The parent trap of pleasing your kids
It doesn't seem long ago when I was in school, and would sometimes throw tantrums to get the things I wanted. Once, I remember, demanding a scoop of my favourite ice-cream instead of what was served as dessert. My parents didn't oblige. I had two choices: to eat the dessert being offered, or leave the table. I chose the latter, and in a fit of rage went to my room, only to return a bit later to have the same dessert, which I'd said no. We alternated between the choices and in the process, we learnt to value what was on the plate, respect our parents, and manage our moods and outbursts.
Of course, things have changed. We grew up in the generation where a lot of us were expected to do things to please our parents and gain their acceptance - not the other way around. Talk today, parents are under immense pressure to be liked by their children. Demands for a scoop of ice cream are met with double scoops, topped suitably with a chocolate swirl and unicorn sprinkles. The words - kids these days - is our go-to parenting rule. As adults, we're constantly aspiring to earn 'the cool parents' tag from our little ones.
Yes, the kids these days are different. They have a mind of their own, fortunately. Unfortunately, though, their opinion extends to parenting as well. As a result, most parents raise their children under a cloud of fear and judgement - oft caught between what's right for the child and what the child feels is right for him/her. Should you scold a child for he fared badly at Math exams? No. He could lock himself in a room, refusing to eat for hours. Should you ask a child to keep away the tablet and greet the guests, who have just walked in from the door? No. She could run away from home. Should you ask a child to apologise for using foul language? No. He could take a drastic step in a fit of anger.
Yes, there is a lot of pressure on children. They're highly sensitive and a lot is expected of them. They're far more exposed too. There's a lot more homework. Other than that, there is the responsibility to look after the planet, to build a college-worthy resume, et al. And on top of it all, there are social media trends to catch up on. It is indeed a challenging time to be a child. All of the above and beyond make it challenging to be a parent as well. Can one fault the parents for wanting validation and respect? No. Can one fault the children for resorting to attention-gaining means? No. There will come a time when your little one will be right about something - you could gracefully accept it so. Or the day when your teenager will argue over the need of developing a self-identity - you could gracefully discuss the issue with her/him.
There are no two ways about it that we are walking a tightrope, both children and parents. Let's support one another to keep the balance and not trip while we are at it. And in this scenario, parents have the onus of disciplining the kids. It is the greatest gift we can give to them.
Were we picked on and pampered, cautioned and cajoled, and reminded and reprimanded? Oh, yes. And we turned out okay. So kids, let's go easy on mom-dad, shall we?
This piece was first published in Khaleej Times.