Setting Fear Aside to Parent from Love

I was going through a messy divorce, and lived in daily fear that my daughter would be ‘snatched’ from me. I don’t think this fear had any basis in reality, but fears are often like that – they come from nowhere and completely take over your life. In those days, I must have said and done many things that my daughter must have found incomprehensible or weird (because fear held me captive – I was parenting from fear – a literal fear, different from the kind of fear I spoke about yesterday, but fear all the same), but I don’t remember them now. Neither does she.

Thus far, I had managed to prevent my daughter being summoned in court, but that was at an end now. Tomorrow was the day she had to meet the judge. I trembled at the thought that my 4-year old would have to wait outside the judge’s chambers with the lowest of the criminal classes till our case was called. She would be exposed to crass looks, talk and behavior, and there was nothing I could do about it. The big fear, of course, was the possibility that she’d be kidnapped from the court itself, where my soon-to-be-ex-husband might have hired goons waiting for the opportunity to do so. (Ridiculous, isn’t it? 🙂  Today I can smile, but let me tell you, I couldn’t then. Fear is utterly illogical. And it is scary. You have your own fears, so you know exactly what I mean.) By late evening, I was hyperventilating.

My family kept telling me to get a hold of myself. I had to stay in control, else how would I keep things ‘normal’ for her? But sometimes you are beyond the reach of the most obvious, commonsense, loving logic. I was beyond it then.

Somehow, I got through the night and the court appearance. I was limp with relief as we drove back home. When a few days had elapsed, I thought about the entire episode.

Why was I so scared? What was the worst that could happen?

As various dire scenarios flashed through my head, I pondered each of them. If A were to happen, what could I do? If B were to happen, what could I do? Let’s say there’s an outbreak of meningitis. What can you do? Maybe you’ve inoculated your child, but she might still get it.

You can’t prevent things from happening. You can do your best to protect, secure, preempt the negative, but you can’t fool-proof your child’s life against troubles. When a situation arises, you will deal with it to the best of your ability. And that’s the best that you can do. It is the best that anyone can do!

Bad things will happen. To everyone. Including your child. Including my child. Good things will also happen. That is all there is to it.

Everyday there are accidents, natural disasters, earthquakes, quarrels, fights, misunderstandings. Innumerable bystanders get caught in them because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time – ‘collateral damage’ is the hi-tech name for it. What can you do?

Nothing.

When once you truly accept that there is absolutely nothing you can do beyond a point – to influence anything, the fear begins to loosen its hold on you.

You can’t fight fear with logic – not if the fear is deeply ingrained. You have to approach it from another direction. “What if my worst fear comes true?” Well, what if it does?

Most parents would say they can’t live without their children. But some parents have lost their children – lost them to illness (when the child is alive but doesn’t recognize its parents), to death, to the vagaries of life (being unable to meet your child because you are in the middle of a divorce, for instance, and your partner has custody and ‘prevents’ your meeting the kid), to uncertainty. Their fear has come true.

But the parents continue to live. Not only do they continue to live, they learn to smile again, to take an interest in life, to be alive. As they should! Getting back to life doesn’t make you a ‘less good’ parent. It doesn’t mean you don’t (or didn’t) love your child, it doesn’t mean you don’t (or didn’t) do your best for your child.  

You are a parent, yes. But you were a person long before you became a parent. Heartbreak will always be a part of life, but denying that you are alive is not the way to deal with a broken heart.

When you are gone, your child will be sad (hopefully! 🙂 ). Would you want her to mope and lose interest in life and becoming a living corpse? NO! She is still alive! And she should live her life with all the verve and gusto at her command! Isn’t that what you would want? After all, she only gets one chance at life!

Why should the rules be different for you?

You are now beginning to deal with your worst fears.

Come back to your daily fear – the one you’re parenting from: what will people think/say?

They will think and say exactly what they want – no matter what you do! There’s no way you can please everyone all the time. It is a waste of time and effort even to try doing so. The only person you can be certain you are pleasing or not is – yourself, so you might as well go ahead and please yourself.

