PART 2: THE GROWING YEARS — FROM INFANCY TO ADOLESCENCE
MEETING THE EMOTIONAL NEEDS OF CHILDREN
To ‘lead’ the child into a happy state of mind, one
must give due importance to her emotional needs. They are as important for the child as the so-called essential needs
for food, shelter, clothing and medical care.
The word L-E-A-D has these components:
Each of these deserves equal emphasis. Just because discipline is mentioned last, it does not mean that it
is the least important. Furthermore, I firmly believe that it
is a futile exercise to discipline a child in the absence of an atmosphere
of love and acceptance.
Love is one of the most important needs for a happy childhood. Paediatricians and psychologists would agree
with the statement that ‘love is the most precious thing in the world’.
Love Is Intrinsic To Our Nature
Some parents love their children with the unvoiced expectation that their offspring will bring them credit
or help them in their old age, and they feel let down, cheated
and betrayed when this does not happen. They rue the fact
that they went out of their way to bestow their love on her,
and that the child has forgotten her duty and the
fulfillment of their expectations! But love cannot be equated with a business deal. As parents, we must give love
unconditionally and without expectation.
In such a loving atmosphere, the child feels secure. She
is likely to rush into her parents’ loving arms whenever
she wants to share her joys and troubles.
Such parents are less likely to be upset if the child
does not come up to their expectations. Armed with such an attitude, they are more likely to ‘listen’ to even the
unspoken language of the child when she does not seem to be ‘behaving’
as they would otherwise expect.
Listening To Your Children
Active listening is important. A child must be given
full attention. You must stop what you were doing, go over to
the child and get down to her eye level. Use a gentle,
caring voice to describe the feelings and situations you see.
Listening From Within
Let me now give you a personal example. My teenager, who was studying in another city, had come home over the
weekend to get a book from my friend. As he was about to leave, I asked him if he had picked up the book. He
replied ‘‘Where was the time, Papa?” I was furious and
said, ‘‘You had time for your friends, time for the movies, time for a
party, for television and for everything else except the book you
had specially come for.” He left.
A few days later, a letter came from him addressed only
to ‘Mummy’. In the past, it used to be addressed to ‘Mummy and Papa’. I was used to reading something inspirational
daily and then listening from within. A week after my son left, I
felt inspired to write him a letter. I disregarded the
thought that told me that the rift was his fault. I wrote him the
My dear Sunil,
These last few days, you have been in my thoughts. I sometimes wonder if I am unduly harsh with my
children. I have discussed this with your mother, my trusted
companion. The answer, we both agree, is, ‘If you love your children, you
have to be firm with them at times’. Sunil dear, when you come home next, do let me know if
I should have behaved differently under certain
circumstances. I say this because I am conscious of the fact that I am
not right all the time. But one thing is certain, my son, that
whatever I do, it comes out of the deep love I have for you. God bless
you, my son.
Remember me to your roommate.
This letter was followed by a prompt reply:
My dear Papa,
Thanks for your understanding letter. It is true that I
mad with you on that day. But then, teenage is a fiery age . . .
I feel the best is yet to come. . . I love you.
From that day onwards, Sunil and I grew closer to each other. A problem had been converted into an opportunity.
How did it happen? I did not have to apologise, but what I wrote revealed my genuine love for him, and so it
probably struck the right chord in my son’s heart, and he
Giving Children Your Time
R. M. Lala, who wrote the biography of the late J. R. D. Tata, writes about his own father, “He always had time
for me. The most precious thing Father gave me was himself.”
Parents must find time for their children. Picture a
busy executive. He is often still asleep while his children
leave early in the morning for school — because he had slept
so late after an important business evening. He usually comes home late in the evenings when the children have already gone
to sleep. When he comes early, it is only to start getting
ready to go for a social engagement. He is even unavailable to
his wife who needs his time and attention to discuss something personal. When the weekend comes, he can be found
playing bridge or golf at the club.
Things are fortunately changing. When I started my practice in Mumbai about 35 years ago, hardly any
fathers came with their children for appointments. They seemed
to be busy climbing to the top of the ladder and it was
usually the mother or a grandparent who brought the child. Today, I
find many more young fathers coming to see me with their children and taking as much responsibility for looking
after the children as the mother.
