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Sunday, 23 May 2010

Break the mould, now

[The following article written by me was published in Deccan Herald, Bangalore, on March 18, 2010]

Deal with your own demons before they start haunting your kids, says Maullika Sharma
How many times have you fretted over your child’s academic performance in his first standard test? Are your child’s test results your only source of external validation? How many times have you increased the pressure on your kids so that they live out your dreams as a stay-at-home mom? How many times have you sat up at night to finish your child’s homework so that she doesn’t have to face the consequences in school the next day?

How many times have you felt frustrated at career opportunities gone by and taken out your wrath on your child, holding her responsible for your missed chances? How many times have you expected your children to do things that you’d rather not do yourself — like spending time with your aging parents, helping with chores at home, expressing your anger appropriately, or simply being a good samaritan?

Most of us cannot honestly say ‘never’ to these questions.
Would you want your kids to hold a grudge against you in the way you perhaps hold your parents responsible for everything that’s gone wrong with your life? Or, are you so naive as to believe that things will magically be different between you and your kids?

Choose to be different
If you can’t communicate with your parents even now; if you still feel the need to lie to them about your drinking and smoking; if you are still resentful that they pressurised you into chasing their dreams and not yours, then there are two choices before you as a parent.

You could either give your child the same experiences that you had — and hated. Or, you could choose to be different as a parent. This would mean confronting your own hidden demons. It calls for a great deal of self-analysis and introspection. It means getting in touch with your emotions. It means facing the pain of past hurts and understanding your own story — how you got to where you are, why you are the kind of person you are, and why certain things happened to you.

In short, it means hard work of the emotional kind — either on your own, or with the help of a close friend, or with the help of a counsellor. It is no surprise, therefore, that many of us chose not to do it.

Don’t be a control freak

If you find yourself excessively anxious about your child’s future, it is not going to let you enjoy her present. If everything your child does spells trouble, I think it is time, not to tighten the screws on your child, but to stop and take stock of your own baggage. Why are you so afraid of failure? Why are you prone to predicting doom? These are issues that you need to deal with to be able to successfully play the role of a supportive parent.
You need to help your child define her own success rather than just live up to yours. If you invest your own self-worth in your children’s success, you will be blind to your child’s personality traits. You will become consumed by how your child’s behavior reflects on you as a parent. If your child is talented, popular and well-behaved, then you feel good about yourself. If your child is lacking in any way, you feel guilty and ashamed.

Pull out the demons from your heart and mind. Face them. Destroy them. Move on. This will help you adjust your focus away from controlling your child to understanding her. In our zeal to be better moms, let us not forget that our children give us the chance to be better people as well — people who are at peace with themselves and their past.

(This article was published in Deccan Herald in March 2010

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