Counseling

Obedience

Obedience

mentor-child

Indian, Hindu tradition and culture has a repertoire of incidents that highlight the quality of obedience in a Guru-Disciple or a Parent- child relationship. Parashuram, the great sage was asked by his father to cut off the head of his mother. The sage, unquestioningly, picked his and with one stroke severed his mother’s head! The father is pleased with the son’s obedience and grants a boon. The dutiful, loving son immediately asks for his mother’s life! And she is alive again. This has a happy ending, there is another story of Guru Dronacharya and his disciple Ekalavya, where the ending is detrimental to the disciple yet the shishya does the guru’s bidding unquestioningly.

Dronacharya asks for Ekalavya’s right thumb finger to be chopped off as fees of tutorship! This would have resulted in Ekalavya never being able to use the bow and arrow to perfection! The very training he received from his guru would be lost if he gave away his thumb. Yet the disciple did exactly that.

In another story of Karna and his Guru Parashuram; Parashuram curses his disciple of amnesia when the time to use his learning’s really arose. He trained Karna to become best archer, the best swordsman, the best mace fighter, invincible totally with expert knowledge of all the tricks needed and the moves to be made at the nick of time to be able to win a losing battle, yet all would be forgotten when he really needed to use these skills. Karna walked away sad, accepting the curse unquestioningly, knowing very well that all the years training was lost.

Innumerable though they are in number all convey a very simple truth and a singular message, obedience and love towards the guru and for the Parents. In those days, in this particular relationship, nothing was ever cross questioned. If the relationship demanded absolute faith and obedience; it was nurtured so, with faith and obedience.

Ekalavya

Flying high with guidance

today

With times this has changed dynamically. We as parents encourage the curious mind, want our children to question everything and feel proud to have an inquisitive progeny. At school too this is seen as a good attribute and teachers appreciate such children. Where the dark cloud starts to loom large is when the child at a very early age starts to feel omniscient and shuts his/her ears to all advice or suggestions. The seed of arrogance has been watered and fed over the years and is now a full grown fruit bearing tree. We ourselves forgot to teach the child humility and love, we were in awe of the inquisitive mind and since during our growing up years we never asked questions (we dared not!) we wanted our children to ask, be bold, and even break a few rules, which we thought were orthodox or needless. We wanted our children to grow up free, independent and confident, in stark contrast to our so called rule ridden regimen which we were saddled with and felt suffocated living it. What we fail to understand is, with all those rules we managed to rebel and yet walk the right path. And this generation, with all the leeway given, everything offered on a platter seems to go astray. They have long stopped listening to us, seem to think very little of our values and customs, find us rigid, unyielding and the list can go on.

Where did we go wrong? We simply left out the obedience and faith part, unknowingly or just so that we can give our children we could not have, we have dropped the axe, very hard, on our own feet. We rebelled a little when we were young and inadvertently passed it on to our kids exponentially. Kites do fly freely in the sky but the ones that fly the highest are always steered with the thin rope held firmly in the hands of the kite flyer. A kite left free to fly in any direction usually ends tangled and torn on some branch. The flyer knows in which direction to steer and just the exact length of the rope that needs to be released. The kite flies free, high, disciplined and with the faith that the other end of the rope is in safe hands.

The parents’ should decide for themselves when and where to draw the line. The guru disciple relationship is still very relevant, we have let it slip by and it is for us to re-enforce it. Then the child was sent to a Gurukul or the present day boarding school, the whole upbringing revolved around obedience, discipline, faith and love. Now we do have boarding schools but the premise for sending them there is very different. Schools, with the teacher as the Guru and families, with the parents as the first guru, revolve around their social strata, today. I am no one to comment on what is right and what is wrong; it is for the parents to discern what is right for them and how they should mould their children.

children and upbringing

children and upbringing

children

Children, especially in our over populated country, are the easiest available raw material. Why I am referring to children as raw material is because parents’ can mould them or shape them the way they want. The parents’ kind of pre decide the end result on behalf of their children and start working on the child nudging gently or pushing roughly or by issuing ultimatums in order to get the child on to the path they thought of for their child. Yet after 18 odd years of diligent training and shaping the end result is always dissatisfying to the parent.

