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. 🙂

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Why Your Child ‘Listens’ to You Sometimes

The complete title of this post is: Why Your Child Listens to You Sometimes and How to Ensure This Happens More Often. 🙂

I must clarify that the word ‘listen’ in the title has been used according to your definition of the word, not mine. When I say ‘listen’, I mean pay heed to an idea or thought, consider it. The listener is then free to embrace the idea partially or wholly, or to reject it.

When you use the word ‘listen’, you mean ‘do as I say’ or ‘obey’. So this post is about why your children do as you ask them to do sometimes, and how to make sure they obey you more often.

I believe there are 2 laws at work which make a child obey its parent(s). One is the law of expectation, which I have talked about earlier. If you truly expect a child to do as you have said, you will usually find very little (if any) opposition to your will.

The other law, which unfortunately comes into play a lot more often, is the law of desperation. Most of the time, you are desperate that your child obey you. And how can you not be desperate?

My daughter rarely remembers to apply lip balm. When she was little, years ago, I would do it for her. When I got her her own lip balm (at 6 or 7), I said if she was old enough to choose the flavor and brand of her lip balm, she was old enough to apply it, so all I would do was remind her to do so. Like so many other things, the novelty of having her own lip balm ensured that for the first few days, it was applied many times a day. Then, it became just another chore. One had to wash one’s hands (she had the balm in a little pot)…, and there were so many other, more interesting things to do – so the lip balm application fell by the wayside.

Her lips dried up, started peeling, started cracking so badly that she had blood oozing from them. Sometimes, dried blood was caked on them, and smiling, eating, drinking, talking became painful. “It hurts!” I was told, as if I personally had taken a hatchet to her!

“Well, you don’t remember to put on the lip balm,” I pointed out.

“It’s too much work! It’s cold and I have to keep washing my hands to put it on. There has to be a simpler way.”

“Okay. Shall we get one of those lip balm applicators that works like a lipstick? You just roll it up, apply it, roll it back down, and you’re done.”

I heard an enthusiastic yes. We went shopping and bought something. History repeated itself. For the first few days, all was well. Then some days it got left behind at home when she went to school, and she wasn’t able to reapply it in school and her lips bled and the blood caked up and…

We bought another stick of lip balm. One to keep in the school bag; one at home, so she would always have access to something.

One got lost. We bought another. She changed her mind about the flavor – she didn’t like it any more. We bought another.

Years down the line, I still come across one or two of those ancient lip balms on sticks and toss them into the bin. But the point is: she just did not apply it.

Let me tell you, it hurt to see her with lips either bleeding or caked with blood over 50% of the time. I once told her even the beggars on the streets didn’t have such dry lips. “Mom, give me a break, okay? Don’t get after me all the time. I know what to do, and I’ll do it if I want to” was the response I got, along with all kinds of dire looks. (Sigh! :-))

On various occasions, members of my family took me aside saying I should do something about it, because besides looking terrible, she was in real pain – unable to smile or talk, eat or drink. I told them I reminded her every now and then, and they were welcome to join me in doing so (which they wisely refrained from! 🙂 ), but beyond a point, she had to look after herself.

Once it got so bad that I actually applied some Vaseline to her lips after she had fallen asleep.  This happened for two consecutive nights. Then I thought, “What the heck! Into every life some rain must fall. If this is the trouble she chooses for herself, so be it.”

And that’s where we are today.

I once asked her how come she ‘forgot’ to apply the balm despite the pain. “There are so many other things…,” she said. I smiled my understanding. How could I not? There are a million billion things that are so little, so simple, that I can do for myself, which will make my life easier, simpler. More importantly, these are things I actively want to do for myself. But I don’t do them – because there are so many other things… 🙂

So when I say the law of desperation, I know what I’m talking about.

