Is your indulgence a handicap for your child?

Love, care and protection are important but not to the extent that they throttle individuality and skills of self-reliance

The sight of overindulgent parents and superentitled children bothers me immensely. I do suspect that some parents overindulge and overprotect children in an attempt to fill their own empty hearts, and perhaps to make up for the perceived inadequacies of their own childhood. Eager to plug all gaps, they unknowingly do the greatest harm to their own progeny.

When children get unearned privileges, and are fawned upon by their parents, they develop a false sense of entitlement. They come to believe they are the centre of their universe, and expect instant gratification for every wish. Such children grow up to be self-centred individuals with no interpersonal skills. As a result they are most likely to face challenges at work as well as in social and personal relationships.

When you buy your children more toys than they need, you teach them that not all privileges need to be worked for or deserved. When you do your child’s homework rather than allow him/her to face the music, you are giving the message that carelessness and mistakes have no consequences. When you make excuses for your children’s bad behaviour, you are teaching them to be irresponsible. When you pick up fights on their behalf, you are holding them back from learning the necessary skillsets needed to face challenges. When you do not impose discipline, nor devise punishments for breaking rules, you are failing to teach them the importance of boundaries.

Sometimes, it is best to set a goal and then think backwards. In order to bring up your child, it is important to understand what kind of an adult you want him/her to be. This is what should dictate parents’ choices. If we want our children to be self-reliant, honest and upwardly mobile adults, we must allow them the space to commit their own mistakes and pay for these even as children. It is only when they face obstacles that they learn their own strengths and weaknesses, and get the opportunity to adjust their learning, and gain confidence. Experts point out that our vital brain functions and relationship skillsets are built as we deal with joy, disappointment, boredom, adjustment and compromise with those we love. Children must be allowed to go through and deal with all these experiences with some guidance.

There was a time when Mom-Pop played good cop/bad cop, leading to a desired balance. Perhaps learning from their stilted relationships with their own Dads, fathers today no longer remain the distant disciplinarians they were. They are as hands-on, and frequently, even more indulgent than mothers. Neither parent is willing to be the lesser-loved or lesser loving one. It is as if both are competing for the child’s approval – something children realise early in life and learn to use to their advantage.

Of course, we all want to see our children confident and empowered. But we should also want to see them happy and contented. The two wishes need not be contradictory if only we take care to strike the right balance between showing children love and care, and ensuring they cultivate the right skillsets and inculcate the right value system. Give them respect and your attention. Try and understand them and their individual needs rather than imposing your wishes on them. Teach them about interconnectedness and how they are part of a larger world and give them a spiritual context and a code of ethics too.

Make your children feel loved, but also teach them to be loving and caring; make them feel secure and protected, but also to be independent and selfreliant. Indulge them, but also ensure they know that the love and care they receive must translate to responsibility and humanity. Teach them the value of money not because you do not have enough, but because some day the child may bless you for that learning.

Teach children that life is a process of continuous growing and personal learning and the importance of helping make the Universe a better place. Teach them that there are certain rules that are non-negotiable, while others can be made flexible, given the right reasons. Teach the child to respect people and boundaries, but also to reach out and share.

And if it is such a child that you handhold and let out into the world, blessed are you as a parent, your child and the future of the world too.

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