If you’ve got this, you have already lightened fear’s grip on you. You can now parent from love. You can now evaluate: how much of your fear is concern for the child, and how much of it is fear of what others will say / think.

You might still be concerned that being a sculptor or teaching English is not the ‘best’ career option for your child, but you won’t withhold your love or approval if he chooses either of them. So when you ask him to evaluate other, more conventional careers, your motivation will be concern for his future; the driving force will be love, not fear.

And because the driving force will be love, your child will listen to what you have to say, whether or not he goes by it. You will continue to enjoy a loving relationship with your child.

If you are parenting from love, you will be more concerned that your child be true to herself than that she behave like a hypocrite. If someone in the extended family has died (someone she didn’t even know), what’s wrong with her chatting quietly with someone or reading a book at the wake? Who cares if people think she should behave ‘suitably’, sitting mournfully in a corner sniffing into a handkerchief? Not you!

In the abstract, parenting from love involves two people: your child and yourself. In reality, parenting from love focuses on just one person: your child. 🙂

Carefree Parenting has moved to a new home! Please visit http://carefreeparenting.com for all the articles, books and other material. See you soon. 🙂


Are You Parenting from Love or its Opposite?

For much of my life, I thought that the opposite of ‘love’ was ‘hate’. And then, I discovered that these two words were opposites only in English grammar quizzes.  

Love is an energizing force – it gives you the energy to move towards some things and people, and away from other things and people. Hate is energizing too! It gives you the energy to move towards some things and people, and away from other things and people.

That is why I say: hate is not the opposite of love. Of course, one seems to be a positive force and the other negative, but that is only a matter of how you interpret the words themselves.

Love may give you the energy to care for a sick child when you are completely exhausted; while hatred for a bad habit may help you rid yourself of it – both positive outcomes.

Reverse the interpretation, and another picture emerges. You may ‘love’ your body image a certain way, leading you towards anorexia (a negative outcome); while ‘hating’ your parents might motivate you to study hard and go away to a good college, making a good life for yourself away from them. 

So what is the opposite of love? I think fear is. Love energizes, but fear paralyzes. Fear grips you and doesn’t let go. You don’t know what to think, what to do, which way to turn. Every option seems unsafe, fraught with danger. You are unable to take any action – either to run away from the fear or to confront it, deal with it. You do the only thing you can do – you give in to it.

So I’m saying fear is the opposite of love.

You can parent from love – but how can you parent from fear?

I’ll show you how you parent from fear.

Your son doesn’t like guns, he’s not aggressive, he doesn’t like sports, he’s not into technology (Bill Gates and Steve Jobs have made ‘nerd’ and ‘geek’ acceptable – even fashionable!); instead, he is always reading. And no, he’s not reading the Hardy boys series or Biggles or Percy Jackson: he’s reading poetry, classical English literature, mythology; he enjoys sculpture and painting. He is your son and you love him – no doubt whatsoever about it. But you’re uncomfortable with the idea of him being such a ‘sissy’ – no boyish pastimes, no macho stuff, he’s every girl’s best friend and knows no boys (if he does, you haven’t seen any evidence of it). At every turn, you ‘encourage’ him to go out and play cricket or football or baseball. You buy him War of the Worlds games. You enroll him (or try to) into adventure sports activities. You ask him to be a boy (or a man).

You wonder what is wrong with him. You wonder what your friends think – you wonder what his friends think – of him and of you! You wonder what successful career he could possibly have – become a sculptor? Teach English or mythology? Nothing wrong with these options, but they’re not what you had in mind when you thought of him reaching the pinnacle of success at work…

You wonder if he’s gay. You watch his every move with a hawk’s eye, ready to pounce on the slightest ‘symptom’ of homosexuality. You read obsessively about closet gays. You see a counselor or doctor. You find out how you can influence his sexuality, his interests, his career choices – so these are more acceptable to the world at large.