You know what I’m talking about too! Your child is low on iron, but won’t eat any proteins or green leafy vegetables, and won’t pop that iron pill either. He is sleepy but won’t stop playing that computer game so he can get enough zzzs. He can cure his 19/20 eyesight by doing eye exercises, but won’t. (And he says he doesn’t want to wear spectacles!) All he needs is 15 minutes of Math practice a day, and he’ll be a whiz – but he doesn’t find the time…

As a parent, there are innumerable times you are desperate – often for a very good cause. But the point is, the more desperate you are, the lower the chances that your child will ‘listen’ to you.

When you care about an outcome beyond a point, you build failure into it. Read that once more. When you care about an outcome beyond a point, you build failure into it.

Think about all the times you ‘won’ at something, all the times you succeeded. You were ‘cool’ about it, not desperate. And now think of all the times you were ‘desperate’ to have things your way (people, situations, results) – rarely did the chips fall in your favor.

I don’t know why this is so, but I have found it to be always true.

The funny thing is, the few times I have succeeded despite the desperation, I have found that once I’d got the outcome, I didn’t want it! I’m sure you can relate to this one too. 🙂

If you can drop the desperation, and have the expectation, there’s a good chance that your children will ‘obey’ you more often than they do right now.

And for the occasions they don’t, remember: into every life, some rain must fall.

When I was a child, an aunt told me, “It is up to you to get your father to stop smoking.”

I was fired with enthusiasm, and confronted him right away. “You’ve got to stop smoking! You know what it does to your lungs, your health, your life. Just stop, okay?”

My father, a very wise man, replied, “You know we all have to die one day, in some way or other. Maybe I’ve decided to choose this way.”

Nothing more to be said, is there?

P.S. I am anti-smoking personally, but it is every person’s right to choose for themselves at every point in their lives.

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


Your Sensitive G-spot

Here’s a quiz for you. (Don’t worry, we’ll get to your G-spot immediately after the quiz! :-))

Of the options given below, pick the one that is most true for you:

Q1. Your work relates to your area of study or training.

a) True

b) False

Q2. Evaluate your level of satisfaction with the work you are doing at present:

a) I am delighted to be doing the work I do.

b) I’m reasonably happy doing what I do.

c) I’m sort of okay doing what I do. Could be better, but could be worse too.

d) I’m not too happy doing what I do.

e) I’m miserable! Help!

Alright, it’s G-spot time!

Whether you are a Dad or a Mom, you have a G-spot. And since it is a G-spot, it is sensitive. In fact, it is so sensitive, that it can ruin not just your mood, but your peace of mind and your relationships as well!

G is for Grades, the holy grail of academic achievement.

If your child makes a good grade, there’s a grin on your face and in your mind that you can’t wipe off (and you don’t want to either! 🙂 ). But more often than not, your child doesn’t make as good a grade as you’d like, and that is a niggling dissatisfaction that you can’t quite get over.

You pore over his assignments and his exam papers.

“How could you make such a silly mistake?”

“You don’t know how to spell ‘impossible’? But you spelt it okay in 3 other places! How can you misspell it in a dictation/spelling bee?”

“Really, how can you get confused between addition and multiplication at age 10? 2 x 3 is 6, not 5. Maybe it was a genuine error (! Are there any other kinds of errors? During exams?!), but you should have left enough time for revision before you gave the paper in, and you should have caught and fixed the mistake while looking over your answers! How many times do I have to tell you…?” You’re almost howling with disappointment by now.

Er – let’s get back to the quiz.

What kind of student were you? Maybe you were a star, outperforming everyone. Super! And how long did that continue? Right through high school? Undergraduate school? Graduate school? Even beyond? WOW! That is some achievement, and I congratulate you. 🙂

And you were a star because it all came naturally to you? Or did you have to put in some effort? And if you did, did you want to put in the effort? Or was someone ‘motivating’ (or pushing or nagging) you to do better? And how did you feel about it all? If you could go back today, would you still do what you did then? Or would you choose differently?

