First Published on Woman Today, May 2009
I do not have to be a parent or an expert to give my opinion about parental mistakes because as a daughter, I know the things that have affected me the most. I am very lucky to have moderately open minded, educated parents in a conservative community. There would always be a chance to make them understand and accept my point of view-But still, not on everything. They always fear people’s judgment upon my very modernized life style. Being in an age where I am expected to get married makes things even worse. But, I do not want to live my life according to what my parents’, or others expect, I want to live it according to what I want. Does that make me an ungrateful child?
Being a parent must be one of the most difficult things to do in life. I know that I will never understand my parents unless I become a parent too. But I see my parents, my uncles and aunties who have children, and I see their mistakes. It seems that their authoritative and strict character camouflage their loving and affectionate side . They put emphasis on people’s judgment over their children’s’ choices and behavior. I am terrified of repeating the same mistakes one day, because I know how they can affect the child’s character. I have found four common mistakes that should be avoided.
First, I am completely against leaving children with maids and nannies all the time. They are the ones who play with them, change their diapers and clothes and feed them. I remember that when my little baby cousin would cry, he would reaches out for his nanny rather than his own mother. Simply, because he spends more time with her than his mother. Thus, a child becomes more attached to his nanny and looses this special bond with his mother. Studies have shown that a child in his first five years absorbs ideas and behavior patterns which make up his personality as he grows. Therefore, there is a great chance that the child absorbs more from the nanny than his own parents. The child will grow up confused and tormented between his nanny and his mother.
Second, punishing the child in front of his friends or comparing him with others has a long term harmful effect on the child’s psychological behavior. Parents might think that this will motivate the child to be better, but it doesn’t. A child would resent his friends and parents. It shakes his confidence and self-esteem and could be the source of future psychological problems. This leads to the question of why we really punish our children in front of others? Is it because we are afraid for our perfect image in a society where brushing up the perfect image is what matters the most? or because they have done things that don’t please us? or because we want to educate them about morals?. If the purpose was to educate children about morals then there is no need to punish them in front of others. It is very important that when we punish our children, we speak to them in a language they understand and explain to them that we punish them because we love them and want to teach them right from wrong, not to make them afraid.
Third, being overly strict and saying “NO” without explanation. Parents should get the child involved in decision making as the child will feel appreciated. This is very important especially with teenagers where the parental relationship should have more friendship traits. Parents should consider the needs of their children not those of the community members. The society is contradicted, and parents themselves sometimes give contradicting paragons. What is forbidden today is allowed tomorrow. Moreover, strict upbringing turns the kids more eager and curious to breaking rules; for them it is a way to punish their parents for being overly strict. Thus, strict upbringing breaks communication between parents and their children. I remember my teenage cousin telling me that she would love to talk to her mother about her sensitive problems but she couldn’t due to her fear of her mother’s reaction. Especially that she tried to open up several times and was shut down be the harsh response she received from her mother which made her regret her decision.
Fourth, even though we live in a chauvinist society, I am against over emphasizing the different roles and expectation for boys and girls in a conservative community. As a consequence for this discrimination, girls end up missing on many opportunities in life even though they might be as qualified as boys. Moreover, boys learn that when they mistake, society forgives them while the girl does not receive the same treatment. It makes boys feel they have the right to have authority on females in the family, even if the females were older. I remember once my little brother asked me as I was leaving the house about my destination, I said “non of your business”. My mother suddenly shouted “this is your brother, the man of the house, you better not disrespect him like that and tell him where your going”. Gender discrimination within the family could create resentment and jealousy between the siblings.
Finally, I would like to say that parents should not be afraid to show love and affection to their children. Hug them. Tell them “I love you”. Smile. Be kind. Hold their hands when they need to. Love them equally. What you harvest is what you plant.