We have moved on from what would ‘others’ say to a more ‘child-centric’ parenting these days. Disciplining children has also changed with the changing world.
Recently during a train travel, I was rudely shaken awake by a little child not quite 3 years. The child was jumping up and down the tray table that was attached to my seat in the AC chair car. She kept at it for almost the entire 6 hour long journey. The little imp neither slept nor even took a moment’s rest while her parents took turns taking a nap. There was neither a murmur of apology nor was their facial expression denoting their embarrassment or annoyance with their child. There was not even an attempt to demur by way of, “No beta!” I was alternatively miffed and appreciative of their complete chutzpah in their absolute faith in their own style of parenting.
Immediately, I was transported to the arduous journey from Lucknow to Hyderabad or Chennai depending on which side of the family I was visiting. My children were subjected to constant hushing and shushing. Often their mutinous expression was ignored.
Two decades thence, two different experiences in the way parenting is perceived.
Parenting and Discipline Today
I perceive a growing hesitation in correcting the child in public. Are parents worried about the physical, psychological, emotional, intellectual needs of the child and erring towards extreme caution towards the aspect of disciplining? Or is the ‘my child, my world’ mentality leading to this change?
Discipline is a facet that has undergone a sea change. As Padmini Natrajan who likes to call herself, “Dame Quixote tilting at windmills,’ and a parent of responsible adults succinctly puts it, “parents across generation have tried it all…..from physical punishment where spanking was a norm to being actually afraid of disciplining! The concept of discipline and its impact can never be quantified. Today, disciplining a child has become a difficult task in as much that teachers are dictated by the ‘paying’ parents.”
What is Disciplining?
Then we come to the very crux namely the very concept of disciplining. My young friend, Neha Satheesan, 25 going on 52, asks so very perceptively, “What does being disciplined mean? Does being disciplined mean sticking to a curfew, studying everyday systematically, staying out of trouble, choosing what is best for them and ensuring they abide to societal and/or your rules and regulations? Or does discipline mean being able to take responsibility for your actions and their consequences, exposing the child to different worlds, allowing them to experiment, experimenting with them, and encouraging them to make their own decisions?”
Put like that, I believe that disciplining is all that and above. I would also like to add a caveat here that your ability to co-exist with others in a society is also equally important. Unfortunately, the very abstractness to the term discipline is causing a major confusion. Most parents want to undo the ‘authoritative parenting ‘that they were subjected to and embrace the new age mantra of ‘free will’ and ‘giving space’ to your child.
What Mothers Say about Discipline
Janani, who calls herself, a proud homemaker and mother to two tweens, says, “Children require some ‘space’ to shape their personality. Needless to say, it comes with a modicum of monitoring.”
Anupama Sridhar an educator says, “It’s shocking to see less disciplined kids as their growing years are tailor made and they don’t have to struggle to get something as it is readily available.”
Shubha Roopesh, another young mother too believes that the changes in the idea of discipline has made the child feel respected and is given a choice to decide and that makes him/her happier.
Nupur Roopa a mother to a young 7 year old is more specific, “I feel discipline will make you free. And you need to be responsible for the choice you make. Total ‘free will’ calls for a chaotic life. I give my daughter the freedom to choose the chore from a list that I have made…she has a choice over which chores she would perform but chores she must do.”
The term parenting itself is in a state of flux. There was a time when parents took care of the basic needs and allowed children to be. They instinctively knew what to do for their child’s growth. They were good with the local grannies ‘stepping in’ in case of need. Today, right from conception to delivery and after, we have literature, books, CD and umpteen channels to teach parents to parent a child. Most often than not, the age old do’s and don’ts are being done away. The concept of parenting is leaning towards ‘textbook parenting’.
Ms. Natrajan says, “Parenting is the most difficult job right from the times of Cain and Abel!! Or Ganesha and Muruga….the one job to which you come to with no qualifications or training. It is a hit or miss enterprise and most parents end up as the payee…nothing else!”
Agatha Christie, besides being a murder queen hit the nail of the head when she used the phrase, ‘Healthy neglect’ in one of the books to describe what an ideal parenting need to be.
Opinions from Parents
Maya Sadasivan, life skills and leadership coach says, “Our generation tends to take on the onus of both the outcomes and consequences of our children’s action/ non action. It is not that parenting is better or worse – we as parents forget to let go.” She believes, that we are all more into “what is everybody doing – and the latest is the best for my baby’. We were brought up to conceptualize and live for a future. Strangely, we are bringing our children up as if there is no tomorrow!”
Roopa demurs, “I feel parenting should evolve through intuition. All children are different. Parenting cannot be taught. It is a learning experience. You grow with you child as a parent and she believes that the key to it is conscious parenting.”
Amidst disturbing reports of the growing trend of children becoming violent, aggressive, rude and uncooperative particularly when they are weaned away from video games, how can parents draw a line to acceptable vs. unacceptable behaviour and how do they ensure that the children don’t abuse them?
And the children today….
Children are confused, so I believe. We have parents going ga-ga over their little mite showing great deal of adroitness when it comes to the use of gadgets. Come teenage, the parents suddenly realize that their child has become a social misfit. One who spends more time on gadgets rather than books!
Sadasivan concludes, “Another hit is the morality – ethics and values. While there is a generational shift in what defines morality, we do not seem to have created human beings who have steady values. Values which we believed was character – more like maukatarians! We need to give freedom to experience and evolve own moral compass. But, to have a moral compass should be non-negotiable.”
As Natrajan puts it, “ with no checks and balances, we seem to be only creating lawless monsters. Monsters who can manipulate and take advantage of any situation to suit their ends. Sad, but true. From home, to school, to university and workplace and further into society, this free for all is sadly undermining the very structure of life and living according to Dharma. They seem to have poor role models.”
To conclude, what constitutes discipline, parenting and moral codes might undergo any number of transformations; the fact remains that we should like the child we have created!
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