Parent traps: An awareness for Gen X


A weekend workshop was organised at the kid’s school and the topic was Positive Parenting. The pictures in the post are the cartoons that appear in the Times of India newspaper everyday.PT1The workshop started with a reminder about all the mistakes we keep committing as against the Positive Parenting guide. Then to the main areas of conflict between the parents and the kids and one major point that emerged was arguments on-screen time. The conclusion drawn was that since there is no clear-cut formula for it, we parents can only adopt a trial and error approach. But rest assured the agreements we have with the kids will fail and we must have the patience to sit with them and establish the rules again and not feel hopeless and give up. There are parents who suggested apps that help to account the number of hours spent in front of the screen and to control and monitor the content. There was a soul-searching questionnaire to be filled during the workshop; towards the end there was a list of to-practice skills, with which we can avoid these pitfalls; a print out of the same was handed out.PT7It was interesting to hear the experiences of the teacher’s as they watch how the Gen X are raising the Gen Z. There are many categories of parents and it was funny to hear the parenting styles and suddenly our own otherwise serious admonishment and constant reminders to the kid, sounded comical.

But what I appreciate most was the awareness that it brought forth about how we can become better parents by only being a bit more aware of our actions and the consequences, summarised as by simply being mindful. The “m”word is everywhere these days and now in parenting too !!

And the workshop helped raise an awareness of what life is like from a teenager’s point of view and what they go through each day at school, with friends, at home, on the internet and at various other windows to world. We as parents only see the big picture (Google Earth view is what they called it ) and drive the kids with that map in mind. The kids on the other hand have a more ground perspective and see things immediately in front of them and how to circumvent the current obstacles.PT3Another helpful factor was to know that all the other parents and kids suffer the same set of anxieties, we are all in the same boat. And it’s always a work in progress. And maybe that’s why the parents today are deciding on what their kids must study based on what other kids are studying, rather that what is in sync with their aptitude and interest. Everything is seen as a competition and even the parents have peer pressure.

If we accuse the kids of having the feeling of entitlement, only the parents are to blame for inculcating the feeling in them. As an example, consider when we have the extended family over for a night’s stay. With the number of beds limited, we have to make compromises. The kid is given his room to sleep, while the adults make the adjustments and decide to sleep on a mattress on the floor, accommodating the elders on the bed. What is the lesson for the kid? – no matter what, I still get my own space !PT5The peer validation pressure is omnipresent and strong as ever. Bribing is another trick we often use and the result, corrupt kids; no mincing words here. An interesting term was kids crowdsourcing their looks; to stand out, to get noticed, to get attention. We were reminded that we have to tone down on the daily dose of appreciation we dole out when the kids do daily tasks like eating their breakfast, getting ready by themselves, packing their bags etc. The claps and cheering we give when the kids pack their school bags the previous evening is an accomplishment the first time, at a certain age and should be commended. But moving on it is becomes a good practice and not an accomplishment. There are things they are supposed to be doing, instead the appreciation should be reserved for occasions like when they excel in studies, accomplish goals, learn new skills, are helpful etc, which are the things they actually get appreciation for in their later working life.

Another interesting example was on the concept of Instant gratification. Earlier if the kid wanted to eat something special he had to wait till his mom was able to take the time out to cook it or it was time for the family dinner outing. If he wanted to buy something, he had to wait till the parents had the time and money to go out and buy. But now with Swiggy & Zomato food deliver apps, any food you carve for can be ordered home instantly. Amazon and Flipkart has made possible to buy anything on the go. So why wait for anything ?

Superman parents trying to shield the kids from all possible problems in the family. The kids grow up in a bubble. This is more true with the Indian parents as they don’t want to fall short in the eyes of their kids. They want to be able to fullfill all their kid’s needs and wants; even at the cost of their own happiness and lifestyle. Instead if the kids are aware of the challenges the parents face, they will learn to manage their expectations and strive to grow and become better not for themselves alone, but for the whole family.

Listening and not giving advice is another skill the parents need to develop. It’s difficult, as we are constantly trying to find the solution to all their problems, instead if giving them a chance to figure things out on their own.PT6And last, the print out had a list of Emotional Skills that both the kids and the parents need to practice. The ability to:

  • Delay gratification
  • Tolerate awkwardness
  • Soothe your own emotions
  • Soothe other people’s emotions
  • Start and persist in pursuing goals even when you feel anxious
  • Have intimate conversations rather than a stonewall, avoid or flee
  • Not go over the top with positive emotion
  • Not to crumble when someone is pressuring you

Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”  Robert Fulghum


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