Last night we were having dinner with a few friends. At the table one of them asked “when do children start taking their responsibility themselves” the other pitched in “till what age do you think we need to be on their heads for their studies, hygiene, controlling TV?” These are usual questions which mostly come up in parties for me. Most days I keep discussion on parenting out during friends and family get-togethers. Parenting is a very close to heart and “ego” laced topic and people have a huge resistance in challenging their own thoughts and actions (and when they don’t work we say that’s the cycle of life! And move on). My rule has been not to venture out on these topics during these settings.
But I guess last night was different. It was like these two questions ignited the others off (diwali ki ladi jal gayi!) and here I was facing a barrage of questions. Some of them went like.. we have tried everything – fear, let him be, comparison with his elder sister, hurting his pride, trying to ignite that passion in him but we think he just doesn’t have it in him. I don’t think there is a way out… Is there? The question was more of a definitive statement than an enquiry.
The start of our Parent coaching programs or workshops on “making children responsible for themselves” start from a barrage as soon as we ask them what are the issues you are facing vis a vis parenting? It’s like lighting an anaar on diwali! A few of them go like…
· He doesn’t eat on his own?
· She doesn’t take care of her belongings? Clothes are lying all over
· They never complete their homework on time?
· Exam time is a curfew for me more than them?
· I have to keep a constant watch on who she is talking to to, her whatsapp, need to spy on her facebook account..?
· I have become a helicopter mom! He just can’t be left alone, always wanders off to places and things he should not be doing.? Its not just draining, my child hates me for it and I also don’t like it myself. But there is no way out!
We look at each other and think – parenting is a bad deal and here we are promising them “joy and fulfillment in everyday parenting”
Last night I asked my friends, do you really want to have a conversation about this. Then you need to lower your guards and be open to a different view of life and think of it as a new thought which you can try out with your kids and figure out for yourself. This conversation is ultimately about your children theirs and your life.
Why did it all start?
It’s not that children are not responsible, what’s happened over the years is that WE have taken away responsibility for their life from them! Lets me ask you a few questions and you will get it
· Who is responsible for they eating and eating healthy
· They getting up on time for school
· Who makes sure that they complete their homework before going to sleep
· Who keeps a tab on their TV, Games, Mobile timings
· Who ensures that they finish their courses before the exam
· And the list goes on…
And when we take up the responsibility of any aspect of another’s life the second person stops being responsible for it. This is Human! Examine this in other aspects of your life. Who is responsible for ensuring food is available at meal times? Who is responsible for earning for the family? The other members don’t even think about these aspects. That’s exactly what happened over the years, children saw us taking responsibility of certain aspects of their life which in a way made is convenient for them, so they let us take it on. The issue is the Myth that they are too small to take them on and they should take it on once they are grown up! Remember this is a Myth!
The usual method (which more often than not falls flat….)
So now what happens when at the age of 13/14/19/21 we suddenly say now we are no longer responsible – you take it on yourself
1. Suddenly they are left without crutches!
When you remove any ones crutches after decades what do you think will happen
2. Yes! They falter / fall
And when you see your child fall / falter after decades what do you do
3. Catch them and support them again – take the responsibility back!
Wow! That brings you back to Square 1 and then all the questions about we tried everything, everything failed. Kids these days just don’t have it in them! This is it! This is THE circle of life!
We need to handover the responsibility back to them, and since its not happened in years both we and they are not used to or ready for the instant transition. The transition needs to be gradual and require handholding for both parents and children. Working is out together!
Start with the context that “they are capable and you are having a conversation with another Human Being (not a kiddo who’s not responsible)
· Pick up aspect by aspect – say eating habits
· Share what’s not working in the area. Have a conversation about why is it important for them, what are the implications, how it’s about their health and how is it going to impact their life (stop yourself from saying – we have done these a hundred times.. follow the entire process)
· Hear them out – listen to their views, feeling – DO not answer them just listen!
· Share your views and feelings, the impact on you – DO not blame them!
· Ask them about what could be the possible solutions to the issue. Every solution is a valid solution in this step
· Once the laundry list of solutions is done – pick up the one which appears to be the best.
· Assign consequences – what if this does not happen!
· Now they are responsible for the aspect, its results and consequences!
· Remember not to take the responsibility back but action consequences.
· Consequences are not punishments
· Do not fix a consequence which is not going to be carried out
· It’s a result of an action
· Consequences are agreed upon in advance
· Remember you are not administering the consequences – the child is causing them on herself
· Its critical to establish “every action in our life has a consequence” in your child’s life
· It’s for his growth and development
· Consequences do not depend on the mood / times. They simply happen irrespective of the circumstances!
· Missed once they lose their effectiveness
This process is not going to be easy – it would take a few times to establish. But this works! We’ve done it with thousands of children and parents
So, next time you negotiate with your children, remember that negotiating is not about winning or losing. It is about exploring options objectively and creating a win – win for all.
Imagine if they take up responsibility of top three aspects how would life be. Let’s not waste the time we have with them in this age in nagging, cribbing, fights and arguments. I promise you parenting is the most beautiful experience – a source of joy and fulfillment in your life everyday!