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Mrs. Jyotsna Nair

The Quiescent Power of Positive Parenting
' It was the best of times... it was the worst of times... ' said Charles Dickens in 'A Tale of Two Cities' - a historical novel with a plot that centres around the years leading up to the French Revolution.

I am often reminded of these paradoxical words when I look around me today. Youngsters in the 2nd decade of the 21st century have so much going for them. Technology has become a seamless part of their day - to - day life; many of them are born with the proverbial silver spoon in their mouths; disposable incomes in many families have shot through the roof and kids are brought up in the lap of luxury without the foggiest idea of what financial privation means; closets overflowing with branded clothes & footwear, regular jaunts abroad to exotic destinations during holidays, surrounded by gadgets & gizmos of every conceivable kind; all these are more the norm rather than a rarity today. Top it all up with opportunities aplenty to actualize their dreams & aspirations and certainly these are the 'best of times' to be born in, if one had a choice!.

Yet, one wonders if this cornucopia of plenty has a flipside to it too! Isn't this turning out to be a generation that will experience the 'Been There - Done That syndrome' even before they hit their 20s? Isn't this a generation that is constantly looking for something new / different to hold their attention? That finds ennui & lassitude creeping into everything they do; a generation that demands instant gratification (like instant noodles) and finds it very difficult to accept a 'No' for an answer. To make matters worse the menace of social networking (which includes cyber bullying, befriending a stranger online, sharing inappropriate posts and images, uncontrolled and permanent over exposure of one's life on a public domain to name a few ) is something a no responsible parent can afford to brush under the carpet. Add to this the lack of open spaces, fresh air & clean water; the lack of exercise & overindulgence in junk food and one has a silent, yet deadly cocktail for disaster brewing. ADHD, obesity, low bone density, clinical depression, substance abuse, suicidal tendencies, withdrawal symptoms, low self esteem are words that have today become a regular part of drawing room conversation when we speak about kids as young as 13 or 14 !

Parenting was never easy and in the 21st century it has only become 100 times more difficult! A recent report in one of the mainstream newspapers claimed that '60% of 600 youngsters visiting NIMHANS every month happen to be victims of inappropriate parenting"! It is time to pause & reflect and consciously emend one's approach, if necessary. Half the battle is won if we, as parents, acknowledge the need to make certain changes.

A few pointers that could make a huge difference :
  • Communicate with your child on a daily basis: Make it a point to have dinner together as a family with the television switched off and your smartphone on silent mode! This will give you enough time to talk to your children on a range of topics and also ask them about their school day, every day. This is probably the toughest lifestyle change to make, due to busy schedules, but it can be done.
  • Set limits on your child's TV-watching, gaming, and web surfing. Experts recommend no more than one or two hours per day. Be aware of whom your child interacts with on a daily basis– in person and on the net. In this context it would not be amiss to say that parents could do well to limit the time they themselves spend on Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter & Tumblr. After all the pot can't be calling the kettle black!
  • Doing household chores together on weekends is another very effective way to bond. It will teach kids responsibility and how to fend for themselves later in life. Mopping, sweeping, dusting / vacuuming, folding clothes, watering the plants, washing the car, doing the dishes are chores young kids can comfortably execute.
  • Playing indoor games, taking a walk, going biking (the concept of exclusive bike days currently being held in many neighbourhoods is just what the doctor ordered!) or throwing a few hoops together, even once or twice a week can also work wonders.
  • Teach your kids financial responsibility. Let them be accountable for the pocket money they get. Let it not seem as if money grows on trees or in ATMs.
  • In life we do not always get what we desire. So, teach your children to sometimes take "No" for an answer. Do not give in to their unreasonable demands.
  • Keep them grounded and instil in them the values of honesty, punctuality, compassion, humility and gratitude. Teach them the courage to own up when they make a mistake.
  • While it is important to encourage your child to study hard and do well in exams, do not insist that they be so exam focussed as to forget what it is to be a child- to be curious, & mischievous, to explore, to play, to discover, to invent, to fall and to get up despite falling!
  • And most importantly- Be a good role model for your kids. Action speaks louder than words; remember your kids are watching everything you do or say and internalising your words and deeds.

Perhaps ,even in this day and age, in spite of all the challenges and demands we face as parents, it is not all that difficult for us to make our children feel what William Wordsworth wrote aeons ago : "Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive; to be young the very heaven !"
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