Recently I had a very interesting conversation with one of my younger girlfriends. She is a recent mother and going through a spate of questions within herself on how she can be the perfect mother to her young daughter. When her daughter cried incessantly, should she pacify her each time or let her be quiet on her own to learn that crying does not get her everything. When her daughter creates a fuss in front of guests should she feel embarrassed or understand that there is surely something that is going on which needs to be addressed lovingly?
When her daughter insists on joining her while cooking even at the risk of burning her little fingers, should she see this as on onset of a child prodigy or just be careful about her safety and wellbeing? When she needs a break herself to rejuvenate and spent some me-time, should she feel guilty or think of it as a well-deserved time to recharge herself? When her child discovers a new interest that is totally beyond my friend’s own understanding, should she feel concerned and keep her off it or join her instead and learn it together? When her daughter wants to do something that is different and scary, should she restrict her for the sake of safety or let her be unfettered and independent? And probably, the most important question being the most fundamental one – should she be a parent or a friend to her daughter?
Now I am no expert myself, but there are certainly things which I truly and deeply believe in. a lot of parents, especially those of my generation felt that children should obey and probably even fear them. They felt that with the unstated boundary came discipline and the much needed respect. While I agree that in the most initial years of a child’s growing up, she or he needs a parent more than a child (mostly because of simple physical factors like not falling off a bed or not banging against a table) but as she or he grows up, what they need is a friend or what is wonderfully called these days as a ‘buddy parent’.
A buddy parent is not limited by the traditional definition of parenthood and hence obliged to guide, direct, be authoritative and controlling. A buddy parent is relaxed, friendly and participative in the child’s life, interests, activities and past-times. A buddy parent want to learn as much as teach and hence it becomes more of mutual sharing.
If you are reading this, and feeling slightly perturbed about emulating ‘buddy parenting’ because you feel that it would blue the respect or take away the discipline, or if you worry that soon they will have other friends and not need you anymore, do not fret. Your friendship is a level higher and a layer deeper than those they have with their peers. It’s higher because you bring with you knowledge, experience, wisdom, and mature decision making abilities. It’s deeper because you don’t get jealous or competitive with your children… also you never abandon or betray them. You laugh, talk, share, participate in their hobbies and play games with them. Both of you enjoy each other immensely. And, of course, you still maintain discipline. How?
- Don’t become permissive: Effective parents set boundaries and permissive ones don’t. You don’t hang out with them just to get close to them. You don’t allow everything so they will like you. You keep the boundaries neat and clear, but they still know that you are always there for them.
- Don’t be standoffish and distant: Else you both wouldn’t get to know each other. There would be minimal trust and sharing about the happening in their lives, so you would lose your ability to influence and guide them. Like any relationship, the communications channels need to be always be open and strong.
- Don’t be a control freak: When controlled, most people tend to rebel. With kids more so. They may start lying, looking for ways to evade your authority, be rude or uncooperative, or go into a passive reclusive state. Control is not respect, if you don’t respect them, you can’t expect your kids to respect you.
- Don’t be that annoying helicopter type: Have you come across fathers who have decided even before birth that their sons will be doctors and their daughters will be teachers? I find such people not only ridiculous, but also highly immature. Consciously or unconsciously they want their children to live a life tailored by them. When you make all decisions for your child, you damage their self-esteem. LET THEM BE. IT IS OKAY TO MAKE MISTAKES AT TIMES. If they won’t make mistakes now, how will they ever learn? They will anyhow make them when they are out in the world but by then the cost of those mistakes will be much higher because by then the stakes will be much higher. More so, by you constantly hovering around them anxiously or sternly, they feel that you don’t trust them. Guide them, but do not suffocate them. It is best if they know that you are there to fall back on but they still own their lives and are responsible for their actions. Your job as parents is to prepare our children for life. You should be able to talk to your children about real issues, with the intention of teaching them life skills so they, and in turn you, will feel confident that when they go out on their own, they will be best able to make the safest, smartest and best choices and decisions.
