Comparisons and lack of trust often destroy a parent-child relationship.
A man and his adolescent daughter met us yesterday. The man said his daughter is very angry, very frustrated when at home and doesn’t “connect” with him at all. Initially, the young lady did not have much to say. She simply said she could not relate to her father because she felt he did not trust her. When I asked her why she felt so, she explained. Her older sister had got a laptop with internet access as a gift from their father on her 15th birthday. But when the father discovered that the girl was having an affair with someone in her class, he took away the laptop and disconnected the internet access at home. The older girl has since gone to college and has gotten over her teenage blues. When the younger girl, the one I met, turned 15, the father did not buy her a laptop. His reasoning was that she would go her sister’s way. When the girl assured him that she had no intention to get involved in “random” relationships her father did not trust her. She even tried explaining to him that she had seen the parents agonize over the older girl’s issues and so she had resolved never to let them down. But no. The father did not see value in reviewing the stand he had taken. This, said the girl, caused her deep anguish whenever she interacted with him. She summed it up very bluntly: “I don’t think my dad trusts me. I can understand if I have behaved in a manner in which his stand is justified. But I have done nothing of that kind. Why am I being punished for a perception that he has of who I may be?”
I can totally relate to the young girl’s point of view and experience. I have been, as a child, treated similarly. And I must tell you, it can be very disturbing, very humiliating when you realize that your parents don’t trust you.
Parents must understand that each child is unique. Just because one of them behaves in a certain fashion, it is not necessary that the other(s) will behave the same way too. Just as you cannot generalize in any matter concerning adults, you can’t generalize with children either. I have, through our experience with parenting, always found that when you empower your children with the right set of values and allow them to make their own choices, there is greater harmony in the parent-child relationship. It is not necessary that you must agree with all that your children do or that they must agree with all that you have to say. But as long as you tell them that you trust them to make responsible choices, they feel the need to live up to your trust. Of course they will stumble, they will fall, they will make mistakes and they may well end up hurting themselves. To even wish that you want to protect them from experiencing their Life, their way, is very naïve. Your children are unique individuals. Just as you don’t want your parents to tell you what you ought to be doing, your children too want to be left alone. It is through the process of making decisions, succeeding, failing, falling, getting up and moving on that children learn, unlearn and relearn how to live intelligently. To be sure, isn’t that exactly the way you have learnt to live your Life better? So, just as learning-to-live-intelligently is a never-ending process for you, this will be a never-ending journey for them too.
As Vaani and I are discovering, parenting does not end with your children growing up to be adults. Parenting is a Life-long responsibility. A significant part of being able to execute that responsibility well involves trusting your child. Just as you don’t want to have anything to do with anyone who doesn’t wish to trust you, remember, your child too has an option. And you will do well not to ever let your child exercise that option. Because if she does, as it happened in the case of the man and the girl that met us yesterday, you will end up having avoidable strife at home. Simply, for your child to respect you and look up to you, treat your child the same way as you would like to be treated by anyone.