If your child does not fit the ‘norm’, you lose your joy in her, your enjoyment of her. The only thing that drives you – relentlessly – is that she should be more middle-of-the-road. This is parenting from fear.

She’s outspoken, and refuses to pretend a grief she doesn’t feel at a grand-aunt’s death. She’s not behaving inappropriately – she just wants to sit and make conversation with a cousin, or read a book or watch TV. You tell her, “No chatting; don’t read or watch TV. Aunt… has just died. You should behave more funereally.” (!)

It’s immaterial that your child didn’t know the lady who died; you are more concerned about what people will say if they see her doing ‘normal’ stuff when there’s just been a death in the family. You force her to behave in a manner untrue to herself. Even you, who knew the lady, do not feel much grief, but you have perfected the art of showing the expected reaction, doing the expected thing, however disconnected it might be from what you are really feeling. And now you’re forcing your child to do the same.

This is parenting from fear. If you think for a bit, you’ll find that you parent from fear much more often than you realize. Fear of what people will say. Fear of what kind of life your son will build for himself if he goes so much against the ‘masculine’ mode. Fear of what people will say about you as a parent – that you did not raise him to be more ‘normal’. Fear that you did not teach your child how to ‘behave’ in social situations. Fear that she will not be a ‘success’. Fear that she will be singled out, ridiculed, left out in the cold, not find friends or acceptance

You, her loving parent, who is so anxious for your child to find acceptance and love, end up withholding both from her. Yes, you yourself! Supremely ironic, don’t you think?

You are so afraid of what others will think and say and feel about this unconventional boy of yours, that all your parenting becomes focused on making him more conventional. You send him clear signals that he will have your approval if he fits the mold.

Your child understands what’s going on. In essence, you are telling him, “I love you, but I will love you more if you are this way/ do this thing/ be this thing …” You are telling him that he is not okay as he is, that you do not accept him for who he is.

You jeopardize your relationship with your child. She may or may not ‘change’ herself to fit the norm, but you’ll definitely find her moving away from you. This only increases your frantic desperation. Fear has you in its thrall, and there seems to be no way out.

Identify exactly how you parent from fear, and I’ll tell you tomorrow how you can break the stranglehold of fear to enjoy parenting your child as you would like to – from love. 🙂

Carefree Parenting has moved to a new home! Please visit http://carefreeparenting.com for all the articles, books and other material. See you soon. 🙂


Show Your Child You Care

You know your child has officially entered the tweens when you hear, “You just don’t care!” 🙂 The first time you hear it, you probably hasten to reassure your child.

“Of course I care,” you tell him. “It’s because I care that…”

Er – sorry to burst your bubble, but he’s already tuned you out. You’re going on, but he’s not even hearing the words. He’s just busy with the idea in his head that you don’t care.

As the ‘you-don’t-care’s’ multiply, you give up – first trying to explain, then defend, then even to present your point of view. At best, you counter with, “I do care”, and you stop. You and your child go your separate ways, each convinced that your point of view is correct, and the other just doesn’t get it!

I found an unexpected way out of this recently.

It started with my daughter saying, “… happened, and you just don’t care!” She’d been telling me about some incident at school that had upset her. I truly didn’t think it was such a big deal (in fact it was so trivial that I’d forgotten it by the next day, else I’d have shared it with you here. Something like one girl said something mean to another girl or bad-mouthed her or humiliated her or something, and my daughter was an onlooker and burning with the injustice of it all…), but I sympathized with her feeling bad.

(By the way, even if my daughter had been the person someone was being mean to – and which child hasn’t been in this position? – I wouldn’t have cared about the incident, because she has to learn to deal with people being mean. What I would care about is how she took it, how she dealt with it – with the other girl and onlookers –, and what it taught her about herself, people, and her relationship with the world.)

Before I knew it, I said, “You’re right, I don’t care.”

That was so unexpected it took the wind right out of her sails. “I don’t care at all that this happened. It’s irrelevant – like if you bumped your elbow against the table, you wouldn’t even notice it, right? Well, that’s how unimportant the incident itself is to me.”