Researchers at the US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development say that fathers who
spend time with children, especially those below 3 years of age, and take responsibility for them, are
more likely to be part of loving couples. They have a higher level of marital intimacy. So if a father wants
to see a permanent smile on his wife’s face, he should spend more time with his young child and yes, learn to
change the diapers.
Children need to be assured of love from the moment they
are born. A direct skin-to-skin contact with the mother soon
after birth and feeding the baby on demand sets the right pace
for mother-infant bonding and for the child to feel secure.
All babies want to be talked to, smiled at, and cuddled.
Touch is known to be essential for their healthy development.
One may worry that we may spoil our little ones with
such an approach. Love never spoils. Of course, if your baby
is lying quietly by herself, let her be on her own for some
time. One need not keep her in the lap all the time. Even grandparents must keep this in mind.
However, when a small baby cries because of hunger, discomfort due to an illness or otherwise, she must be
picked up and attended to.
The Crucial First Few Years
Loving parents spontaneously start cooing and talking to
the child as soon as they hold her in their arms. They take her all around the house, allow her to touch the plants, show
her pictures and make her feel that they are enjoying her presence. They realise that the nurturing and care given
during the first few years of a child’s life are most
When a child feels secure in her early years, she is
more likely to grow up to be a caring and loving adult.
Prolonged separation of the child from the parent should
be avoided in the first 5 years. On the other hand, a short separation of a couple of hours after the first 4 to 6
months of life is good for the parent as well as the baby.
When the child is between 3 and 4 years, parents may
even consider taking a short holiday for a few days, leaving the child in the care of a close aunt or uncle or a
grandparent. However, the child must be prepared for their absence in advance and should not wake up one morning or return
home one evening to find her parents missing. It can be a rude shock to the child, and leave her emotionally
traumatised. Therefore, prepare the child and let her know beforehand
that both of you are leaving for a few days and will return
Leaving The Child At Home While Parents Go Out To Work
Should a mother leave her job if she is employed outside
her home? This decision is up to the couple. When the mother needs a job for personal satisfaction or for financial
reasons, she must not quit it. However, she may consider taking
up a different kind of job that requires her to work fewer
hours, so that she can spend more time with the baby and still
The employer may agree to extend the mother’s
maternity leave with full pay, half pay or without any salary. The point
that needs to be stressed here is that the first couple
of years of life are important for a healthy interaction between
the parents and their offspring and that children who have a prolonged stay with grandparents or other
during the early years may become overprotected or even
spoiled. Incidentally, I have often encouraged parents to take
their infants or toddlers with them for a trip abroad. My
experience is that they have mostly returned home happy after
having done so.
However, under exceptional or unavoidable circumstances, parents may have to leave the child for a prolonged
period in the care of others. Do not feel guilty if you are forced
to take such a step. Let the child start getting used to a caretaker, say
the grandparent, well in advance. Let her handle the
child more and more while you are still around. Later, let her
also sleep in the same room as the grandparent. Grandparents
in a joint family system can provide the much needed care and attention to the child in such a situation. At times,
even other relatives in our traditional set-up can be very helpful.
I know of a woman who not only looks after her nephew but also breastfeeds him, besides
breastfeeding her own baby.
Also refer to Working
Women in the
chapter on FAMILY ISSUES for more guidance on this subject.
Time For Yourselves
While dwelling on the language of love, we should not forget our own needs for relaxation and creativity. One
must remember that when the baby was born, the cord between the baby and the mother was cut. It signifies
that one needs to develop some degree of detachment as well, even as we continue to bestow our loving care
on the baby. This is essential, even for the sake of our babies. We do not want to ‘smother’ or ‘stifle’
them with love. We do not have to ‘sacrifice’ all that we
have for the sake of our babies. Therefore, it is most essential, especially for mothers who spend most of
their time during the day with their babies, to pay attention to their own needs.
If you are fond of music, find time for it. Spend time
with your husband. Go out with him whenever possible without the baby.
When your baby is small and cannot be left in your
absence, take her along to an evening party at a friend’s
house. Do not be unduly worried about her getting an infection. If
there is a good nursery school near your home, you may consider leaving your child, when a little older, to spend some
time with other children while you get some time for yourself.
A relaxed mind, quiet nerves and a centred soul make living happier, brighter and better, psychologist and
family therapist Maya Kirpalani insists, not just for us but
also our children.