For most of us, we might have got pretty good grades through school, or even had flashes of brilliance, but we weren’t on top of the Grade game through our lives.

And whether you set new records with your Grade Point or not, what does that have to do with the work you’re doing now?

How fulfilled are you – doing the work you are doing now? Today, more than ever, people are choosing to set aside years of training in one area, and work in a completely different field. They have invested time, energy and money – their life – in a profession, and they choose to walk away from it. It might be understandable if the choice was made under pressure: a lawyer’s son ‘chooses’ to take the bar exam to continue his mother’s practice; a businessman’s daughter goes to business school …  

But even if the choice was freely made, people are choosing to walk away from earlier choices and make new choices all the time – at any time of their lives. 

I know people who chose to study at the best Ivy League engineering colleges, where they successfully competed for merit scholarships. They graduated with honors, winning medals and trophies, got wonderful jobs, worked at them, and after years, threw it all up because they wanted to study music or spirituality! And they’re back at undergraduate school, studying.

There are doctors who have trained for over a decade, worked for a while, and then decided they didn’t like it enough to spend more time at the job. Some became photographers, others joined Government (in non-medical) administration, while yet others set up factories to manufacture garments!

Why do you obsess over your child’s grades?

Stop reading for a bit, and spend some time with the question: WHY do you obsess over your child’s grades?

You know from personal experience, from the media, that how well you do at school is no guarantee that you will be happy in your chosen profession.

Or have I made a mistake? Maybe you’re not looking at your child’s happiness.

Maybe you just want to ensure that she is a ‘success’. ‘Success’ means she must make her way rapidly up one of the top 5 companies in the world in her chosen area of work. She must win accolades, she must get a fat salary, and perks you can boast about to everyone you know. And naturally, if she is ‘successful’, she will be happy. (! There is no limit to our capacity for self-delusion!)

We must remember something we are always in danger of forgetting: happiness and success are two different things.

Happiness is what you experience – you know it is real for you.

Success is tricky. You may be held up by the world as a shining example of success, but you may not believe you are a success (if you feel you could do much more, for instance). On the other hand, the world may not think much of you, but you may think you are a success (someone who wants to mow lawns because he loves to do that, and goes ahead and makes a good living from it as well!). 🙂

But you keep getting confused between happiness and success. You are so ‘achievement’ oriented, and you want the best for your kids. Heck, you want your kids to BE the best! So you hound them to ‘Get Good Grades’.

Whether or not they are capable of good grades. Whether or not they wish to get good grades. (Unfortunately for you, their wishes have everything to do with this – you can’t keep pushing them forever. It will only work if they want to get good grades for themselves.) Whether or not they are happy.

And so you make GRADES the fulcrum of your relationship with your child – the fulcrum against which you bang your head till it’s bleeding, and till your relationship with your child is in tatters, but you can’t get yourself to stop.

I’d say that’s a sensitive G-spot. Wouldn’t you?

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


Why Parenting is a Bad Career Option

You are a dedicated career person, relatively happy and busy, progressing in your field. Then you hit a speed-bump called ‘having a baby’.  

Most societies are patriarchal, so the parent who stays home to look after the kids full-time (if at all such a decision is taken by the parents) is usually the mother. However, there are some stay-at-home dads too, who raise the children while their partners go to work.

So you’ve made the decision to stay at home and mind the baby, till she’s a bit older, till she’s slightly more independent. Once she’s better able to take care of herself, you’ll go back to work.

In a few years, another baby comes along, and then you’re busy managing the differing needs of children in two (or more) different age groups. Obviously, the youngest is too young to manage on his own, and even when the elder one (or two or more) are able to take care of themselves, guilt keeps you home: how can you not do for your youngest what you did for the others?

It’s impossible to pick the ‘right time’ to go back to work!

