Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Parental dilemma

In a lovely post on the subject of ‘parenting’, Shruthi writes:

Parenting doesn't come with a manual. And to add to that, every child is different. Besides, we will be deluding ourselves if we think that we are the only ones who have an effect on our children. The fact is that we live in a society, and inputs and influences come from every direction.

As a result, we are trying to nudge our children in a direction that we think is best - in the midst of all these thousands of little pushes that the child keeps receiving every day, every minute.

And sometimes we don't even know whether what we are doing is right or not. Is it going to hurt her in the long run? Is this going to result in some other behaviour problem later in life? We don't know. We cannot possibly know. So we always do what we think is right at that point of time. Of course we have a long-term view at the back of our minds, but sometimes, we just cannot be sure of what is right.

If you glance through my “Conversation with daughters “series of posts, you’ll note that I don’t come out shining as an awesome parent who always had the appropriate response to whatever challenges parenting threw my way.

When teaching my elder one to drive a car, for instance, I had to ask myself, “Should I train her to scrupulously follow all the traffic rules, or should I explain that she should use her discretion to ignore some rules once in a while?” In particular, should I caution her not to stop at certain points when the light was ‘red’, as speeding cars from behind will crash into hers, taken by surprise at the utter stupidity of someone stopping there for a red light?

I decided that I wouldl set the right example. I would teach her to follow all the rules. I made her apply for a ‘learner’s licence’, stick an “L” Board on the car and, in a few weeks, after I felt that she had got the hang of driving made her go through the proper process at the RTO including the driving tests, etc. She went in at 8 am and came back at 4.30 pm, tired but triumphant.

The next week, a friend of hers was at the RTO. This friend had not taken a learner’s licence, had not gone through the rigour of driving classes, but was getting her licence straightaway because her dad knew someone who knew someone else who could arrange for a licence to be issued without any of the rigmarole that I forced my daughter to submit to.

I emerged from this episode, looking even more foolish than I was before.

Also, when teaching her to drive, I had to make her stick to the lane and stop at all the signals to wait for the green light. All kinds of idiots would keep honking from behind, but I had to urge her to ignore them. The thought that crossed my mind frequently was that I was conditioning her to an impractical saintly mindset, while the rest of the drivers moved past blatantly violating the rules. Should I also teach her a few of those tricks that would render her more street-smart and worldly-wise?

Anyway, what I did explain to her was that I would teach her how she ought to drive, rather than how I actually drove. This was to prevent any smart-alec comments from her on how I was not practicing what I had preached.

Parenting is hard work, meant for professionals. If you are an amateur and attempting it at home, be very careful.


Shruthi said...

Great post. "what I did explain to her was that I would teach her how she ought to drive, rather than how I actually drove."
I find myself following this already with my daughter. Of course, she's too young for me to tell her that I deviate from the "right path," but I tell her a vague "sometimes you can't help it" to deflect her righteous questioning.

Raj said...

Shruthi: The "sometimes you can't help it' line will be stored in her memory and put to use soon. Beware :)

Shruthi said...

Ackkkk! Never thought of that!