Unfortunately, I grew up in a society where parents feel responsible for every aspect of a child’s life except what the child actually is. In our culture, parents worry about school admissions, education and college, exams and results, marriages and expenses, but ignore their main responsibility as a parent?—?that of personality development of their child. All our parents do is raise us, and in doing so, bully us.
Probably most of you don’t even know that you have been bullied by your parents. Of course, there is an unbreakable emotional bond within a family, but even love can’t undo the catastrophic consequences of bad parenting. We live in an atmosphere where shaming, name-calling, depriving, demeaning, and discouraging is normal. Parents intentionally or unintentionally bully their kids and that’s what the children learn to themselves become bullies when they grow up. So the cycle continues. The following points will explain my argument:
The worst characteristic of our parents?—?they are discouraging. Lack of appreciation crushes confidence, especially in a teenager. In Kashmir parents are a source of negative vibes. They can’t talk without if’s and but’s. I draw conclusions from personal experience and I’ve seen careers get destroyed only because of undue involvement of parents. For example, Kashmiri parents often decide career options for their children, completely overriding the children’s interest and passion. Enforcing decisions and making someone do things that he/she is not capable of is nothing but bullying. Judging the child’s ability is a terrible form of bullying that parents do. Everyone is not meant to be a nuclear scientist, so why not pat your boy for his achievements instead of discouraging because he couldn’t stand up to your standards of success. Encouragement and acceptance sometimes can be too big a thing to ask.
In the 4th grade, I guess, I developed an interest in Urdu poetry. Urdu poets fascinated me and I wanted to write like them. Can you imagine a 4th grader’s quality of writing? I somehow managed to write a poem and gathered the courage to read it aloud in front of my family. The pain and shame are still fresh to this day. I was so laughed upon that it took me 12 years to write again. Such is the impact of discouragement.
• It might be hard to swallow but Kashmiri parents discriminate amongst siblings. They discriminate on the basis of colour, features, intelligence, and whatnot. Suppose you have two daughters, one is fair, perfect in every way, and the other is a bit tan-coloured or short-statured or with a big nose or anything. I don’t say that any parent will criticise or blame their child for that, but what happens when a parent mocks or demeans you for your physical features? Where does that leave a child’s mental state? What mark does it leave on someone’s mind, to see their own father or mother approve or reject a marriage proposal on the basis of skin colour or short stature or bald hair or anything? It is the parents who instil insecurities into their own children by not talking or acting wisely. So many parents have taken their teenagers on such a horrible psychological ride that they find it difficult to accept themselves. They have been bullying their kids mentally, making them believe that they are not perfect.
• Every father or mother wants their child to excel in life. But there is a manner in which you should instruct your boy/girl to focus, to make them understand that studies or sports or music needs dedication. Regrettably, parents draw comparisons with other children and create the pressure of huge expectations. Instead of providing support, they burden us mentally, not realizing that everyone has a breaking point. So many parents expect beyond the ability of their kids, just to satisfy their ego and pride. They say you need to score more than your cousin or neighbour, so that they can boast about it. This mentality of our parents has made children suffer in general. Bullying in this form can squash any young bud that one day could have bloomed.
An advice to all parents
Good parenting is an issue that needs immediate attention. It is not easy, it involves a great deal of consistency. Parents should focus on encouragement over demoralisation, consequences over punishment, and cooperation over obedience. They should worry more about personality development than means of survival. Most importantly, they should stop owning their children. Raise them as independent beings who have a right to think, decide, and act for themselves. Stop behaving like they are your trophy to boast about. If you have a kid good at something, don’t glorify, for you are only making other kids’ lives difficult. Instead, be happy and keep encouraging. Never praise one child over the other. Never glorify fair colour as beautiful, especially if any member of your family is not fair. Don’t ask your child to study more just because his/her cousin happens to be intense at it. Only ask to improve every day. Don’t compare; it never helps.
Lastly, try to build a relationship with your child on the basis of love, trust, and understanding. Try to parent them in the true sense.
—The writer is a student of Aligarh Muslim University. [email protected]