In a society where all it takes is one wrong influence to set a child on the wrong path, most parents often ask themselves, “Am I raising my child right?” The reason behind such questioning is that God has given the responsibility of raising a child to the most inexperienced people - the parents of the child. In a joint family, there are the elderly and other relatives to help you, but in a nuclear family, it is all up to the parents. Of course, both parents have a lot to adjust to. Both parents are equally responsible for raising their children. But it is the mother who has the primary responsibility for caring and nurturing her child. Believe me, parenting is the hardest job you will ever do. At the same time, it is also something you will eventually come to love immensely.
I understand you want to keep your children on the right track in this big imperfect world. Now that is a good thought, but parents need to know that if the world they are being brought up in is the opposite of the virtues they instill in their child, it will not work. Yes, there is more to being a parent than meets the eye. Expecting it is one thing, and being one is entirely different because one is hypothetical, while the other is practical, instant decision making, presence of mind, and impromptu action. I am not trying to scare you. Yes, you have made your preparation and there are plenty who will want to guide you.
You will receive plenty of advice on how to raise your child. I know, you have gone through books, the internet, and other available resources to prepare yourself for parenthood. If you decide to raise your children properly in this current state of the world, it might look like a bad idea. Now that should not discourage you. Instead, take that as a challenge and try to change the world around you to make it a better place for future generations.
Also, consider that your children need to survive in this world, as it is, because changing the world takes time. I am sure you understand that that change starts with you. I recall an incident my mother-in-law mentioned sometime ago. As a small child, she also wanted to go to school with her brothers. Of course, her parents and society at that time did not believe in educating girls. They believed girls needed to learn to be a farmhand, homemaker, a wife, and a mother at an early age. She was not allowed to even stand outside the school window and listen to the teacher teaching the boys. Surprised? Don’t be. This was about 90 years ago. She was married at an early age of 10.
Later, when she had her own daughters, she decided to change this situation and educate her daughters. She sent them to school, and later, both finished their bachelors. She understood her daughters needed to understand both the old school thought of their society and the new, more advanced thought of the ever-changing society. So, they do not become frustrated when faced with the old school thoughts of their society. You must be wondering, what am I trying to say here?
All I am trying to say is raising children is not a walk in a park. Parents need to be ready to change, gradually to the new way of thinking. The reason for that is your children are changing, and so is the surrounding society. They learn not only from you but also from friends and the surrounding people. You need to realize that progressive upbringing is of no use if you cannot sync it with the sensibilities of the world around your children. If you do not change the world around them, your children will have a hard time surviving in it. These are the ground realities parents need to understand while raising their children. The other thing parents need to be careful about is the conditioning of their children. Maternal censoring often guides parents as they encourage their daughters to be more ‘girly’ and boys to be more like their perception of a man.
Often the mothers, grandmothers, and other women of the family are the perpetrators of rules like boys don’t cry, and if they do, they are like girls. Girls are weak, and boys are strong. The concept of male preference guides their thinking. This is when the sense of equality erodes, and boys believe they can dominate girls, make fun of them and tease them because they are strong and girls are weak. If you think parenting is a difficult job, you are absolutely right. Parenting is the hardest job you will ever do, but it is also something you will eventually love to do. There is so much more to being a parent than meets the eye. Anticipating it is one thing, being one is entirely different. That's because one is hypothetical, and the other is practical, instant decision making, presence of mind, and impromptu action.
I know you have gone through books, the internet, and other available resources to prepare yourself to raise your child. Even all this research does not fully prepare you for an outstanding job of parenting. That is because you cannot plan the intricacies of raising children long term, and there is no guidebook to follow either. Parenting is not something you plan because you cannot see the bigger picture of parenting without being a parent. You will, of course, have some hypothetical knowledge, but I am not sure you can fathom the consequences of being a parent ahead of time. Believe me, no one can exactly describe to you what it is like to be a parent because everyone's experience is different. However, the good news is that there is no one right way to raise a child. All you can do is do your best, trust yourself, and enjoy the company of your child in your life.
Finally, as your child grows, the challenges you face will also change, and your thinking is likely to grow, but your approach should be consistent, firm, and loving. Your priority should be to help your child learn through experience, that trying builds confidence. This helps you learn to tackle challenges. Gradually you will also learn to calibrate your expectations about what your child can do independently. Regardless of whether you have an infant learning to sleep through the night, a toddler helping to put toys away, or an older child resolving conflicts. Now that sounds promising. Right parents?
(Usha Pokharel is an educationist and author of several children’s books and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)