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Intelligent Parenting in complex times

By: Parthiv Parekh Email By: Parthiv Parekh
November 2010
Intelligent Parenting in complex times “Raising you kids was far simpler,” my mother often remarks, when she sees us and most young parents sweating it out in the role of parenting.

Several things have changed from just a generation past. For one, evolution is clearly visible in how today’s children are born with far sharper senses and more assertive personalities. It’s as if they learn in the womb that they are coming into a world where parental authority can safely and naturally be questioned. Two, it is a far more complex world, and nature seems to have endowed newborns of our times to transact with such a multi-polar, multifaceted, interconnected, and highly technological world. An evidence of such capabilities is the ease with which even young children use modern gadgetry. Things that took us quite a bit of conscious learning seems second nature to most six-year olds: figuring out multiple remote controls, transferring photos from a cell phone to a computer, and so on.

No wonder many of us feel like dinosaurs, not just in terms of using modern technology to its hilt, but also in terms of parental sensibilities. When we were growing up, most of the important things in life were conveyed to us in a singular, simple fashion. Now, almost nothing comes with such a black-and-white clarity. Is it any wonder that the perennial “toughest job” has become tougher still?

Ad hoc parenting has given way to strategies and schools of thoughts. There is a boatload of information and books, with often contradictory advice. It is not easy for parents to first choose a philosophy or an approach they can embrace wholeheartedly, then acclimate themselves to it, and then make it part of their lives consistently.

Parental coach Keyuri Joshi, who sheds some light on these conundrums in the cover story this month, makes an important point, more so for Indian parents who are often focused on the academic prowess of their children. As an expert in the area of Emotional and Social Intelligence (ESI), she emphasizes the significance of emotional and social adequacy over academic achievements. According to Dr. John Gottman, a leading proponent of ESI, it is not the child’s IQ, achievement tests, or even SAT scores that will predict how the child will turn out as an adult; rather, it is how well the child gets along with other children that is the predictor of authentic and meaningful success as an adult. This getting along with others, a mark of social and emotional strength, in turn, depends a lot on how you, the parent, relate with the child.

This coincides with several modern and ancient adages about parenting. Hal Runkel, the expert behind the ScreamFree Parenting programs and books also emphasizes that parenting is more about working on yourself rather than on the children. Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, a contemporary global guru from the timeless Indian heritage has said that when a child comes into most people’s lives, they think it is time to teach, but it is really a time to learn and grow. The concurrent theme in all this is that a dysfunctional adult can’t hope to raise a functional child.

Not surprisingly, these experts and gurus have also said that making yourself a truly happy person, and your marriage a strong bond, are two of the best parental gifts you can give to your children.

In the countless daily interactions with our children, each situation is unique, and while we may sometimes be at a loss as to how to respond to a temper tantrum or the fact that your child forgot his homework yet again, it helps to know that the solution lies not so much in “fixing” your child as in creating an environment—within and surrounding yourself—that naturally nudges the child towards sound emotional and social maturity.

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