She couldn’t believe I’d finally conceded. “See? You DON’T care. You’ve admitted it!”

“Yes, I don’t care about what happened. But I do care about how you feel. I care that you’re upset by it. But being upset won’t help the matter. And you’re too upset just now to listen to reason, so there’s no point my telling you that there’s no need to get so worked up about what is essentially a non-issue.”

Another weapon handed to her! 🙂 “Everything is a non-issue for you! You only care about your own stuff…”

It was so funny, I started laughing. She was fuming. I did the only prudent thing I could and made myself scarce.

A while later we met in the kitchen.

“Really, Mom, how could you laugh? You’re so weird – just crazy. I’m upset – and you’re laughing! Obviously I’d think you don’t care. Any sane person would think that.”

“Fine, but I really found the whole thing so funny, I couldn’t help it. I shouldn’t have laughed, but I couldn’t stop myself. Want to talk about it?”

She nodded, and we sat down together.

“Listen, this kind of incident will never be important to me. That’s the way I’m made. Even when I was a child at school, if this had happened, it wouldn’t have meant anything to me; forget about it upsetting me as much as it has upset you. That’s how I think. So yes, I don’t care that the incident happened. But I do feel bad that you feel so bad. Mind you, I still don’t see any reason for you to feel this way, but I understand and sympathize with the fact that you feel bad.”

“How can you not feel bad? They were awful to her and she took it from them. I was boiling mad. I told her, let’s go and tell the teacher. And you know she was afraid to? She said they’d be even more mean to her if she complained about their behavior! I asked her if she liked being treated that way, and she said no, but she didn’t see any way out of it. And it has been going on for months, she says. How can she take it?” her voice trembled with rage and pain, my brave heart rushing to the rescue with flaming sword.

“She has to decide for herself. No one else can do that for her. If and when she gets sick enough of being treated this way, she’ll do something about it, and it will stop. But until she makes that decision, no one can do anything about it. If you think you can step in and help her, you’re wrong. You could do it once, or twice, or maybe even a hundred times. But what will she do when you aren’t there? Also, it is her battle, and as her friend, you should let her deal with it. The best thing you can do as a friend is to support her. There’s nothing else you can DO for her.”

“Also, no matter what you think, the truth is that you don’t know everything that has gone on between her and the other girls. You may end up harming the girl’s interest or making the situation worse.” I gave her other instances when things were not as they appeared to be, when she (or I) had intervened, and made things worse than they otherwise would have been.

She saw the point. “Why didn’t you tell me earlier?” she demanded. (?! 🙂 )

I learnt that day that it’s fine if I don’t care about things that are important to my child. And she’s fine with it too! Just as there are things I care about that she doesn’t! (Things like putting things back, sleeping on time, drinking enough water – ring a bell? 😉 )

What she wants is the reassurance that I care about how she feels, which I can always give her – because I DO care. 

Carefree Parenting has moved to a new home! Please visit http://carefreeparenting.com for all the articles, books and other material. See you soon. 🙂


Are You Sure that’s Your Child You’re Parenting?

No, I’m not casting doubts on your child’s parentage!

If you were happy about bringing your child into the world (and many are not), one of the first decisions you made when you learnt you were expecting a child was to be the best parent you could be. ‘Decision’ is not the right word because it does not express your determination strongly enough – it was more in the nature of a vow. You promised yourself that you would be the best parent ever.

You will always ‘be there’ for your child – you will love her and support her and give her everything she needs all through her life. You will never hurt her… Stop right there!

Hurt your child? And this child not yet born? What are you thinking?

It’s simple! You are thinking of yourself. You’re thinking of yourself when you were a child. You are thinking of those times when you felt hurt because of something your parents said or didn’t say, did or didn’t do. You are thinking of the times you were looking to your parents for reassurance and failed to find it. You are replaying scenes from your past.

But now that you will be a parent, these scenes will have different endings. In the new endings, everything ends with the child feeling good. Obviously, the new ending features you as the parent and a featureless someone as the child.

