Many of you, who are parents will agree with me that there is so much to being a parent ,that it’s not always possible to do everything correctly. So, there is this little pat you give to yourself for getting something ‘right’. A mental kick for the times when you go wrong! Some days the pats are more than the kicks and those are the good days. And then there are the other kind! the “kick’ days!
But what do you do when you are not sure whether your action was “pat-worthy” or not? Leaves you pretty confused I say!
The one good thing I do as a parent is, I read! I read books and blogs on parenting. there are some great ones like this one. And I am always astounded by the variety of parenting techniques and philosophies out there. Now, I am somewhat of a listener, an ‘appreciator’ of different perspectives. That leaves me in a unique position. A dilemma all my own. The dilemma of finding that I agree with what appear to be conflicting schools of thought!!!
A case in point : I read a while ago a blog, that spoke about appreciating the gifts that our children give us. Now, I know I agree with this. I have a six year old and an eight year old. They like to give me things. Little handmade cards on mother’s day or my birthday. A flower that caught their fancy. A craft they made at school. Small little things, that as an adult, I have no practical use of. But, that I cherish because it came from my babies!
And then today, I read something completely conflicting. Here, its relevant to add that I have been reading on and off a book called Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother . The book is by Amy Chua, an American of Chinese origin, about her experience of raising her two young girls in America, the Chinese way. There has been a lot of criticism of Amy Chua’s ‘tyrannical’ child rearing methods and though I knew about the book I had never read it. Then at the Jaipur Literature Festival this year, I heard her speak. I found her funny, intelligent, witty and most of all open to cynicism and, willingness to debate her parenting choices and admit her mistakes. I found myself nodding to a lot of the stuff she said, and felt that the critics in the audience were not really listening to what she wanted to say. Just reacting to her “apolitical” words. That made me buy her book!!! And its been at my bedside since. I must admit though, I don’t agree with everything she says and has done, but the book does raise very pertinent issues. The chapter I read yesterday happened to be about a birthday card!
Here, the author talks about an incidence when her daughters – then 7 and 4/5 approximately gifted her ‘surprise’ cards on her birthday. The younger one’s card was nothing more than a simple paper folded into half with the words “happy birthday mom” scribbled over it hurriedly. Something her daughter would have made in not more than 20 seconds (I am paraphrasing here). Amy says, Instead of planting a kiss on the girls face and accepting the card, like her American husband would have done. She rejected it. She told her daughters, that she cherished everything they gave her, and has a special box where she stores them. And that the card was not good enough to go in there.
Sounds heartless!!! Doesn’t it? She went on to explain to them, that she expected something more thoughtful, something that reflected their feelings more personally. She told them how as a child their age she would put in much more thought to make her mom’s day special for her. In other words she rejected mediocrity and lip service and demanded more effort and deeper thought.
Is that such a bad thing? As a parent is it not our duty to work towards making our children more thoughtful, generous and attentive to others? At the same time is ‘this’ (Amy Chua’s method) the way to do it?
Are we doing more damage to a child’s psyche by saying something they did is not good enough? or by letting them constantly do ‘passable’ stuff and get away with it, and not challenging them enough?
image courtesy scsk12.org
As an Indian parents, I know most of us are quite expressive about our desire to see our children excel in academics/ sports/ drama/ art/ music etc. Most of us would have no qualms telling our children when their performance in a test has not been up to the mark. But would any of us do what Amy Chua did? Would we tell off our children if they did not do enough to appreciate us? When as parents we go through so much trouble to make our kids feel special, is it wrong to expect them to be thoughtful enough to return the favor. In their own way.
If thoughtfulness is a trait we want our children to develop. What do we do to develop it? A lot of us, including me, try to teach this by example. Hoping that when they see us being thoughtful, they will be encouraged to be the same. And a lot of time this does indeed happen! But not always! Many mothers with teenaged or middle-aged children discover this the hard way. Forgotten birthdays, anniversaries or other important dates, leave them feeling hurt and piqued. One often hears mothers of sons complain about their lack of demonstrativeness.
The fact is as children become adults, we expect them to become more responsible, expressive and show us their care and gratitude in tangible ways. The other fact is that while they were kids we didn’t teach and train them to do this. If we have never held them responsible for being thoughtful or generous to us as kids, how do we expect them to develop those qualities when they grow up? On the other hand, can something like thoughtfulness be demanded? If our children give us perfectly made up cards on our special days and “breakfasts in bed” does that ensure they will be thoughtful grown ups?
I can’t make up my mind. So, I am taking a poll!
Here is my question.
How many of you would do what Amy Chua did? and Why? or Why not?
If you knew that your daughter or son is perfectly capable of making beautifully embellished cards, with pretty verses. But has just scribbled something on paper as a last-minute after thought for you. What would you do?
- Would you feel bad but not say anything
- Not feel bad and of course not say anything (it’s the thought that matters after all)
- Speak about it to them, right then or later
There are no right or wrong answers and I am just trying to get a feel of what other parent think. So feel free to choose any option or write something all your own! I will be grateful! Thank-you!!!!