When I became a mother, I had this most overwhelming instinct to protect my child. I had never felt something so strong before! This is what having a child does to you. Parents, both mother and father, are naturally wired to protect their progeny from getting hurt and would do anything to keep their little ones safe and alive. However the modern parenting has taken this urge way too seriously. Taking care of an infant is different from taking care of a baby.
Similarly, toddlers require different care and routines. But somehow I see many parents, including myself, forgetting these changes. We forget the boundaries differentiating the stages of childhood. As our babies grow, our parenting needs to grow as well. We need to stop doing things which we did for them when they were a baby. This is essential for their development and no way negligent. Our parents remembered these distinctions pretty well and did a great job raising us.
So why are we falling behind despite the increased parenting awareness? Perhaps the answer lies is our overindulgent, hyper style of parenting. While we think we are doing good, we are far from it. In fact we are actually raising children who will grow into incapable adults unable to carry on with the mundane jobs of life like self care, maintaining friendships and keeping themselves happy. As I pondered over this kind of parenting, though borne purely out of love, I made a list for myself. A list of things I would not do for my child as a parent.
1. Keep him entertained: No parent is responsible of keeping their children entertained through out the day. What parents are responsible is for providing safe, joyful and healthy environment. Once over 3years, it is the duty of the child to keep himself entertained for significant part of the day. Parents need to invest their time with children and not their entire days.
2. Buy every toy on the block: Toys are essential for all round development of children and when we expect them to keep themselves entertained. But we need to distinguish wants from needs. Not every toy is necessary. Many toys we buy are actually never played by children. Most of the times, a child has one or two favorites which do just as well to keep her entertained as do 10 toys which are never taken off the shelves.
3. Fight their battles: As children leave the safe confines of their home and enter school, they meet a lot more children. Each child has his unique upbringing and values. Some are very shy while others may be aggressive. Often, I see parents at a play date asking another child to share his/her toy with their child who is throwing a tantrum. This is unfair! No matter what, unless the parent feels that their child’s safety in being compromised, parents should stay away from resolving conflicts between children. This is the first social lesson they need. We should guide them, help them but not fight for them.
4. Do their Homework: Now this happens a lot. I can say that when I see the craft works and coloring sheets on the class bulletin. We all know what are children are capable of and how good their motor and creative skills are. Of course, I too want my child to do his craft neatly and make it really pretty, but that should not make me do things for him. The craft aided by parent is surely very pretty but it certainly looses the purpose it aims to achieve.
So stop doing those crafts for your children to make them look like pinetrest crafts. Rather appreciate the creativity of your child. Same goes for coloring. Let them color the hair purple and the grass pink…its their time to experiment.
5. Throw the biggest, grandest birthday parties: I know children are fond of birthdays but its not in their nature to ask for the grandest, biggest party. All they want is to have fun with their friends and get those gifts. So we need to start budgeting the birthday parties so our children do not equate happiness with money.
6. Make them happy: My job as a parent is to love them unconditionally. Period! Parents are in no way accountable of keeping their children happy all the time. In fact I find this idea absurd! No one in his/her sane mind can experience only one emotion all the time. There are gamut of emotions waiting to be experienced and that’s what make our lives enriching. We cannot know happiness if we have not known sorrow. So stop beating yourself and your child to be happy all the time.
7. Do their chores: This one speaks for itself. Had we allowed our children to run their errands, much like our parents did, they would not need to take those like skills classes. Let them clean their shoes, dust their tables and wash their dishes.
8. Catch their every tear: Life is full of surprises…some nice and some not so nice. My child ran as fast as he could yet did not win the race. Its ok! He does not need a participation certificate for that. What he rather needs is to work harder next time and learn to take disappointments. How a child who is awarded a participation certificate every time she tries going to learn to take rejection for a job interview? I quite don’t understand. Let your child fall and teach her stand up again.
9. Feed them: This is the battle in every household. Anxious of their well being, we feed our children food way longer than we should. I fall in the same trap time and again. My son who is 5years now still wants me to feed him. He is an extremely slow eater. When self-feeding he eats half what he could have had I taken the job. This battle has been going on since he turned 3years. Its high time I leave him with his food alone and so should you.
10. Buy them what their friends have: Comparison is inevitable when children start school. With play dates, birthday invites comes a constant comparison of who has got what. I still remember when my 3year old son asked me to buy him binoculars just like the one his friend had. Children are innocent and are easily fascinated. And it is the job of parents to use better sense. So instead of getting him a binocular, I asked him to share his toys with this friend and take turns looking through the binoculars.
I told him that it is always better to have different toys than the same ones as in the latter case we end up with a wider range. It took lot of patience and iterations to convince him but it had to be done. Comparison is a loop and no parent would want their child to get caught in early.