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Challenge of parenting

chandigarh Updated: Aug 10, 2012 10:29 IST
Madhusheel Arora
Madhusheel Arora
Hindustan Times
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"The best way to make children good is to make them happy," said Oscar Wilde.

Most of us retain an element of grouse against our parents, even as we become parents ourselves. There is always a thought that lingers, "it happened because of my parents."

Is the feeling justified? To be honest, till I was not a father, it seemed to be the gospel truth. Now, after being blessed with a daughter a year ago, you can say that a change of opinion is shaping up.

Parenting is a huge challenge. There are no guide books available for this life-changing experience, and even if there are, these would not work as each child is unique.

What's parenting, then? What does it encompass? A traditional school of thought that my parents and a majority of their peers seemed to follow was to first cater to the necessities of life, then secure the child's financial future, and, if any time was left, interact with the child.

Parents had no spare time for their children. So, for companionship, the child had to find friends in the neighourbood. In any case, the child usually had company in his early years, as people had at least three children, on an average.

Also, parents never thought that a child could have expectations of them, and the child could, in some ways, be modelling himself on them.

My parents certainly never thought me wise enough to discuss their problems with me or share their worldly botherations. The fact that I was usually the brightest in class and showed promise of somehow standing on my feet was (and is) enough to make my parents happy.

Will this concept of parenting work today? In my opinion, this blueprint is irrelevant today, even backward-looking. Parents simply have to have more dimensions to the way they interact with the child and provide for his/her needs financial, emotional and spiritual.

Our parents, I suspect, overdid the financial and material part, with little emphasis on really getting to know a child and guiding his interactions with the world. You were mostly left to your own devices and parents would come in only if you had a problem you couldn't solve yourself.

Being friendly with the child was an option only few sets of parents exercised.

Today, most parents want to take care of their child in a holisitic way, though here too, the material aspect dominates. In an era when parents were till recently interviewed for a child's admission to gauge their fee-paying capacity, this is understandable.

But, where parents of today differ markedly from their own parents is in terms of their expectations. Most have an understanding of the fact that ultimately a child becomes what he wants to be in life.

Parents can only be facilitators to the child staying on the right course through life, especially in the crucial choices of career and marriage. Our own parents, perhaps, tried to guide our destiny a lot more strongly in these areas.

Are the parents of today doing a good job? No one can tell. Even siblings express different feelings on how they relate to their parents.

Ultimately, a parent's success is manifested in the behaviour of the child and the society we inhabit. Have we done a good job? It is for all of us to ask ourselves. There can never be unanimity here.

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