“Every child has to disobey the father. Unless a child disobeys the father, he never becomes mature. It is nothing original; it is simple and natural. It is very psychological. There comes an age when every child has to say ‘No’ to the parents. If he does not say no to the parents, he will not have a spine; he will be spineless. If he cannot say no to the parents, he will be a slave his whole life. He will never attain individuality.”
“Adam and Eve did not commit any sin; they simply became mature. They said no, they disobeyed. When your child goes behind the house and starts smoking, don’t be worried too much; he is simply disobeying you. That is part of growth. If he never disobeys you, be worried. Take him to the psychoanalyst — something is wrong with him. If he always obeys you, then he has no soul; he is abnormal, he is not normal. Be happy when your child disobeys you. Thank God that now he has started moving towards becoming an individual. It is only by disobeying, rebelling, that a child attains authentic individuality. If parents are wise, they will be happy.” (Osho- Be Still and Know)
Kenny posted this message on our neighborhood’s WhatsApp group, which we have after much deliberation, named ‘Liberals’. This triggered a slew of opinions and counter-opinions.
Sunil grumbled, “That’s how the Generation Gap is created. Your children act against your wishes, you did the same thing with your parents, and your parents (presumably) went against their parents. What does one achieve by having kids? You kill yourself and your dreams while bringing them up in the best way. You provide them what you were deprived of. And at the end of the day, what you have is nothing.”
Anand’s take was, “While I agree with the essence of Osho’s philosophy, I don’t agree with the use of the word ‘disobey’. Disobedience is tantamount to indiscipline and revolt, anti-authority. The nurturing of disobedience and other such traits from childhood can have very damaging effects and consequences.”
Pradeep promptly declared, “Flawed logic. Adam and Eve knew nothing about disobeying their parents. They never had parents.”
Children do not ask to be given birth. We have kids due to our self-driven reasons. So, to expect them to be full of gratitude and servility is not fair. Whatever we do for them, somehow is related to our sense of gratification, love, duty, or social display.
We tend to take children as not having much knowledge or intelligence while they are growing. But actually, they are observing us. We are constantly under their microscope without realising it.
They start showing their disagreement or discomfort in small doses. We ignore them as we are ignorant in that situation, believing that they can’t understand much. When we keep ignoring the red flags, then their frustration erupts. We don’t acknowledge that they are distinct personalities who can have different views on things. Accepting ‘agreeing to disagree’ is vital for any healthy relationship. After all, we are not clones and are not expected to emulate others completely.
Children are just observing and building their inner coding. We need to make them feel confident that they are equal individuals and are appreciated. Only when we appreciate their opinions, would they credit ours and value us as parents. Discussions are useful as they give fresh insights.
I nowhere say that it is acceptable if children disobey. Obedience hugely depends upon the age group of children and the growing phase they are going through. When they are very young, they have no or limited knowledge about the world. That’s the time we need to guide and teach them. This is when it is imperative that they be obedient, perhaps till the age of 5-6 years. We, too, need to be firm about our NOs, hence be sure before refusing them something.
Around this time, they have started forming their own opinions and questioning our instructions. But majorly, the tweens are observing us, watching whether we follow what we teach them. As they come closer to the teenage years, their exposure to the world expands, and so does their confusion. This is when we need to begin relaxing our authority and start becoming more approachable for them.
The dreaded teenage years are egg-shell-walking ones for the parents. The hormones have started exploding in the kids, and so has the desire for individualism. Their muddled thoughts know they want freedom and respect but are clueless about how to get these and how much they can demand. This boggling confusion and ensuing fright often manifest in two ways: introversion or aggression.
This is where we need to assure them that they can depend upon us. We need to guide the children and give in to some of their opinions/demands, yet firmly convey that the final authority is still with us. Encourage them to share all their thoughts so that they don’t need to look for answers in dubious avenues. Tell them that it is okay to agree to disagree sometimes. We’ll need to put our foot down at times but let that be on a select few things crucial to their safety and development.
As the kids enter the twenties, they are out of our hands; our beloved fledglings are raring to fly. We can control only some parts of their lives. This is when we need to become almost exclusively their pals, and only a tiny bit as controlling parents. As they grow older, we grow younger in the sense of dependability. We start depending upon them to help and guide us on the latest updates of the rapidly refashioning world. It is now our turn to hold their hand and trust them to navigate us through the whirlwind of the changing times. They might reciprocate the quantity and quality of love, care, and trust we gave them when ours was the stronger hand.
This is how I view the journey of parenthood.
A verse in Sanskrit goes like this:
लालयेत्पञ्च्वर्षाणि दशवर्षाणि ताडयेत्
प्राप्ते तु षोडशे वर्षे पुत्रं मित्रवदाचरेत्
(Laalayet panchvarshaani dusvarshaani taadyet
Prapte tu shodashe varshe putram mitrvadacharet)
Up to the age of five (panchvarshaani)
love your child a lot (laalayet)
Up to the age of ten (dusvarshaani)
be strict with him (taadyet)
But when the child reaches the age of 16 (shodashe)
treat him like a friend (putram mitravadaacharet)