Akhil, our grandson, was 3 years old. He had learnt some good habits from his parents and his nursery school
teacher. In his school, there was a Thinking Corner; any child who needed to be reprimanded was made to stand in
that corner for a while.
One day, Akhil rightly felt that his teacher had herself
not followed a particular habit he had been taught to follow
while eating. He drew her attention to it and said that she
should stand in the Thinking Corner. Behold, that exemplary
teacher did just that— and in doing so, not only reinforced
the importance of a good habit, but also helped Akhil
understand that rules are rules and meant to be followed by all.
Always keep in mind that, for a child, your actions
speak louder than words. If you tell your child to inform a telephone caller that
you are not at home when you are, it is not fair to expect
her not to lie otherwise. If you are unable to attend the call,
ask your daughter to say, “Uncle, Dad is at home. But
unfortunately, he cannot attend to your call just now. Could you please
leave your phone number? Dad will ring you later.”
Our children observe us closely. They notice how we treat our servants, friends and relatives — especially
those who are poor or those who do not wield much influence.
If we treat people with respect, our children are likely to follow in our footsteps and show respect to
all those they meet.
Parents can also influence their children adversely with their unhealthy lifestyle.
Late nights, alcohol, smoking, unhealthy food habits, watching too much television, lack of physical activity,
fights with each other, hatred, touchiness, greed, selfishness, illicit relationships — all these have a
negative influence on the minds of young children.
How a teacher conducts herself — both in class and in society — can also have an equally positive or
negative effect on the lives of her pupils.
Teaching Duty And Responsibility
If children grow up in an atmosphere that disregards rules — even occasionally — they start believing
that they are above such restrictions. When adults break rules in
front of children, it is particularly damaging.
Young Radha and Kishore are sitting in the back seat of
the car; Mom is sitting next to the driver. The traffic
signal is red. The children are late for school and the driver jumps
the signal. Mom keeps quiet. The children get the message that it’s all right to break the rules when you are in a
hurry. When they grow in such an atmosphere, they are likely to become accustomed to ignoring the laws of the land and get into
trouble. It is then too late for regrets.
It is true that it is not easy to live with values like honesty and unselfishness in today’s world. However,
when our teenaged children notice that we do our best to follow these values, despite the difficulties we
face, they will see that it is worth tolerating such hardships because their parents are happy people.
What about younger children? Let us not forget that they too, are watching us quietly. In the example of the
driver jumping the signal because the children were getting
late for school, the mother should have told the driver firmly to wait for the signals. If he replied that nobody was watching
and it was quite safe to ignore the signals, she was given a wonderful opportunity to tell the driver, and therefore
indirectly the children, that the policeman inside each one of us was indeed watching. Such a dialogue would have
two-fold benefits: One, the driver is warned that he cannot break
traffic rules and so endanger the lives of both his passengers
and pedestrians. Two, the children are directed to look
within and refuse to be tempted to do something that may not be in
their long-term interest. They then learn to make a conscious choice of their own.
A word about people who have a burning desire to serve society. May their tribe increase! If you are one
of those, my best wishes to you. However, please do not neglect yourself or your family. I am convinced that if
you are at peace with yourself and with your family, you are in a much better state to serve others. Not only
that, if the situation so demands, you are well equipped to face all opposition with an inner calm and poise and
with the full support of your spouse and the rest of the family.
All parents like their children to be happy and at peace
with themselves. In order to achieve that goal, we should act in such a way that our children continually receive the
others as they are.
others the right to differ.
is more important than achievement.
is honourable to accept our own mistakes.
are responsible for our own lives.
must be ready to accept the things we cannot change.
Accept Others As They Are
We should help children accept others as they are. Let
them learn from the first 2 lines of the song, “When I
point my finger at my neighbour, there are 3 more pointing back
at me.” Let us never forget to find the good qualities in
others before pointing out their faults.
The traditional Indian Namaste teaches us
this; in saying
we say from within, “I greet the Divine in you.” It is Divine greeting the Divine — indicating that the same
Divine is in both of us. So neither of us is superior or
inferior to the other person.
Here, let us also mention about the first child, the
middle child and the youngest child. Parents often tend to
indulge the first child, consequently overprotecting him. To correct
the balance, they may overlook the second child, and again
spoil the youngest one.
