Set your child free

Don't impose your thoughts and beliefs on your children. Love them for who they are and not for whom you want them to be

father and son playingWe have all been the recipients of a brand of reasoning that crosses cultures, countries and continents; it's called 'parental logic'. I have rarely met a parent who doesn't mean the best for their kid and take the job of teaching their young very seriously. It is also rare to meet a parent who consciously wishes harm on their little angels. Yet every adult imprints his/her beliefs and experiences on their child's life.

Parental gyan

Most of us are familiar with these words of childhood gyan: "If you don't eat your beans, you'll never grow up." "You're going to get it when we get home." "One day you'll have kids and I hope they turn out just like you." "There are millions of less fortunate kids in this world who don't have wonderful parents like you do." "Keep crying and I'll give you something to cry about." "Why?Because I say so."

Copy cat

We're all at the mercy of our ignorance and prejudice and we help our children absorb these by just being around us. Kids watch, they listen and true or false, our ideas become their ideas and slowly but surely they start mirroring us. How many parents can avoid this?

We set the standard in our homes and schools by being examples for our kids. Whatever the child hears in his/her growing up years becomes the basis of their image of themselves. For example, we all teach our kids to tell the truth, but when the phone rings and we don't wish to answer the call, we ask them to say we're not at home. We also learn our primary life lessons from our teachers by emulating their mannerisms and behaviours. Teachers are like God when we are little. Their word is law and whatever they say gets imprinted for life in our innocent brains. If a teacher pronounces us stupid, and they should know right from wrong, we believe her and from then on it's no surprise that we do stupid things. Subconsciously, to do smart things would be wrong.

A school for parents

Every child pictures her home and her school through her beliefs and life choices. Our children and the family as a whole, reflect our personal lives. Unconsciously we stamp in our hopes and passions, ambitions and regrets, fears and limitations in the name of 'love'.

No matter what psychology has to say, the irony is that none of us went to a 'parenting school'. We just gave birth as an 'act of God'. No one ever told us how to handle feeling hopeless and overwhelmed in this job. No one said that feeling a lack of control or feeling choiceless was part of it. And we have to handle all this while having to maintain our authority.

What should parents do to hide their own weaknesses and failures in front of their kids? No one taught us that. We fumbled along and did the best we knew, did it our way, usually the way we learned from our parents.

The truth is each one of us carries our childhood with us, no matter how old we are. We're all little kids inside of us and we also feel joy, enthusiasm and pride. But beyond a certain level we're expected not to show and express it. We also feel anger, guilt and fear, but can't express it or think we shouldn't. We think that it would be childish to do so and is not what grown-ups do.

Child, the father of man

What if someone had told us that it is our kids who are here to teach us? We learn the most from parenthood and the primary lesson is one of acceptance and appreciation; for them, for ourselves and the process of life which made this happen. An acceptance that says, "You are loved and valued just the way you are". An affirmation that must begin with us and then reflect on the child we are attempting to nurture.

We need to accept our imperfections first, forgive ourselves, and then begin the joyous task of parenting. By looking within ourselves with compassion, understanding the little person inside us, we can help our kids do the same. We, as parents, need to ask ourselves, "How would I like to be spoken to?" Realising that we are the images that our children fashion their futures from, would help us become more aware of our reactions and thus make better choices in our own lives.

In my opinion, the big lesson for us all as parents is the acceptance that there is little we can really alter in our children's lives. However, how we act affects their learning far more than the lessons we try to stamp in. So it is important to remember that we do have the power to choose how we respond and communicate with them. We can choose our words and our attitudes and hence what we say to a child may change his destiny.

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Ritu Malhotra
Ritu Malhotra is the co-founder of AJNA Center for Learning, Pune. She has been trained in psychology and various alternative holistic methods of self-help. Her metaphysical training enables her to approach health on all levels in a truly spiritual manner.

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