When things start to get out of hand, the parents are still wondering and only after they are neck deep in doubt and worry do they approach me for counsel and crib, “After so many years of effort and sacrifice; my children are not what I wanted them to be. Where did I go wrong? All my sacrifice has gone unrecognized and into the garbage bin”. My first question to them usually is, “Since when has bringing up your own children become a sacrifice?” The parents immediately rephrase their statement or get annoyed at my inability to sympathize with them. I either end up losing the parent to a different counselor or the parent and I invariably get into an argument and they leave my clinic miffed at being shown the mirror so blatantly. Over these years I have realized that personally, I am very prejudiced, that makes me a bad counselor, really. I tend to see the child’s view point more than the parents, because what the child is today is obviously the result of the last years of upbringing by the parent; and I am unable to see beyond that. That is a hurdle I need to cross though, my personal battle. I will come to the point of upbringing now.

upbringing

Upbringing involves a lot of effort is correct, but more than effort it is the right attitude which matters the most. If the parents raise their children as a duty then no pleasure is involved and the relationship becomes very formal and uptight. On the other hand if the children are given too many liberties then they become very self centered failing to understand their parents perspective. A fine balance is needed and it is always a tight rope walk, that to a walk where the fall can be any second albeit the precautions taken. Even after failures the parents need to cast aside their despondent attitude and keep searching for that sliver of ray of hope. Because this hope is immediately transferred to the children and a new positive beginning is just around the corner then. Parents’ who treat upbringing as a sacrifice will impart only a feeling of forced responsibility and a guilt too in the mind of the child. Subconsciously the child clips its own wings and is always afraid to take a giant leap or surge ahead in search of unchartered territories. They keep seeking the parents’ approval and never really grow up to be independent and confident children. This undoubtedly adds to the misery of the sacrificing parents, because this is not what they had bargained for! But, unknowingly they have been working towards this alone right from the word go, so it will become a case of crying over spilt milk.

Upbringing is actually a pleasurable journey for the parents and the child too. It is acceptable to be a moody parent or a strict parent or a lenient parent. In the eyes of the child the parent is never wrong and if the parent is showing a change in behavior then the lapse has been on the part of the child itself. The parents’ can afford to take many liberties with their children while raising them because children are far more loving and forgiving than the parents! They do not expect an apology from us ever, we do, the thought of forgiving or punishing crosses the mind of the parent only; the child unquestioningly accepts both the carrots and the sticks! They never say you do this then only I will study or eat vegetables; we start this whole cycle of blackmail. We say, “You perform, I will buy you a mobile” or “you eat your vegetables or I will ask the doctor to give you a BIG injection”. We parents’ compare our child with the neighbors or relatives children, robbing them of their unique qualities. As the children reach adolescence they begin to really see, understand and finally the tired children also begin to compare, get angry, seek an apology from the parents and start the blackmail cycle with the parents! And the parents wonder where the child is learning such weird habits from; this is not how we raised our children! Who do they emulate? What did we do to deserve this? And an endless stream of such queries crop in the minds of these worried parents.

Bringing up a child is a very learning journey and the journey is never ending because every day is a different story, a different experience and a different lesson to be learnt, for the parent and for the children too. Reaching the destination is not a part of upbringing, enjoying the whole journey and savoring each moment, capturing the special events and growing with them is upbringing. Upbringing is life’s best teacher because lessons are learnt naturally, the learning parent raises a competent happy child and also becomes the most blessed and happy parent.

I will end this with a small poem by Khalil Gibran, “your children are not your children. They are the son’s and daughter’s of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you bur not from you, and though they are with you yet they belong not to you….. You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. Let you bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness; for even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.”

Role of parents

Are parents God’s?

Some person once described the role of parents as, “The boon given by God to play God!” I was rather surprised and disagreed with that description. How can parents be elevated to the status of God? Especially the present generation parents; most of the middle class income group has both the parents working and the time spent with the children is negligible and devoid of any influence on the progeny. So, do the parents really get to play God for their children in this day and generation too? In many ways the answer even today is, yes, they do.

The first three years of the child are the sponge or the learning years. The influence of these years is reflected in the way child’s life shapes itself. In these deciding years mother is the most prominent figure, interlaced with the presence of the father, siblings and extended family or support system. As the child grows up new faces are introduced, like teachers, mentors, friends and peers. But the constant familiar face of the father, mother and siblings’ remain and the values coming from this area cement themselves firmly in the child. So, the child becomes a mirror image of the parents in a subconscious way. It is a natural and sublime happening which actually comes to the fore very starkly when the child becomes an adolescent. The parents need to be doubly cautious about how they behave, what they talk and even what their body language implicates; in front of the spongy toddlers. Parents today are usually working parents and live a stressed life. It is practically impossible to devout time to the children exclusively and most of them are seeking umbrage under full time maids, crèches and graduate to tuitions for all subjects. Many parents resort to extracurricular activities like Drawing, calligraphy, skating and the like so that the children are busy; not demanding the parents attention or time. This bluff gets called off the day the children are old enough to figure out the real reason. Or if they do enjoy all these extra activities then they drift away from the parents and get immersed in their own world, which is a loss for the parents in the long run. Instead if the parents can mutually decide and see to it that at least one parent is available for the child; it builds a confidence and emotional stability in the child. It is not the physical presence which is really needed here, rather the emotional presence and the feeling that ‘I can go back home and cry my heart out, in case of need’ needs to register to the child. If the parents succeed in this then most of their battles are won and the child grows up to be a very competent, aware and happy child.