Most parents are overprotective towards an only child. Even a minor illness may make them over-anxious. If they
panic, they may not be objective enough to provide the
best possible care during an emergency.
Children brought up in the absence of their parents by other relatives (say grandparents) or by a single
parent, may also not be provided with the freedom that they deserve or may not be handled firmly when the situation
Additionally, writes Maya Kirpalani, children born with a congenital illness or a physical deformity may be
either shunned or overprotected by their parents. Guard yourselves against both these tendencies.
Respect and love your child for what she is. Remember, she is more than the deformity or the illness. Help her
discover that, too. She is a child of God, given to you
so that you may love, protect and care for her. In rearing such a child, you
will be able to invoke, rediscover and nurture precious qualities within yourself, which you
might never have known you had — more love, more patience, and more forbearance.
Acceptance does not mean that we forget to give the required stimulation to the child. Children need
stimulation. They need to be encouraged to realise their full
potential. Under-stimulation is as bad as over-stimulation. Avoid pushing your child too hard; try to discover what
special interest she has and encourage her in the same.
This is possible if parents spend enough time with their
children in the early years of their lives.
Give Others The Right To Differ
Let your child know from your behaviour that everyone
has a right to differ with another person. Tell her, “We
accept that you may differ with us on certain issues. We grant you
thatright. But if we happen to be around, we would like you to give due consideration to our experience and our love
Effort Is More Important Than Achievement
Every year, a few students commit suicide the day the
Std. X board examination results are declared. These young
children feel they have not met their parents’ expectations,
and take the extreme step of ending their precious lives.
A teenager staying in the college hostel received this
note from his father the day before his final examination:
“My dear son, I know you well; you have worked hard. You could
not have worked harder. Sit for the examination with peace
in your heart. Answer as much as comes to your mind. I will
not be upset if you fail in any subject — or in all the
subjects. Believe me, I mean it. Your friend, Papa.’’ The
young man later told his uncle that the one factor that helped him
excel was that note from his father.
It Is Honourable To Accept Our Mistakes
I returned home one evening after a hectic day to find
my two sons fighting with each other. While I was scolding
the older boy, my wife took me aside and told me that the younger fellow was to be blamed for that particular
squabble. I went in again and said to my older son, ‘‘Sunil, I
am sorry. Your mummy tells me that it was not your fault and I unnecessarily scolded you. I am sorry.’’ Wide-eyed,
Sunil looked at me and said, as if from adult to child, “It’s
all right, Papa. It’s all right.”
A few days later, I was driving my sons to school. I
bought something on the way and asked Sunil to keep the change in the glove compartment. In the evening, I needed some
coins and did not find any in that compartment. I rang home
and asked Sunil about the change. “Papa, I kept it in the dashboard,” he said. “It must be there. I will find
it and give it to you.” When I came home later at night, the boys
were already asleep. When I went to wake Sunil up the next morning, as I always did, he was already awake. He came
to me and said, “Papa, I am sorry. I did not keep the
change in the dashboard. Both of us ate something with that money. I am sorry.” I hugged him, kissed him on
and said, “I am so glad, my son, that you told me exactly
what happened. Please give me back that money out of your and your brother’s pocket money.” “Sure, Papa,” said
Sunil, feeling relieved.
Such incidents reveal that children find it easy to own up to their mistakes and say ‘Sorry’ in a home
where adults are ready to own up to their mistakes. Our children must gather from us that, while it is
important to learn from our mistakes and make amends when required, we need not carry a load of guilty
feelings all our lives.
We Are Responsible For Our Own Lives
Sometimes, people say, “I wish my children were more responsible. I wish my wife was more understanding. I
wish my husband was like the guy next door. I wish I had got
admission into that junior college where the teachers are so good.