Alright. Snap back to the present.

You have made your vows. You await the baby. The baby arrives. And you start living your vows.

You are exaggeratedly loving. You watch every word that comes out of your mouth. You don’t even let yourself frown around the baby because you are a wonderful, loving parent, and no such parent is ever tired, disgruntled, or irritated by the baby. (Or so you think, especially if this is your first child.:-))

After this phase wears off, you acknowledge your irritation, and make your peace with the thought that wanting a break from your child and her demands does not make you a ‘bad’ parent. And you go on being the loving parent.

Then one day, she hurts herself. The doctor advises that she stay in bed for a day.

Flashback! You were sick and in bed. Your dad was home that day, but came to check on you just twice, for a minute each time. And you lay in bed feeling sad and sorry and unloved and in pain and abandoned. You hated being alone and in bed! You wished Dad would spend some time with you, talk to you, sit with you to pass the time…

Today, your head tells you that Dad was working on something so important that he’d stayed home to avoid even the distraction of colleagues at work. But your heart still hurts.

And so you abandon your work and sit with your daughter and read her a story and talk to her, not noticing her drooping eyelids, not hearing her murmured, “I’m tired, Dad”. After all, you are a wonderful, loving parent, and you want her to know it.

So – who is it you’re parenting? You’re parenting yourself – the ‘you’ that you were in the past.

Which brings me to the title of this post: Are you sure it’s your child you’re parenting?

Sadly, a lot of the time, for most of us, the answer is NO.

We tend to get overwhelmed by the emotions of our past, and treat our children as we would have liked our parents to treat us. (Hey! Maybe our parents were doing that too! A thought that makes you feel better, doesn’t it?)

And what of the child that’s lying in bed? Tired and wishing Dad would just go away and let her rest? But too tired, or too polite, to tell him so. She suffers silently. And maybe creates a moment that she will remember when she is a parent. And she will leave her child alone. And so the cycle is continued…

But you ARE a wonderful, loving parent. All you need to do is to shake off the cobwebs of the past and look at your child as a person in his own right.

Dr. Gary Chapman, author of the The Five Love Languages, says each person tends to primarily express love in different ways. Yes, five different ways. The ways could be Words of Affirmation, Gifts, Physical Touch, Acts of Service, or Quality Time.

And here you are – being a loving mom, hugging and kissing your two-year old. And she spends her time squirming out of your arms, asking you to play with her, to solve a jigsaw puzzle, to cook with her. Not your style. So you do the minimum of these that you can get away with to keep her happy, but keep grabbing her for a hug that she’s trying to avoid.

You’re left feeling like she doesn’t love you – she’s just two and if she doesn’t want hugs and kisses now, then when? – and you’re puzzled and hurt. To make matters worse, she prefers being with your partner, who doesn’t hug her in days! (But does ‘stuff’ with her.)

Look again at your child. This is a person in his own right. And he’s telling you all the time how to love him. Well, love him! HIS way!

You have a son who’s always gifting you things. Give him gifts of pebbles, his favorite foods, feathers – anything, so long as it can take the form of a gift (and children are not fussy!). He will feel loved.

Your daughter pays you compliments ten times an hour. Tell your daughter all the things you like about her. Give her the appreciation she craves. She will feel loved.

Over time, their love languages will change. The little boy who squeezed you hard now shrugs out of an embrace. The girl that said “I love you” every day at bed time barely mumbles “G’night” before she shuts the door to her room.

But they’re still telling you how to love them. You come home to find she’s done some of your chores. Your son says you might want to help him set up the Xbox 360. They’re telling you.

And if you’re listening, then you’re sure – sure that it IS your child you’re parenting.

Carefree Parenting has moved to a new home! Please visit http://carefreeparenting.com for all the articles, books and other material. See you soon. 🙂


Love is a Six-Letter Verb

Love is a six-letter verb, and it is spelt A-C-C-E-P-T.