Who should she pray to?

Our role

In every way the parents inspire the toddlers and kids grow up in awe of their parents and their achievements, wanting to become like them. As teenage approaches these children begin to see the chinks in their parent’s armor and the sheen wanes considerably. They realize that their parents are not God’s or the paragon of virtues that they imagined them to be. Many weakness or faults come to light and they start to move away or seek a different role model to emulate. If the parents wait this long, then reclaiming their role model position becomes next to impossible. It is prudent to be honest open and communicative with the children from the start itself. Behaving the way you want them to behave when they grow up is very important, you tell a lie in the passing or in jest, but the adverse effect it has in the children cannot be treated in jest. It may become a habit hard to get rid of and the parents will have only themselves to blame. It is not necessary that you be a paragon of virtues, but it is imperative that you acknowledge your mistakes and commit to correcting them. Correcting them is difficult if you think of yourself as flawless always, because with time the children understand what is right and wrong; you only add to your woes if you continue to turn a blind eye.

Though I will definitely advocate a stay at home mom or a part time working mom; but if the parents can juggle work and home efficiently then they can choose their best option. What is more important as parents is the quality time with the children, and what you impart to the children in that little time you have to be with them. Enjoy them to your fullest when they are with you, because very soon they will have to leave your nest in search of their own destiny. Be there for them in times of need so that you have the satisfaction of doing your best for your child.

To come to my initial statement, yes, we are God for our children. But do we deserve to be God’s just because we gave birth to them or do we have a more important role to play, in raising them; this each parent has to answer for oneself in all honesty. Us being God’s or not is in our own hands.

parents were kids too

parents were kids!

This picture has the mother too. Pick who is who! Very funnily we forget the day we don the parents garb that we were children once!.As a counselor, specializing in adolescent counseling, “how to tame my wild child ” is the most popular query. And almost nine out of ten parents say, “we were never like this! we used to obey, behave, never question our parents…look at this generation! I did everything exactly the way my parents taught me! In fact, I gave them freedom and raised them in a very unorthodox way! Look at what I got myself into today ” They lament endlessly and I feel very bad interrupting and snapping them out of their self-piteous dream.

careful ,it may snap

I will quote my favorite author again, Khalil Gibran says”Your children The Affordable Care Act does address the growing cost of health care, it’s true focus is on reforming and expanding health individual insurance . are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life”s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday . You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.”

Shows us the mirror very blatantly, yes? We want our children to become what we could not, our unfulfilled dreams and aspirations are unconsciously pushed under their nose. Some lucky parents are blessed with a progeny which willingly steps into the parents shoes. But many seek different goals and want to walk the path less trodden. It is wiser if the parents learn to adapt to the changing times. what may have been the best during our youth will surely be obsolete today. We must guide them and show them the alternatives available; leaving the decision making to them. The more you stretch the string of the bow the sooner it is likely to snap, rendering it useless altogether. Likewise, when the coercion becomes unbearable, the child snaps and rebels. The misbehaving starts and the parents agitation starts too.

This generation parents have become needlessly competitive. The acceptance levels run low and comparison is the biggest vice. The children are finding it burdensome to live up to their expectations and many are succumbing to the pressure .

what is best for my child?

for my baby

Recently, I was reading an article; a blog in fact. It has an extensive survey report on health drinks! The very popular ‘Bournvita’ ‘Horlicks’ and ‘Complan’ were researched for their stated claims and their true value! The author and the family have used/consumed the above for a certain time frame, observed the results and made the statistical analysis. For the readers who are interested in that data, numbers and equations the site is www.kidsandparent.comFor the result keen parents like me, Complan was voted as the best health drink, followed by Horlicks. And much to my joy (I simply am against Bournvita) Bournvita was at the bottom of the list. All the claims they make in the advertisements are untrue. The DHA component and the advantages it supposedly has are needlessly escalated. Horlicks with the Barley in it is a better health drink. This is for the entire conscious mother’s fraternity; any other research you want to get covered or survey results you are in search of, it is good to go through the blog and put up the requisite queries. The survey currently inline is baby food brands and the best a mother can offer the baby, like Pediasure and Cerelac, Farex etc.