I wish . . .’’ Let us keep in mind that life is like a game
of cards. In this game, you play the cards that you get; you are not
allowed to throw them down. You have to make the best of what you
have and play to the best of your ability. In this same
spirit, help your child to grow to become an adult who takes
responsibility for her life, for making or marring it; an adult who does
not blame her parents or society if things do not seem to go the
way she thought they would, an adult ready to accept any
We Must Be Ready To Accept The Things We Cannot Change
Mrs. X used to work with children who were slow to
learn. Yet, when she was told that her own newborn had Down’s Syndrome, she was dumbfounded and could not accept the
fact at first. Gradually, with her husband and parents’ support, she came to accept the diagnosis. Her paediatrician was
also finally able to convey to her that such children could
also be treated as ‘normal’. With her acceptance of the
situation and her acknowledgement that she could not change it, ‘miracles’
started taking place. She felt that God had given her
the child because she was trained in his care. She started reading
more about the subject, spent as much time as possible with
her son and kept in constant touch with her paediatrician.
The latter supported her plan to go abroad with her son to
learn more about such children. On her return, she started a
society for the parents of children with Down’s Syndrome. Her
son, though slightly slow as compared to other children,
started attending a school for ‘normal’ children. People who
were not aware about his condition, did not think that he was
different from other children. Mrs. X became an epitome of courage, fortitude and patience for mothers of other children
with a similar condition.
- Can children manipulate their parents? Of course,
- Do children need discipline? Yes, they do!
- Do children like to be disciplined? They do!
- Can too much love spoil a child? No!
- What sorts of parents do children like? Loving,
firm, consistent parents!
Children are very clever. They can manipulate and do manipulate parents who allow themselves to be
manipulated. Parents of so-called ‘precious’ children are more
likely to succumb to their manipulation.
All children need discipline. Unfortunately, some
teachers and parents literally follow the dictionary meaning of discipline — ‘orderly or controlled behaviour’.
Children do not like such an approach. They like discipline that is just
and based on reason.
Of course, an infant or a toddler may not understand all this. She should be praised more often for her actions
that we approve of and occasionally asked not to do something
that is undesirable. However, school going children are more
likely to follow the rules we lay down, if we set a good
example and if they understand why it is important for them to
follow certain rules and imbibe certain values, in their own immediate and long-term interest.
While some parents still believe that sparing the rod will spoil the child, others are over-solicitous and
afraid to say ‘No’ to their children. But children do not
like ‘soft’ parents or ‘soft’ teachers. They prefer a
loving but firm and consistent caretaker who assumes the role of a democratic leader.
Recently, a young boy died in a car accident. He did not
have a driving licence. Neither did his friend, whose father’s car was
taken out in the middle of the night without the parents’ permission. Five friends went on this illegal spree
resulted in the death of one of them - the only child of his
parents. It is not uncommon to see parents allowing their children to
drive inside the compound of their building without a licence.
They do not realise that such laxity on their part could
The Definition Of Discipline
Howard* has given a good definition of discipline: “Discipline is the structure that an adult sets up for a child’s
life. It is designed to allow him or her to fit into the real world
happily and effectively.
“The discipline set up by parents is the foundation of
the child’s own self-discipline later. It is within this
structure that the child has real choices for behaviour that take into
account other people and are within the child’s control.”
This definition indicates that adults cannot abdicate
their responsibility to discipline children. They must set up
the structure for discipline - not for exercising their
authority over children, but to allow them to fit into society
happily and ably. Ultimately, the children develop a sense of
selfdiscipline. Later in life, when they are at the crossroads with different options, they keep the interests of others in
mind, before deciding upon the final course of action.
* Howard BJ Discipline in early Childhood. Ped Clin
North Am 1991; 38: 1351-1369.
The First Step Towards Discipline
Allow the child to grow in a loving atmosphere from
birth onwards and let discipline follow as an extension of
love. When you comfort your crying baby, she begins to trust
you. As she grows, she comes to realise that you want only the best and what is right for her. She now wants to please
you with her actions. This lays the foundation for self-discipline. A time may come when she finds that you are directing her
against her wishes. In such a situation, if she is
convinced that her interest has always been uppermost in your mind, she
is more likely to follow your directives even though she
may find them painful.
If instead, we force a child into submission, we may succeed in making her follow our orders out of fear and
hatred, but if she has not been brought up in an
atmosphere of love, respect and trust, she is likely to rebel sooner
or later and may fail to develop the self-discipline that we are aiming at.
When Should We Start Disciplining The Child?
Spoil with love, if you will, an infant below the age of
one year. At the most, you may take away something that you do not like her to handle at that particular moment. But after
she has celebrated her first birthday, start getting her used to
the word ‘No’. You must mean the word when you say it,
but there is no need to make an issue of it at this age. If
the child persists in doing what you do not want her to continue
with, try to divert her attention. Most children can be easily distracted at this age.