When your baby was born, it felt like you’d been handed a live doll to cherish and enjoy – with a few exceptions. Notably, the baby’s tendency to spew disgusting things from both ends. And its penchant for making continuous mewling noises which increased in decibels over time, and slowly shredded your nerves to confetti.

So – did you wrinkle your nose and drop it in the dustbin? Leave the baby someplace without a return address label? Of course not! You wrinkled your nose, cleaned it up, sighed, cleaned it up again, and when it finally stayed clean for a few minutes, you cuddled the baby and murmured words of love.

Or you rocked and soothed and patted him, sleep-walking a tread in the carpet, crooning for endless hours as your arms threatened to drop out of their sockets. But you never once considered just letting him cry through the night. How could you? You love him. Your love is a living, breathing entity, and you accept the baby just as he is.

Fast forward to the time this baby is a toddler. Suddenly, she discovers that she is a person different from you. She learns to say ‘No’ in many ways. She won’t eat when you feed her. She refuses to be dressed, or to be soothed. She wants to sleep when it isn’t yet nap time. She refuses to go to bed till all hours of the morning. You say she’s going through the Terrible Twos, and continue to hug her with fervor.

Fast-forward some more to when your little darling digs his feet in, puts his ears back, and in no uncertain terms, says NO to you. Suddenly, it is a contest of wills. Your will against his, and you feel compelled to impose your will onto him. “Listen to me,” you say, “I am your mom. I know that this is bad for you. Don’t do it.”

“Listen to me,” you say, “I am your dad. Don’t you want to be big and strong like me? If you don’t drink your milk and eat your vegetables, you will not grow big and strong. You will not have good muscles. You will be weak and puny. Listen to me. Drink your milk. Eat your vegetables. That is how I became so big and strong.” (Really? Wonder if your parents would agree with this! )

As you know, this approach rarely works over the long term. After the first couple of times, growing up at some unspecified time in the future is simply not enough incentive for your child to drink the milk and eat the veggies. So he says “No”. And refuses to budge from that NO.

As these NO’s keep piling up, you start finding fault with your child.

“Why don’t you colour properly – within the lines?”

“Can’t you eat your food faster?”

“Must you be so messy?”

Sure – you are saying this to ‘improve’ your child, to make him better than he was before, but somewhere, the message he is getting is that you are withholding approval and love.

After all, look at it from his point of view. He’s never said to you:

“Why don’t you lose some weight, Mom? You’re beginning to look lumpy around the hips.”

“Dad, you’re balding. Can’t you do something about it?”

“Why don’t you learn to cook some new dish? I’m tired of eating your five staple dishes.”

“Why don’t you learn how to reverse into a parking space?”

You have to admit it – in the years that she has been growing, you too, have been changing. When she was two, you were probably swinging her high up into the air and catching her in your arms as she came hurtling down. Now that she’s seven, she’d still like those ‘high ones’ but when you say it tires you, or that your arms hurt, she doesn’t ask you to do something about it.

She just A-C-C-E-P-T-S you the way you are – at this moment. If you are mad at her, she doesn’t tell you that you have no reason to be mad at her. She accepts that you are angry, and deals with it as best she can. When you’ve cooled down, she’ll probably begin cajoling you again so she can have her own way…

We are blessed to have children who accept us. Why can’t we love them back the same way? Why can’t we love them for who they are?

So he’s throwing a tantrum. It’s bad for him. He’s turning blue from lack of oxygen. And on top of that, you get mad at him!

What happened to your love for the baby that did impossible things? You just went on loving him right back. No matter what he threw at you (literally!), you just kept on loving him.

I feel it is when our children begin to be independent that we begin to default on this complete acceptance. So long as they are not actively opposing our will, we find it easy to love (read A-C-C-E-P-T) them. The moment they exert themselves as persons with independent points of view and different wishes from ours, we feel the need to overcome those “No’s”. And we try to do so in the worst way possible – we withhold ourselves. We become cold. We frown. We step back. We give them half-hearted hugs. We turn away. We give them the silent treatment.

And still they love us! And try to appease us! Bless our children!

