen to me and continued watching TV or playing when it was actually his bedtime.
Off-course for him, the reason didn’t matter much, but all that mattered was “My anger, which made me unpleasant for that moment. And besides, I would observe that on those days my toddler would be very quiet and avoid doing any mischievous act, which he usually did.
That particular evening also, he became very quiet and remained glued to the television with all his color books and toys scattered around him.
Later in the evening, as my husband went to feed him the dinner, while I was putting the toys back and cleaning the space, the three-year-old asked something which shook my principles.
He asked, “Papa, why was Mommy so angry today?” Before my husband could reply, I interrupted proudly, “Dear, actually your Mommy just can’t tolerate seeing injustice happening around her”.
He seemed to register every word I was saying while taking small bites of food.
“Mommy is just angry with those people….”, I continued
“Okay! So, you were angry because they did something wrong. Just like you get angry when I do something wrong”, he replied.
I was sort of convinced that, yes he was understanding that if he did something wrong I would get angry at him. “In a way it’s good, he will be more disciplined now”, I thought to myself.
As I picked up his toys, suddenly I heard, “Daddy”, he shouted on top of his voice, “Daddy, can’t you be more careful, this is wrong, See now I am angry upon you”, and then he started crying and throwing things at us that a toddler usually does.
I and my husband looked at each other failing to understand, how a toddler could get so angry just because the water from the glass accidentally fell upon his dress.
That night, I felt guilty and a sense of shallowness ran through my senses. I could clearly see the seeds of anger being sown in my son’s mind. What was more dangerous, was the fact that I taught him thatit was quite natural to be angry if the other person was doing something that we think is wrong.
That night I and my husband contemplated and since then I don’t remember when I last got angry. But that didn’t stop me from taking responsibilities, speaking up against injustice, or imparting human values to my child.
But now all these happened smoothly without the need for shield in the form of anger.
Scaring a child with the fear of something unknown or expressing anger in front of a child when he/she is doing wrong; well, all these are very common situations in our day to day lives.
There is no denying that it is done with an intention to protect and discipline the child, but the bigger questions here are:
· Is our intention aligned with our actions?
· Does being right gives us the license to express anger?
· Is anger the only form of expression to stand against the vices?
· Isn’t anger itself a vice?
· Are we sure we are giving the right values to our children?
· Who is to be blamed when the child grows and lacks confidence and fears to step away from the comfort zone, fears to take a risk, fears to face failures, fears to speak up, fears to be himself/herself, fears rejection?…and the list goes on.
· Why do we want our children to obey and listen to us?
· Aren’t these vices that we are unknowingly feeding to our children equivalent to poison?
These are just a few out of the million questions that need to be addressed. I am sure no parent would intentionally want to poison their child with the seeds of vices sown in their mind, but we definitely have a bigger responsibility as parents.