When the opportunity to write on parenting skills came up, I had mixed feelings of "Of course, I can" and "Oh God! How can I", all at once. What do I know about parenting to write on it? Fine, I chose to give up a thriving career to bring up a child; but just being a dedicated parent hardly qualifies me to write on a subject I am still studying and trying to be good at. Being a first-time mommy, I have mostly relied on the trial and error technique, with some pretty big and embarrassing errors to my credit [rather discredit].
So let us acknowledge this write-up as a humble attempt to share the joys and struggles from this amazing journey called parenthood!
Blessing in disguise
Parenthood is an absolute blessing. It's a delightful experience to bring a tiny human to this world and then watch it blossom and grow. But the magnitude of responsibility that comes with this experience can only be felt after becoming a parent. And since little babies don't come with user manuals, first-time parents often find themselves inept for this responsibility, no matter how many websites/books they have devoured.
In my case, this feeling came just a few hours after my daughter's birth when I could do nothing to stop her wails. All the reading in the world had not equipped me to handle this simple [in retrospect of course] phenomenon. 'All babies cry after birth, it's their way of adjusting to the new environment' and so on.
The theory was perfectly etched in my mind. So, how do you expect a woman [who has just been stitched back] to handle the inability to stop the heartrending cries of her little one? Well, I simply joined in with my own tears of helplessness. Who cares if people around were amused or entertained?
Discovering the secret
The initial months were spent meticulously following instructions from elders. Then, slowly and steadily, I eased into the role of a mother who relied more on instincts and her own judgment. Just when I had started feeling confident about my parenting abilities, my little angel, who was now a two-year-old toddler, put me in place by creating challenging situations, which left me clueless again.
Incidents like stubbornly refusing to come home from the and attacking me like a venomous snake if I would attempt getting anywhere near her; screaming and crying for a candy and of course, shutting her mouth tight as soon as she saw her toothbrush in my hand would leave me stumped. I wouldn't know whether to physically overpower the pint-sized rebel or talk it out; with no amount of 'discussion' helping sometimes.
Heavens, I simply didn't know how to handle a two-year-old! Once again I went scuba diving in the vast parenting wisdom available online, borrowed ideas from websites, sought advice from family and friends, discussed issues with my husband [who surprisingly always had an insightful answer to the problem despite spending far less time with the child] and came out much enlightened!
Revealing pearls of wisdom
Here is some of the knowledge I gathered:
- It is never too early to start disciplining kids. In fact how you handle situations during the toddler years not only defines your relationship with your child, but also shapes her personality.
- If the child becomes demanding and assertive, it's crucial to establish your leadership in this 'power struggle' and let the child know who is in charge.
- 'Discipline without disgrace' is the new parenting mantra. It simply says that parents should not shame or humiliate their children in an attempt to correct them. This impacts the child's self-esteem adversely.
- 'Spare the rod and spoil the child' is an outdated thought because it encourages violence and aggression in kids and seldom reforms them. Even though spanking looks like the simplest and most effective way of silencing the child, it fails as a corrective tool.
- What works? Firm and unwavering parents who refuse to accept misbehaviour and are willing to explain the do's and don'ts. Children look up to parents who are assertive, unyielding and consistent. I couldn't agree more. My daughter throws far less tantrums in front of daddy because she knows that she will achieve little—he will remain unmoved by her theatrics and will handle the situation sternly. With mamma, she knows there's room to get her way with a mere sad face.
- It's very important to stay calm when the child is upset. Easier said than done? Not really. One has to train oneself to handle such situations. If you want to be accepted as the boss, you better command that respect.
Applying new strategies
Armed with this new ammunition, I was ready for some high-level strategic warfare. I specifically remember one visit to the market when my daughter went mad crying for an ice-cream. Normally I would have tried to talk [futile attempt obviously] and then would've resorted to yelling, spanking, picking up the child and marching back home; in that order. All that was passe! The 'evolved' mother employed a totally different strategy. I completely ignored her and coolly stood a few feet away chewing my gum with absolute indifference.
The onlookers gave me strange and quizzical looks since my child was rolling on the mucky floor, face covered with tears and mud. Ignoring it all, I continued my Oscar-winning performance and just told her in a calm voice that I was waiting for her to get over her bad mood so that we could go back home.
Sure enough, after some time, the little monster picked herself, walked up to me and even mumbled a sorry. Was this for real? When I gathered my princess [who at that point looked more like a beggar child] in my arms and soothingly said, "It's ok", I was probably more relieved than her.
Back home, after cleaning up, we did have a 'talk' over dinner and that was the beginning of new dynamics between the mother and daughter.
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