After the age of 15 months or so, the child will enter
into a phase of ‘negativism’ when she will tend to do the opposite of
what you want her to do. She will want to assert
herself. She will not eat when and what you want her to eat. Yet,
soon after, she will want to pick food out of guests’
plates and eat it. Once you become aware of this temporary phase of negativism (which may last
until the age of 3 or 4), you
are likely to handle it with sensitivity.
At this age, she will also start constantly asking
questions. Answer the ones that can be simply answered. Ignore the complicated ones; she is not really interested in your
answers at this age. However, do listen to her with respect to assure her that you appreciate her curiosity to know more about
the world around her.
Don’t worry if she refuses to share her things with others at this age. The rudiments of unselfishness and a
desire to share with others often come after the age of
3 or 4 years.
Setting Reasonable Limits
Children like parents who can guide them; they feel more secure with parents who set reasonable limits, keeping
in mind their age and maturity level.
For instance, if a 2-year-old child wants to eat by
herself and spills the food on the table in the process, make
sure that her spoon is easy to handle, that her bowl is wide
enough, that the chair is placed near the table and is of the right
She must then be encouraged to eat by herself even if
she makes a mess.
If a child wants to write on the wall of the living
room, make sure that she is instead given paper and crayons or chalks and a slate on which she can draw. Tell
her in a language that she can understand, “Please use this
paper or the slate. You draw on this paper or this slate.” Say
it firmly without anger or threat in a matter-of-fact voice. If
the child still insists on drawing on the wall, take away the
chalk, crayon or the pencil and keep it out of her reach. She can be given the materials again as soon as she is ready to
accept the limits set by you.
Both mother and father should jointly set rules or
limits for the whole family. Make sure the child understands the rules and make sure that she is always made to follow them. If
you become lax on certain occasions, she will take advantage
and try to disobey you and create a scene the next time.
Once the rules are made, both the parents and all the other
elders at home should see that they are followed. A tired father
must guard against letting the child have her way against the
rules jointly made by both the parents. The grandparents too, should not let the child go
against the limits set by
the parents. Do not laugh, even when your very young child refuses to obey. If you do, the
undue attention will
encourage her to repeat her ‘performance’.
Discipline In School
The child has to learn at home and from her teachers the
art of living a happy and productive life. Before the age of 5, a child may readily accept the difference between right
and wrong from her parents, but as she grows older, she starts questioning the moral codes set by the parents. This
occurs more frequently when the values followed by her peers
are at variance with those that she has learnt at home.
Now is the time for parents and teachers to explain the value of the magic words ‘Please’, ‘Thank you’
and ‘Sorry’. Remember, values are best imbibed by those children
whose parents and teachers lay the foundation for nurturing these values by themselves acting as role models and setting
One of my teachers could not stand the wastage of even a drop of water. When the tap was left open due to
someone’s carelessness, he would close it immediately and bring it
to our notice. If he saw a paper lying in the school compound,
he would pick it up and put it into the waste paper basket himself. His exemplary behaviour had a
deep impact on my memory; I follow his actions to this day.
Teachers, like parents, must be good listeners and treat their students with love and respect. I once came across
a child who was, unfortunately, the victim of a teacher
who developed a dislike for her. The girl, a brilliant
student, suddenly started faring poorly and was even afraid of
going to school. It was then learnt that the teacher was constantly scolding her and putting her down in front of the whole
class. The determined father did not take the matter lightly
and wrote a formal letter to the school authorities. It then
came to light that that particular teacher was creating problems
for many children in the class and that parents were too
scared to bring it to the notice of the school authorities.
Ultimately, the teacher was expelled from the school.
In general, parents should make sure that the children
give due respect to the teacher. When my children were small and I was waiting in queue with other parents to see my son’s
class teacher, a mother was making all sorts of remarks against the teacher in the presence of her child. The
same teacher, in fact, was an adorable person and very good
with the children. It was obvious that the problem lay with
the mother’s perception of the teacher and her attitudes
rather than with the teacher.