That article set me thinking as to what I gave my kids at that age. Memory digging revealed that with my first born, I was in the exact state of mind that most mothers seemed on that site! I went through identical doubt pangs and used to question everything in an earnest attempt to do my best for my kid. This net research was unheard of in India then and wise aunts’ tips, grandparents’ wisdom, mother-in-laws: “we did this and not this!”, mother’s consolation or Doctor’s advice were our only knowledge banks! I did what all of them said in bits and pieces and suffered a fair share too because of this! My first born is still very susceptible to all infections and viruses! His immunity levels are severely beaten and he is sick at the drop of a hat. By the time I had my second baby; I was experienced and also determined not to make the same mistakes that I made with the first one! Tinned/ canned food and Powder milk never entered my house. Even feeding bottles lasted barely 2 months or so. I can count my visits to the doctor, apart for the regular immunization shots; I went twice in the first year and maybe 3-4 times in the following four years. I had to go almost every month for my first born.

I, personally, am of the feeling that mother’s milk is the best for the infant, as many times as the baby wishes to feed. Secondly, start cereals and grains soups, boiled vegetable blends as far as possible. Keep Pediasure etc only as the last resort. This is your best chance to make minimal visits to the Pediatricians! Natural food is the best immunization for the child. With luck, you can also escape the woes of weaning the kid away from bottle and graduating to sipper and bribing the baby through colorful glasses, flavored drinks just to get the toddler to have a glassful of milk (You save a lot of money, time and effort! Believe me).

Once the energetic bundle reaches five years of age, it is inconsequential which health drink you choose. He/ she may drink milk as it is and in case you have to make a choice do choose the best, to be on the safer side! Raising a healthy child is honestly pretty economical still. Ask the mothers from rural India.

This is the mother of all surveys conclusion:-). Parents can always go and check elsewhere for better options and cross check whether they have made the right choice or not!

my babies

The slim -chubby pair
The slim -chubby pair

Self-Awareness

what is discipline?

The simple dictionary meaning of this word is “a set or system of rules and regulations.” and “punishment inflicted by way of correction and training.”

Both the meanings look grim and unhappy, don’t they? The meanings imply that you must behave, else be prepared for punishment. That is what discipline is all about. Is this really what being disciplined means?

We often hear our parents saying ‘don’t do this!!’ ‘Don’t go there’

‘Do this, or  …’ why is it always a string of no, no, no and no’s only?

Then how will the child know? What is to be done really? Think and understand the right and wrong? The child has already a rule book in front of him/ her. So the scope of exploring and of learning and thinking and experimenting are gone. He / she have to be disciplined, follow the rule. Else be punished by the elders. And in return what the older child may end up doing? Putting the same rule book under the younger sibling and behave exactly the way the parents behave!!!

What are we teaching the child here, in the name of discipline?My MASTER said” Punishment and the fear of being punished are the tools for bringing about this odd form of discipline.

“If you do not do as I say, you will get a beating”

“If you do not follow the commands of GOD, you will go to hell”

But, as we are told what NOT to do, and not what to do, we become pregnant with guilt.

How to overcome this weakness? How to unite this life while it is still living? Unite it with the ideal? No answer!!”

We are full of fear of doing the wrong and not being able to live up to the expectations of the rule book, we are too burdened and cannot think about what it was that we really should be doing?

It is but human to break rules, when they are forced upon us in the form of restrictions and prohibitions. It is seen everywhere. If a child is beaten to behave nicely to the younger, he will in his turn give it on to someone else—more likely to his younger sister or brother.

Instead of being given the freedom to make mistakes, learn from them, correct them and out grow them, we force this disciplinary stuff on ourselves. We dare not cross the lines for the fear of unknown and so we remain a coward and ignorant than ever before.

Rules made for army and institutions are very different from the rules imposed on us in our day to day life. Rules are not meant to rob us of ourselves. They are meant to help us understand the self better. And if we know what to do, and how to do, then mistakes and rule breaking may not occur at all. When things are forced and work against our will, rule breaking and indiscipline tend to occur. Else rules are not needed at all.

Now we are clueless about what to do –they do not give the slightest suggestion of how to evolve into that state where the principles of GOD are followed by heart.

What could have been a blooming openness towards a life of simple righteousness has become a closed – up jail of fear and supposition.

My Master voiced this with concern “Discipline has become a matter of sinning in secret, while keeping a suspicious eye on your neighbor. I believe that this negative approach to life is much deeper rooted in our hearts than we normally think.”How to be disciplined or rather lead simple life without having to worry about rule making and rule breaking? Is it possible that we are told what to do, instead of being told what not to do?

It is better if we punish ourselves for a wrong (according to us) done by our progeny, instead of inflicting punishment on the children? How to make the child grow without fear?

Discipline has unfortunately become synonymous with fear; it should have been the synonym for freedom. Discipline is meant to free us from everything.  We become regular, simple, goal oriented, focused and successful in life with discipline.