It is humbling to be a parent.

We have a lot of love for our children. Now if only we can love them – because love is a six-letter verb…

Carefree Parenting has moved to a new home! Please visit http://carefreeparenting.com for all the articles, books and other material. See you soon. 🙂


When Too Much Love is Not Enough

When you first set eyes on your newborn, along with the rush of love, was a surge of protectiveness. A part of you swore to shield your child from all hurt, all pain. And you went on from there – bandaging hurt limbs, massaging aching bodies, hugging away fears, kissing away tears…

You were sure that if you loved your child enough, you’d be able to keep him safe from the hurts, barbs and cruelties of the world.

You have too much love for your child. You love him so much that you can’t bear to see him suffer; whether the suffering is due to an unfriendly playmate, not being able to watch his favourite TV show, or her not being the captain of the sports team. So you step in to manage the situation. You speak with the unfriendly playmate (or his/her parents). You offer your son a treat to make up for missing the TV show. You get your daughter extra coaching and speak with the coach to do whatever it takes to ensure she can be the captain of the team.

As the years go by, you realize that something has gone wrong. It has gone so radically wrong, that you can’t begin to think what happened, or figure out how it happened. If you try to work it out, your mind goes fuzzy. You can’t think beyond the fact that something about your child is not right.

Suddenly, you find he is not willing to put in his best. You find that he throws a tantrum every time he doesn’t get his way. And if he does get his way, he is not appreciative of the fact. Instead, he takes it as his due, as if he were royalty, and that is the way things should be.

This is a classic instance of when too much love is not enough.

The real world is tough. You keep saying this to yourself and maybe to your kids too. You know it. The point is: Why don’t you want them to know it? Why do you want to shock them with this knowledge later in their lives?

Maybe you feel they are too young, too delicate, too weak to handle the pressures and the pain of the real world. Alright. Suppose that’s true. When do you think they’ll be strong enough? When he is two and can walk on his own? When she is five and starts going to school? When he can read and write? When she starts driving? Gets a job? Starts a family? At what point will he be old enough to face the real world?

Whatever time you decide to introduce your child to the real world, they will find it tough. In fact, the more you delay, the harder it will be for them, because it will come as a shock. No Mom to play referee! No Dad to say, “Sure! I’ll get you the latest toy.”

I will say it again. Too much love is not enough. It is not enough love.

Enough love is when you let your child face small problems, little difficulties every day. He learns that there will always be challenges. And he will learn to overcome them. He will feel the glow of accomplishment that comes with ‘growing up’.

She’s hungry, but has to wait quietly for 10 minutes before dinner is served. She does this just like hungry grown-ups do. That’s growing up. And won’t she feel on top of the world for behaving like an adult!

He wants to go and play, but needs to finish his homework first. No, he can’t come back and then finish it because he’ll be too tired to do a good job. So first he finishes his work, and then he goes to play. Just like Mom works all day at the office, gets paid at the end of the month, and then enjoys the money. First work, then enjoyment. That’s how adults do it, and if he can do it, he’s practising becoming an adult.

Try it. I promise it will work. Because the one thing children want to do – all children, without exception – is to grow up. They want to be big and strong and powerful, just like their parents. This, of course, is when they are very little. When they are slightly older, they want to be big and strong and powerful, and much better than their parents (who are old fuddy-duddies who just don’t get it!). 🙂

And the truth is, that is exactly what parenting is about: helping children to become grown-ups.

My definition is slightly different – Parenting, I believe, is about helping children become worthwhile adults. And the best time to start is the moment you are a parent. Indulge your protectiveness, but think before you do so, lest your child becomes a victim of too much love.

Not all children are friendly. Not all people are kind. The world is too random to make each day predictable. And various issues, large and small, crop up all the time. I’m not saying share the details with your kids. But let them know that these are real-life situations. And let them get practice on living a real life from day one.

It is a carefree style of parenting, and the one guaranteed way to make you a carefree parent.

But what if your kids have had too much love? How do you get them back on track? Read on tomorrow.

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