Is Perfection a Parenting Goal?

“When my kids become wild and unruly, I use a nice, safe playpen. When they’re finished, I climb out.”

This was a little quote I saw on another blog, and I found it so hilarious I just had to share! Sometimes kids can get the better of us. It gets harder to cope and we often wish there was a safe place to hide away, and I think that is perfectly understandable. But exactly what do you do, aside from ‘hiding’, that is, if you want to handle the tricky situation that means making kids behave. Honestly, there is no one answer. Each child is different, as I have often reiterated, and every parent really needs to figure what works for them. What I find funny is when some parents claim to have the perfect parenting model. Which is exactly what Amy Chua, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, enthuses about in her need I say controversial memoir of her journey as a mother.

The idea of authoritarian parenting frankly leaves a bitter taste, and to me relentlessly pursuing a child’s perceived falls and failures holds even less appeal. To me, raising the perfect child is a non-issue – it just isn’t something I aim toward. When the first excerpt of the book appeared on the Wall Street Journal here, there was a wave of indignation and outrage across the States, where the book was first published. And, really I am not all that surprised. The Tiger Mom seems to present techniques and ideas that are coercion at best. No, it is actually tyranny behind closed doors! I wouldn’t wish it on any child, no matter how recalcitrant, and I most definitely would never dream of trying one of her approaches. To her credit, the author makes no claims of it being a parenting book, or one that hopes to change people’s mindsets about how to raise children. Well, how thoughtful Mrs. Chua!


Unconditional Parenting: Loving your Child, No Strings Attached!

Let’s face it. Kids can sometimes aggravate the best of us. I mean, raising kids does not have to be rocket science, but trust me sometimes it is way more complicated. From temper tantrums to school squabbles, children seem to effortlessly walk into trouble. Top it with tons of conflicting advice thrown in, and you have a thorny situation with little wiggle room. But I wasn’t one to be defeated easily. I had been dabbling with parenting books, each with a poignant tale to tell, each with its own version of ‘the right way to raise kids’, most of them written by those who have ‘been there done that’. A truckload of advice, that it is easy to lose focus.

And then I found this little gem among the crowd, a book that literally speaks to me. Unconditional Parenting, by Alfie Kohn, is one of those parenting theories that puts the spotlight on the kids. Most books I read earlier seemed to want to correct and discipline, educate and train. And not one of them made me want to adopt their principles. (Case in point – the Tiger Mom – more on that one in a later post.) My home isn’t a military school, and I like to keep it that way!

Unconditional parenting delves into the real deal. Talks about how to really put yourself in your child’s shoes and teaches ways to communicate rather than ‘condition’. I mean, to me parenting is about giving Shash his own identity, not creating what I perceive to be an ideal child. The book puts the focus on the child, not on their behaviour. Kohn, father of two, offers well thought-out ways to make a child choose to act a certain way, and actually admits that rewarding good behaviour defeats the purpose. He goes on to emphasize that the point of seeking out desirable behaviour is to make a child want to act a certain way, to instill those values naturally.

I particularly loved one little story, where the author talks about a woman in the audience at one of his speeches. She tells him about her child who had scored a proficiency prize and received the student of the month award. The school then gifts her a bumper sticker with the words ‘I am proud of my child, who was student of the month’. The mom resists being a conditional parent by snipping off the second phrase, so the sticker on her car reads ‘I am proud of my child’! How cool is that!

The little I have implemented from this approach has taught me that Shashank is more likely to respond to healthy communication, to empathy and love, and that he will just as easily reject coercion or negotiation. Traditional parenting places undue focus on withdrawing attention, loss of privileges and the lure of reward. On the contrary, teaching a child that we love them regardless of how they behave can very well be the key to the mysteries of a human child!