Let’s dwell deeper into another important aspect. I said something a while ago, which I want to go elaborate. I said that in the most initial years of a child’s growing up, she or he needs a parent more than a child, but as she or he grows up a friend is what becomes more valuable and close. When a child is younger, they need parenting that is around teaching, guiding, and leading into wise choices, loving oneself and others, making friendships and relationships, and gradually evolving into a beautiful wise young person. But as they become physically independent, and start going through different phases of emotional growth, what they need is somebody to talk with, have fun with, play games with, share stories / experiences with and learn together with. Let me break this down into various age-groups, as I see and understand it…
0-5: This is the age group when the child needs you physically for her or his safety and well-being. Feeding, clothing, bathing, everything needs to be done with your help. Bonding and love shared at this stage are extremely important and form deep impressions in your child’s mind. Love received at this stage will make her or him love self and others, feel confident and learn about sharing.
5-11: This is the age group that the child spends understanding the world around. She or he wants to understand things, develop interests and form worldly impressions. Your involvement comes much more as a friend now. You can join their games and activities. You can be part of their hobbies and explorations. You can try different things with them, teach some and learn some. Overall, you can make learning fun and create bonding moments with your kids that go on to make for a happy and secure childhood.
12-17: This is that age where the child understands relationships and self. There is a period of going within, where questions are asked and answered internally, friendships are made and broken, relationships become more alluring, life becomes a bit of a rollercoaster. You can be part of this phase by being a mix of a parent and a friend but neither of them excessively because by now you should have ideally made your child fairly independent, to be able to handle self, make wise choices and ensure self-safety and security, while going through the crucial journey of life. You need to be trusting and supportive, have a sense of humor your child will test your patience at this age, and above all you need to keep perspective about the overall picture, about buddy parenting and about life in general.
So go ahead and explore your role as a parent with an open heart and mind. Do not feel restricted by what you ‘should’ be, but instead use your best judgement. Then you will surely be able to effortlessly switch between the roles of a parent and a buddy effortlessly. Believe me that your kids benefit immensely from this friendship because it establishes a solid base of trust and respect between you. let me summarize everything again…
|Buddy parenting is not being authoritative and thus letting kids be kids.||Traditional parenting is about close monitoring, telling and controlling. It is about curtailing the child at every step and without knowing not letting childhood flower and be what it is.|
|It is about ‘unlocking’ the way childhood should be, free, fearless and unfettered.||It is about pre-conceived notions, teaching what is right or wrong constantly to not let the child make any mistakes, and hence hardly learn anything new independently.|
|It is about eroding those unnecessary boundaries, having fun with kids by being kids themselves, whether it is taking selfies together, playing video games together or cooking together! It is about building that deep bond based on friendship and trust that makes children secure, confident and what they really should be – children!||It is about having well-defined boundaries to instill fear, authority traditional parent-child roles. It is about letting children do ‘child’ things while parents do ‘mature’ things, not doing or learning together, not creating ‘khushi ke pal’, not bonding and making memories that last forever.|
I still remember the ‘khushi ke pal’ I shared with my children and cherish them immensely, whether be the first time my daughter made a chapatti with me resembling the map of India and we both laughed like crazy or when she wanted to hem her own dress and ended up creating a zigzag museum artifact! I remember when my son taught me how to use a videogame remote control and when he told me about various clubs in football! I am sure my kids remember these moments as fondly as I do and they have shaped their personalities into wonderfully smart and kind people that they have fortunately become today!
So, go ahead and play in the mud with your child! Go ahead and learn about the latest technology from your child. Ask about the new movies or books. Show an interest in what your child is doing. Go ahead and ‘unlock’ what childhood should actually be like. Brand Chocos calls it ‘Khuljaye bachpan’ and I wholeheartedly agree with this nomenclature. It is truly about ‘unlocking’ childhood. For me, ‘Khuljaye bachpan’ is about empowerment, and letting kids be kids.
Just the way the lovely Juhi Chawla does it, in this lovely new TVC…
The beautiful and thoughtful images are from Kellogg’s Chocos Facebook page. I left all their tags intact though I wanted to represent only the apt images, because love that they truly understand great parenting and are inspiring people like me to write about such important topics! 🙂