Saturday, May 14, 2011

Child the disciplinarian: Learnings from Parenthood IX



Most parents think that parenthood is about enabling the child, making him or her capable to face the world and challenges and generally lay foundation for successful life ahead. This definition is true but when we are actually bringing up a child all we are doing is setting up a list of Do’s and Don’ts and motivating, asking, insisting, enforcing, coercing and sometimes even beating the child to adhere to them. Being disciplinarian is the foundation of parenthood, we tell ourselves. The common trait among most of the parents I have observed is one of the parents assumes the role of the disciplinarian and the other plays the good cop.

All growing children mimic their parent’s behavior; proclaim most of the parenting books. If you want them to do certain things, you must do them in front of them. We took this advice and started implementing it.  

My son had a bad habit of throwing his toys around and to convert his toys room into a mess in the shortest possible time. We wanted him to choose the toys he plans to play with, keep back the rest, to ensure his room is not an obstacle race.  We started to discipline our son by setting the right example. So I stopped tossing up my office bag on the sofa when I am back. My wife set right her dressing table, we started putting our clothes in laundry basket rather than tossing them on the bed. Suddenly the TV remote could be found exactly at arm’s length from our sofa. Our shoes were back in shoe stand as soon as we arrived home… so many small, mini, micro changes were made and practiced. The parenting books were right. It worked. Our child started playing with one or two toys at a time. He would keep back the rest. Suddenly we could walk anywhere in his room without getting pricked or slipping over anything or without getting startled by unexpected sound of a toy which was disturbed. There was a particular place for every toy. He could walk into his room in pitch dark and walkout with the toy he wanted without any problems. Wow! We were impressed.

We noticed a small cavity in his tooth. So tooth care became a mission critical assignment. Both of us had to demonstrate that we brush our teeth as soon as we get up. We had to show him that we clean our teeth after every meal, whether big or small. No matter how tired we were, we never went to bed without brushing our teeth. The parenting books were right again. It worked. Now my son takes good care of his teeth. He rinses his mouth and cleans his teeth even after a glass of milk. Super.

There are many such stories with every parent. But just take a step back and think what has happened? In an attempt to discipline the child we disciplined ourselves.  My parents had tried to instill this discipline in me for about 18 – 20 years. My parents tried to make me brush my teeth before bed but the success rate was less than 10%. The scene now is completely different. I don’t go to bed without brushing my teeth. Period. It is not us who had disciplined the child but it’s the child who had disciplined us. My child had just outperformed my parents in disciplining me.

Let me share another story. One of my friends who was a chain smoker, quit smoking overnight. All his earlier attempts had lasted less than a week but this time it was different. He did not touch cigarette for over 2 months. “Once I was walking with my daughter and she showed me a person who was smoking”, he said. She pointed to that person and told him that the person was very bad. He was a doing a bad thing which made him ill slowly and very soon he will become a star. His daughter would miss him and cry a lot.  Boom!!! Unadulterated eye opener!!! Smoking habit vanished in thin air overnight.

That’s the power of a child. They are looking at you as a role model all the time. They are observing every step, every move. There is no room for error. Trying to become a person that they think we already are, is the ultimate goal.

Being disciplinarian is no doubt the foundation of parenthood, just that it works the other way round. You are not disciplining the child. It is the child – the biggest disciplinarian who is in action!!


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