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Parenting commandments, who wrote them?

posted Aug 2, 2016, 5:45 AM by Kanika G   [ updated Aug 2, 2016, 8:01 AM ]


10 (or some other number) things never to say to your child is a very popular title of parenting posts now-a-days. They all say the same thing and are rather unoriginal. Thou shalt not this and Thou shalt not that. I have several issues with such an attitude.


First of all, never, is a rather strong word. Take for example one of the things that apparently you are never to say to your child, Don't cry. Are they for real. I can't imagine many parents that have never told their kids not to cry. I do it frequently. I am human. There is only so much crying I can tolerate before I say it.


'Because I said so', 'Don't get in the way', 'Good job' the list is long if you collect it from various posts. Now sure some of the points mentioned are big no-nos, and others are better to avoid. But it is not like the posts offer decent solution. The solutions are quite generic and often do not work. In fact usually one resorts to saying stuff like 'Don't cry' after trying the offered solution of a hug and having your ear drums battered by a ear splitting wail.


Secondly, we shouldn't have to mince words with our children. Parenting should not be like diplomacy. Our children are not to be treated like ambassadors of countries we despise. It is important that we really communicate with our kids and really talk about stuff with them, and not just handle them. It is important that we tell them how we feel, and encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings honestly. I would think all this silliness about being excessively careful with your choice of words actually hinders communication.


So what if your child sees that you are frustrated? At least, it is honest. Sure you can't melt down all the time or say hurtful words too often, but walking on eggshells around the kids does not seem normal either. The rest of the world is not going to tip toe around them. So why set them up with a false idea of human interactions?


Third, children are not china dolls. They wont break for every little error you make in raising them. It is okay to make mistakes as long as you acknowledge them and apologise for them. This will teach them something valuable, that grown ups can make mistakes too, and that children deserve respect and apologies.


Besides, parenting is something most people do fairly well. Most children turn out fine. But hardly any parents successfully follow any of these demanding rules all the time. So we need to get some perspective on how much we obsess about the right way to parent and what exactly to say and what not to say.


Fourth, what about the guilt such posts makes parents feel? That cant be healthy for parent child relationships either. If we set up unnatural expectations from parents, none of them will meet it. They will only feel bad about themselves and that definitely is not good for the kids.


I am not saying that we should not try to be understanding, patient and calm parents. But we shouldn't feel guilty about the times we said, 'Don't cry' or 'good job' or 'don't get in my way' or sometimes even 'because I said so', especially if we have answered the whys and now they are simply being used as a delaying tactic. In my experience, sometimes a 'don't cry' is much needed to help a kid snap out of a crying fit. It helps them to know that you don't think the situation is very serious. Sometimes they just need you to tell them there is nothing to cry about and they get reassured, much like you would, if you were freaking out about a medical symptom and your doctor told you, there is nothing to worry about. Of course individual situations need to be judged by the parent.


Parenting is complex. There are many different situations that arise that need to be dealt with in different ways. And blanket advice about what to do or what not to do is usually foolish.


The way I see it, it helps to think about your responses to a particularly tough or emotional situation later when you are calm and see if you still think you did the right thing, and if not, figure out what you could do better and then prepare yourself to apply the plan at best you can the next time the situation arises. It also helps to periodically evaluate your regular responses to your child to see if there is any subtle, but unintended messages being conveyed that you need to clarify and be careful to avoid at best you can in future. It is particularly helpful if this is how you behave with everybody and not just your kids, because your kids are always observing you.