Getting Back To It

My precious blog has been hibernating, for a good long time. Time to rise and shine! More posts coming up, stay tuned …

Of Temper Tantrums and Toddler Quirks

Kids are masterminds at getting their way. Every time. And, like me, if you have ever faced or witnessed children having major meltdowns, you probably agree. It is quite uncanny how kids seem to find just the ‘right’ (read ‘wrong’) places to throw a tantrum. A crowded restaurant maybe? A busy train station. Oh wait, a mall. Which is exactly where Shash chose to throw the most dreadful of tantrums yet – when we were at a rather packed department store last week. One moment we were riding the escalator, and the next thing I know Shash is on the floor, screaming, out of control. His dad, apparently, helped him get off the escalator, and this was simply too much for Shashank. Of course, I knew how Shash would turn red if I offered a hand when we are on escalators, or even stairs for that matter. He would swat away any offer of help, and even as I watched appalled he would hop and skip up the stairs – a big boy remember?! And that was plainly the reason Shash treated us to a horrific temper show. I tried to distract him by playing along – we rode the escalator up and down, up and down, like the spools on a running tape. And then I told Shashank we were done and we should move on now. But he would have none of it – he wanted to climb the escalator that was headed downward! When I stopped him he got very moody, and continued to just walk on and on as I followed, watching him complain about how mom was such a wuss!

Long story short, it was a big temper show, and I found it as alarming as it was draining. But this little hungama actually got me thinking about exactly why kids have these outbursts. Is it just about gaining control over a situation where they feel powerless? Is it mere power play or something deeper? For my part, I have been reading up on the psychology of toddlerhood, and will be posting more on temper tantrums in my upcoming posts. Until then, I hope I stay sane!

I am a Big Boy Mamma!

Shashank is now a little over two-and-a-half, and I can already see him budding into a self-reliant kiddo. There was a time when I constantly thought about teaching him how to do things himself, just little tasks like putting books away, or getting his bottle when we are heading out. Well, I will admit he would be pretty obliging sometimes, but more often than not he would give me a ‘fetch-it-yourself’ grin and continue doing his own thing! Lately of course, he is much more eager to ‘learn’ the basics of daily life. Like trying to put his shirt on sans any help from mom (so cute!), he even tries to feed himself sometimes refusing mummy’s offer to help. And he is always careful to remove his shoes after an outing, adorable I tell you!

One Mr. Independent he is turning out to be, and I am so loving it. It’s is such fun watching your tempestuous little prankster play the big-boy routine. Riveting, totally!


A Birthday Bash – When Shash Turned Two

A couple of months back Shashank celebrated his second birthday, and it was a grand party – an occasion to remember. When Shash turned one, we had a whole bunch of traditional celebrations, complete with a heart-wrenching ear piercing ceremony (when baby cried tons, and mommy held a permanent lethal glare the whole time!) Anyway, the actual birth date saw just a modest little party, at home, minimal balloons, a humble little cake, a cozy gathering of friends and family. And it had a few moments worthy of mention, a hilarious incident where a can of confetti that was supposed to splay over everyone just burst all into the floor, without effect! Of course, it created more laughter than it would have had it worked right, so that was good. But yeah, that was Shashank’s First Birthday – a sober affair.

His Second Birthday celebration however was something to remember. We had a nice little party at a rented banquet hall, a scrumptious dinner, and a grand cake of Shash’s favourite character – Noddy! And he loved to tell everybody that his cake was Noddy! Shash enjoyed his cake like nobody’s business too, something I didn’t let him during his first party. And he had a gala time with other kiddos in the party because by the time he was two, Shashank didn’t run, he sprinted! I like to think that Shash’s first party would have been hard for him to take, had it been too grand – too much noise, too many people, basically too much for a one-year old to comprehend, much less enjoy. And his second compensated for all that his first wasn’t. And that’s exactly how I like it, a birthday party where the guests have as much fun as the little guy celebrating it!

Life With Shashank Bags a Blog Award!

Did I tell you that Shashank just bagged his first award recently! Well not quite as recently as late 2009, ahem, but I haven’t been blogging much to actually tell you guys. Any case, Life With Shashank has been nominated for this cool Blog Award by Deepa, a prolific writer and fellow-blogger-cum-friend. Isn’t that cool! It is  my first-ever blog award, and I am delighted that this blog has indeed got its word out! Thanks Deepa

And the best part is that I get to pass on this honour and award a few other bloggers, something I have wanted to for a long time considering the wealth of great blogs out there. So here are some top bloggers I wish to nominate (posting just a couple of bloggers for now, will add to this list soon) …

1. Noble Savage – Writing Outside The Box – A blog by a fellow mom blogger, a feminist whose writing drips wit and sarcasm. A delightful rib-tickling writing no less! Check out her blog to see why she is a regular on my reading list.

2. My Life … Aryan A mommy blog that is written from the perspective of her son Aryan. Innovative idea isn’t it? Her blog is fun too.

More blogs to come …