Before you know it, ten or more years have gone past. Now, you are grappling with teenage issues, and more than ever before, you feel you need to be home. “He doesn’t share anything! I need to be around him so I can see what he’s up to, so I know what’s going on in his life. (As if hanging around him would tell you what’s going on with him! 🙂 ) And if he ever wants to talk, at least I’ll be around.”

Towards the last few years that the children are home, you feel increasingly redundant. You stay at home to be available to them, but you find yourself being sidelined as they get busy with their friends, their interests, and their own lives.

On a day-to-day basis, you are treated as nothing better than a maid-of-all work. What hurts is being called a nag. Routinely, you are told: “Will you stop it? Just chill, will you? Stop nagging! Don’t get after my life! I don’t need you to tell me this – I can handle it! Why are you after me all the time? Just leave me alone, will you?”

Slammed doors, locked doors, loud music, the silent treatment, making faces, leaving the house in a huff, sulking for days on end – it’s become a way of life.

And you stayed home to be a full-time parent! You wonder what’s gone wrong.

Nothing’s gone wrong. But two things have happened.

One: Your child is growing up. This means he is learning who he is when he is on his own. He is learning how to think, how to evaluate people and ideas. He is becoming his own person.

In the process, he will veer violently away from what you have taught him. It’s logical, if you think about it. For ten-odd years, he’s been influenced by your way of thinking. This makes him grow in one direction, thinking a particular way. For him to find a sense of who he is, he must (and will!) try out the opposite way of thinking too! So he will seem to reject you and all that you stand for.

If you want to help him become a worthwhile adult, this is a price you have to pay – whether you are prepared to pay it or not.

The second thing that has happened over the years of devoting yourself exclusively to the children is that you have become uni-dimensional. You have become boring – you haven’t learnt new stuff, haven’t grown in your abilities as an individual.

You are frustrated at the time you have lost – time you could have used to give your life any shape you wanted! You are also resentful that your child is not showing enough appreciation for your ‘sacrifice’ in staying home and looking after her. She should at least acknowledge, if not appreciate, that you have put your life on the back-burner for her. Instead, she’s openly ungrateful!

Well, she has every reason to be! It was your decision to stay home and look after her. It was you that decided she ‘needed’ you home for a ‘bit longer’. Why should she take responsibility for your decision?

A part of you is also scared because you’ve concentrated exclusively on being a parent for so long, that you’ve forgotten what it feels like to be yourself – who you are when you are not ‘being’ a parent. You’ve lost confidence in your ability to work at something other than parenting. And the kids don’t need you anymore!

The truth is that you were a fully functional human being long before you were a parent. You had your interests, passions, and dreams. When you decided to be a ‘career’ parent, you brought the rest of your life to an abrupt halt. And now that this ‘career’ is at an end, you don’t know what to do with yourself.

This is why I say: Parenting is a bad career option.

To be a good parent, you must be yourself – all of yourself – not a poor ‘shadow’ of yourself. Keep doing whatever fulfills you as a person. If you do not find challenge and satisfaction in what you do from day to day, you will not be happy. And only a happy person can have good relationships.

You must find work that is yours to do, goals which are yours to achieve, delight which is yours to share. You don’t have to work 18 hours a day outside the home. In fact, you might do work from home – run a business, coach students, write, paint, sculpt…

I know a few women, who love running their homes – to them, THAT is their job. And they are successful at it! They don’t have a salary, but they are busy, happy, and fulfilled, and take great pride in running a home that supports the well-being of the family and of the individuals within that family.

But a majority of stay-at-home moms say, “I’m just a home-maker”. And that ‘just’ is the most unjust thing you could do to yourself.

Don’t think you will neglect your child. Don’t worry about not having enough time for her. Your joy and fulfillment will make you a far better parent than you would otherwise be. In fact, I’d go so far as to say you owe it to your child to be a working parent. Show her that it is possible to find fulfillment both as a parent and as a person – that the two are not contradictory goals. 🙂

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