As a parent, I am often overtly moralistic. Pravachan (Lecture) commonly come out of my mouth at the drop of a hat. With a teen and an almost teen, can you really blame me? When I am not playing a referee without a whistle, I am trying to instill some good old fashioned sanskaar (culture) in them. Yes, the word that is often poked fun at but is an inherent part of my parenting as a value system that I wish to inculcate in them. It comprises of being respectful, kind and well-mannered.
But, when it comes to showing instead of preaching, it is easy to hit a roadblock. The other day I had taken them for their annual eye checkup. I am a stickler for traffic rules when I drive. I really try. But I feel unnerved when every single time I get honked at, glared at and intimidated because I refuse to jump a red light. I start out maintaining a Zen-like calm when heading in the mad jungle of Indian roads, but five minutes down the line I am cursing like a woman possessed. Yes, it is not my finest hour. The kids either stifle their giggles or roll their eyes. Watching their uptight mum struggle must be fun, for sure. And it definitely is not a good time to teach them to be kind and gentle if they have to learn from experience.
Yes, my tween questions me about why every one breaks rules impudently. What can I say to him? That we, irrespective of the size of the car we drive and the length of our qualification, care two hoots about road sense. After this daily show, try teaching your teen the merits of not being a rule breaker.
Courtesy the #MeToo movement, we are having a number of conversations about consent and sexual harassment of women. But kids have seen harassment first hand. Men who try to rub against their mother, stare at her or pass lewd comments are pretty common place. One does not need to head very far. And short of ignoring or glaring, most of us just fume and let it go. Respecting women just does not seem to be in our DNA. But I fight that behaviour and attitude. I believe having a strong mother who does not take bullshit helps in raising sons who don’t treat women like second-grade citizens or facilitators instead of partners.
The same works for queues. While I patiently wait, people barge through with not so much as an ask. Apparently, they are the only ones in a rush. How many people does one call out? And the sour face they make when asked to go to the back of the queue is as if I’ve asked them for a share in their inheritance. Yet, I insist that just because others break rules, does not mean that it is okay for us to do so.
Our daily behaviour is one that reeks of entitlement and show of power. There are enough people who encroach upon any open community land without batting an eyelid. Loud, noisy parties are the order of the day showing scant respect for neighbours. Politeness has died a quiet death, as yelling and threatening is a natural resort no matter who is at fault. Keeping our head above water and still retaining our good manners and kindness may seem difficult, but it is definitely the need of the hour.
When we give our kids shiny cars and allow them to drive underage and then cover up their accidents, we are all raising a generation of insolent brats.
Unwittingly, we are raising our kids to be entitled jerks who know next to nothing about working hard, being polite and courteous and respecting other humans.
And as parents, we must fight this with our very beings. While the world at large may not show them that being good pays in the long run or that humility and kindness are strengths, they are.
It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men ~ Frederick Douglass
I am really trying hard to raise sensitive decent men because this is one battle that can be won right from childhood. But do we have a conducive environment to teach as we preach? Would love to hear your thoughts on this.
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I agree wholeheartedly. The ideals we imbibed automatically in our childhood need to be reinforced on a regular basis to our children because what they see is not what we want them to become. I have long discussions on this with my sister and we have come to the conclusion that the only thing to do is to repeat and repeat and repeat yet again and hope that it is getting registered in some part of their brain. Once they are through with their turbulent teens perhaps they will go back to the ideals we are trying to instill in them. Of course being a role model is the first step and I do try my hardest to be one.
It’s definitely challenging and it gets more so with each generation. And while I won’t say it’s easy, the one thing I try to do when I am on the verge of losing my cool is close my eyes and ask, ‘How would my mom/dad handle this?’ In that sense, I’ve been quite lucky, having them as role models.
And it’s important to know where to be assertive, especially in public spaces. Gy is quiet by nature but has a very deep-rooted sense of right and wrong which can flare up when she sees things going awry.
At some level, I think kids will work it out. The best thing we can do is guide them in the way we know and love. At least, that is what I hope 🙂 The rest is up to fate.
Oh, you are so right, Rachna!
Teaching my nephew manners/ good behaviour can definitely be difficult when the kid asks me why some other kids/adults behave in exactly the way I prohibit him from following! It can get tough explaining that there’s a difference between them and us–what else can I say? He needs to understand how he is supposed to behave, in public as well as at home, and he does follow what I say. But, the kind of people he sees around him outside, I feel all of my talk going to waste! I just hope that the values we instil in them, stay with them somewhere and they turn out better individuals than the kind we see around us today.
It is a tough one, Rachna. I have a 14 yo at home who questions so many things not just about the world outside but about the way we do things at home so I know exactly what you mean when you say practising is harder than preaching with today’s kids. I guess, with every generation it only becomes even more challenging because there are more role models of people who are breaking rules rather than following them and no matter how well you bring them up, there will be clashes when the world outside calls for a completely different set of values from what they’ve grown up with. I’m doing my best though, hoping that when the time comes, my son will have the good sense to tell right from wrong and do what it best. Ultimately, their individual choice is also at play in how they shape up in later life, isn’t it?
I was chuckling while reading your paragraph on driving and trying to hold ones horses and not mumble and curse. Same story here. When I’m with the twenty-year old, yes she turned twenty!!! Geez, I do let my horses lose, as I know she will still understand, but with the ten year-old around, I’m tad prudent.
But honestly, I also do squirm in my seat thinking what values will I pass on! Yes, in a world full of impatient people, who lack basic civic sense and mannerism; it’s hard to imagine what our kids are learning. But I guess we can do our bit by demonstrating the same in our behaviour.
For instance, I’ve tried to be aware of my own actions which include; holding out the door to people behind me, or thanking people at the smallest instance; be it the delivery boy, the help, etc. I know these are little things. But I believe, kids learn more by watching us, then by us telling them what to do. And like you I forget and go on my ‘gyaan’ tirade mode.
Phew! Parenting sure is no mean task.
I also have been working on inculcating the importance of our Indian festivals by getting a lot more proactive in the little rituals, something that I used to do, but it had gotten blurred with time.
I believe as a society if we were to become kinder, tolerant, compassionate, our kids would grow up becoming the same. I say this often, but my Buddhism practise teaches us all of that, and I’m glad my girls are also are imbibing a few values through this practise.
I was a little shocked to read in your post that people in Banglore also honk, give dirty glares, and misbehave with women. In my head Banglore is far more sober than our Sadi Dilli. Lol!
Well said, Rachna. I have struggled with finding the appropriate answers to my son’s bazillion questions as he was growing up. Still do, because we want them to be good compassionate well-mannered citizens when the examples we see around us are anything but! Just opening the newspaper and seeing the headlines alone is enough to make one want to retch and throw up these days. We live in a country where politicians are the worst examples of good citizens. Sigh. 🙂 Yet, there is so much good, too, when we look for it. It seems like a constant uphill task, but the greatest reward is when we see our children behaving well and being kind–because they do learn from what they see.
I am sure your boys will grow up to be fine young people!
Could not agree more Rachna , as the investment in a child’s future is perhaps the best one can make