Children from the 80s and the 90s have despised their parents at some point or the other for forcing the menu down their throats, for being in control, for not giving in to their demands and so on. Parents back then made it very clear as to who was the boss at home.
Mothers had the best interests of the family in mind and junk food was strictly served only on Sundays. A burger or a pizza demand on any other day was met with a ‘you can sleep hungry’ kind of blatant answers. Fathers wanted their children to grow up respecting money and money management was part of the growing up lessons. An untimely monetary demand meant a trip to the piggy bank back in their rooms. A lot of what children these days take as a privilege had to be earned back then with good behavior.
When children rolled on the floor, demanding a toy, they got a lesson on good manners. And purchasing the toy was deferred until the lesson was learnt and brownie points were earned by the child for being at his best for atleast a month.
What happens now? Parents coax their children into eating healthy and incentivise it with screen time. Children clearly know that eating food is not a necessity; it is a favour they do. Worse still, even bad behaviour is incentivised. When a child throws tantrums in public, the parents slides a mobile in his hand and requests the child to behave. The child learns ‘the cause and effect’ relationship and uses it to the point of blackmail.
Now children want a treat for behaving well. Good behaviour by the child has to be earned by the parent. Children eat food, do homework, go to school and do everything else they are supposed to, in exchange for treats, screen time or a similar bribe. Children are becoming greedy and unappreciative. The tantrums have increased to never-before levels.
The Point of Contention
So, who is right? Let’s say the parents from the 80s and 90s are old school. And the couples today are new-age parents. Are old school parents right in being authoritative, putting their foot down, using disciplinary measures to make a point and so on? Are the new-age parents right in opting for a role-reversal by letting the children be in control, giving in to their demands and avoiding conflicts?
Argument in favour of new-age parents
Today, the parents treat children equally and don’t assert power. Some people consider that to be sophisticated parenting where the parent does not shout or spank. The child cooperates with gentle reminders.
New-age parents don’t want to get to a point of conflict. They believe that times have changed. If children get forced to do things they don’t want to, they will rebel. Children who don’t rebel, will succumb to pressure but will never be able to stand against bullies in the big bad world.
So, they want to win their children over with democratic parenting. They want to teach them decision-making skills early on. Whether it is a good idea to go on a vacation or splurge at a party is left for the kids to decide. They want their children to become leaders and not followers.
These parents have good intentions at heart.
Argument in favour of old-school parents
Old school parents like to be in the driving seat. They don’t mind playing the bad cop. They think long-term. They know that their children will love them eventually. Their children will understand the reason behind all the spanks and disciplinary action. They will grow up respectful.
Their children will always be served good food, tasty or not. Their children will never face obesity as an outcome of bad parenting. Their children will believe in family hierarchy and will have a role-model to look upto. They will know who to lean on during tough times. Their children would turn to them for good advice, all their life.
Their children will grow up well-balanced physically, mentally and emotionally.
Let’s meet mid-way
Believe it or not, repercussions of lenient parenting resonate all the way through teenage years and even into adulthood. Some children can’t cope up with corporate pressures – they expect rewards, bribes and treats even at work. Bad food habits run into obesity, self-confidence and other social issues. Their lack of discipline and disrespectful behaviour earns them social badges for arrogance.
Today’s parents seem to be saddled up with the notion of not being like their own parents. They don’t want to repeat the same mistakes or take tough calls. How about not returning to the old-school but striking a balance?
Let your children make decisions. There really is no harm in letting your child decide the color of the party balloons, the size of her milk cup, the dressing-up style or the decor of her room. However, take charge when it comes to habits that will stay with him. Don’t spring choices like burger or salad, pizza or rice, canned juice or fresh milk. Eating healthy cannot be optional. When the children throws tantrums, keep calm and explain in a firm voice. Let him cry, if it comes to that. Wait until the storm passes. A desperate attempt to curb it with bribes will set wrong expectations.
We said, strike a balance. So what is it that you mustn’t take from old school parents? Don’t let your authority overpower the child’s freedom. Let the child be. Don’t force a football class, if he likes piano. Let discipline have its boundaries. Let a firm voice replace a physical punishment.
The Bottom Line
As a parent, you want to do everything right for your child. It’s understandable when you get confused about the parenting technique. The hierarchical model of parenting might look daunting, but it has its pros. Embrace it, at least partly. Make your role very clear. You are the CEO and you are happy to delegate power on certain issues. However, with power comes responsibility and children will have to accept both.