Never Insult Others
Nobody likes to be insulted, especially children. Yes, parents can get angry. We are likely to get angry with
the toddler who spills the only milk left at home. In such situations, label the act, not the child. Say “What
you did was naughty!“, not “You are naughty!” Such labels
can have a very damaging effect on the child’s
personality. Instead, help her clear up the mess and then teach her
how to carry a glass of milk safely.
A Few Important Components Of Discipline
I quoted Howard to define discipline. The author
stresses the need for parents to provide special uninterrupted time for the
child; reward positive behaviour; ignore minor
transgressions; set routines for meals, sleep and chores; and offer
choices whenever practical.
Howard also deals with praise, rewards and punishment. “A smile, increased attention, praise or material
rewards, all serve to reinforce a child’s actions. Rewards should
be small, immediate and appropriate to the situation. “At the same time, children need protection from their
own impulses. For example, they should not be allowed to hit
their parents. Firmness demands that, if the child does not
move to do as requested in 18 seconds, the parent should go towards the child, grasp an arm if necessary, and shepherd him
or her to the task without speaking further.”
Howard rightly cautions that one parent should not interfere with how the other has already started to
handle a given situation.
I am against physical punishment. However, parents need not be filled with remorse if by chance, they hit a
child in response to the latter’s indiscipline. However,
physical punishment should not be consistently used in a bid to
modify the child’s behaviour. A ‘time-out’ is a better
substitute to physical punishment. If the child is 2 years old, then
the timeout must be for 2 minutes. A 5-year-old can be given a
timeout for 5 minutes. For 2 to 5 minutes, the child is placed
in a comer or a room in which there are no other attractive
or interesting alternatives present to amuse her.
It is true that parents who have had problems in
childhood or who were brought up in an atmosphere of marital discord may find it difficult to discipline their children. But
Howard refers to recent studies that have shown that mothers
who have had troubled upbringings, but have recognised and accepted them, have children with normal attachment,
while mothers who remain bitter, have children more likely to
show an insecure attachment pattern.
MANIFESTO FOR A HAPPY FAMILY*
*From a conference for families titled ‘Come Together, Stay Together’, held at Panchgani, Maharashtra, in May
Every couple should keep these points in mind:
family is an organisation of people who live together and support each other for the realisation of a common
sound family is the only real basis for a sound society.
common goal of a family is to create overall hope and happiness amongst all who come within its sphere of
influence. Securing this objective whilst unfolding the creative potential of each individual is the main
objective of the family.
ideal family would be one:
- Where there is unconditional love, in which every member is accepted and respected for what she/he is,
without any comparisons.
- Where there is communication and empathic listening to the said and the unsaid in an atmosphere of peace
- Where being home means to be in a haven where one need not be anxious for one’s physical and emotional
well being. Where every member can repose unconditional trust in the other. Where one is not
alone in joy or in sorrow.
- Where children are free to share their joys, fears, thoughts and perceptions in all their innocence and
- Where every member finds time to be there for the others.
- Where we receive our first lessons in what is good and not so good. Where WHAT is right is more
important than WHO is right. Where sharing and caring is a habit.
- Where reprimands and corrections spring from a foundation of love. Where people learn by example.
Where rights go hand in hand with responsibilities.
- Where dignity and division of labour are respected
- That, in order to make happiness the crown of a
family’s activity, its members need to bring about an inner transformation by taking this solemn pledge:
That I shall do my best to inculcate, imbibe, nurture
and cherish all the above stated ideals in myself and my
family, and thereby reaffirm my commitment to society. That,
from time to time, I shall refer to the above ideals in order
to remind myself of the goal that we have together decided
to reach, and to assess my progress in that journey.
HAPPY FAMILIES FOR A HAPPY WORLD
Exhorts Maya Kirpalani, “Pause! Think! If an
individual can realise and actualise his own potentialities to their maximum
to make himself and others happy, to create a better
world, can one then envisage the dynamic influence and impact
of a family wherein the various family members can pool their individual strengths and assets to make
the world a
better place to live?
“Progressively, what if all the families in the whole world began to live with a common goal of merging and
coalescing their efforts, strengths, values and ideals
to create a more compassionate and humane world? Idealistic thinking? Maybe so! But I strongly believe
that even if 50% of the world’s families came together and nurtured this worthy cause, only positive forces
would emanate from Mother Earth and our Loving Father shall shower His blessings on mankind.”
11 February, 2013