The best education you can give your child is to always teach them to do what’s right than what appears to be right; and to always own up a mistake, say sorry – and face the reality as it is.
This past week there have been rumored reports on social media sites of a top industrialist’s son being involved in a hit-and-run case in Mumbai. The reports suggest that the young man was driving an Aston Martin Rapide in a drunken state. His car is believed to have crashed into two other cars and injured two people. The reports allege that the industrialist hushed up the matter by influencing the country’s top media houses to “black out” the news of this incident and also by getting one of his company’s chauffeurs to “own up and surrender” for the accident. The only reason why I am not naming the industrialist in this post is because I don’t want to be party to a rumored report. Besides, the issue for examination and review here is not who did it. That is best left to the investigative agencies of the land. What’s important is to look at what we can learn from this instance.
Undoubtedly all parents love their children above all else in the world. But that affection can sometimes blind parents and cloud their vision for their children. Here are some thoughts on mature parenting that I believe are relevant here.
The first principle to imbibe, internalize and initiate in parenting is ‘responsibility’. To groom responsible children, the parents must first display responsible behavior. We must recognize that it is in their teens that children seek independence. They are driven by a passionate sense of adventure. They want to explore this beautiful world, they want to explore their bodies and their sexuality, they want to express themselves and they want to do things that they believe has not been done before. The normal approach that parents take in such cases is to restrict their children, admonish them and often make them yield under emotional pressure. And often when much of this is being forced upon the children, the parents are not conforming to or following any of this themselves. For instance, at least in an Indian context, parents will openly watch pirated movies, will drink and drive, will pay petty bribes to get “stuff” done and flout any inconvenient law like wearing a seat belt. Yet the same parents will insist that their children speak the truth, are ethical, don’t drink and drive and grow up to be sincere law-abiding citizens. How much more ironic can it get? In India, working around an established legal framework, is considered “normal”. It is obviously not right to bribe a traffic cop if you are caught driving without your seat belt on or fail a breathalyzer test – but it is considered or appears to be right to most people. And this is where parents miss the point. How can you have anyone – let alone your children – do something which you are not willing to do yourself? So, be responsible. Lead responsibly. And you will have responsible children following you.
The second principle is to inculcate in your children the courage to own up. Let’s recognize a child’s, especially in the teens, spirit of adventure will drive him or her to take risks. How much ever you may advise, counsel, lead by example or even show case through examples from Life around you, every child will learn his or her lessons only from his or her personal experience. Whether it is having pre-marital sex or getting drunk or drinking and driving or whatever – more than all your preaching, what wakes up a teenager, or even a young adult, is when things blow up on his or her face. So, whenever something goes awfully wrong, be there for your child. Don’t rub it in by saying “I told you so!”. Instead teach your child to own up the experience, whatever it may be, and face Life squarely. Covering up or shielding a child from the consequences of his or her actions will only mean that you endorse such deviant behavior. Which is surely not true. I am sure that industrialist is as distraught as any other parent in his position will be. But by not teaching his child, if at all those reports are not rumors but are true, to own up and face the legal process, he’s grooming, however unwittingly, his child to be an irresponsible parent and citizen.
Let’s remember that as we grow older – and hopefully wiser – as parents, the most gratifying thing in Life will be to see our children lead happy and responsible lives. For that aspiration to come true, it’s very important that we lead the generation that we brought into this world – responsibly!