There was a piece titled ‘Bossy moms curb kids’ creativity’ in the Times of India yesterday. It quoted research done at the University of Missouri, and ended with “European-American mothers are less directive generally than African-American and Mexican-American mothers”.
How directive are Indian mothers? Do we control their choices too much? Do we let them make mistakes and learn from them? Do we protect them too much and curb independent thinking?
Our child is going to have to think for himself throughout life. Why don’t we start by giving him choices with food and clothes when he is a toddler who has discovered the words “No!” and “No want!”? This way we reinforce the notion that he has the power to choose, and in doing so, is responsible for the consequences. In any case, do we really want a robotic child who will only obey instructions?
As parents we would like to protect our little ones from everything that could hurt them. Is that helpful in the long run? Quite often, a child realises when he has made a mistake. Isn’t that how we all learn? If we go down on our haunches, down to his eye-level, we can see the confusion and maybe even a little fear, in his eyes. Asking him why he did it is futile. He will find it as hard to explain as we do when we make mistakes in our adult world. The usual answer is “I don’t know”, from which we gain nothing.
It could be a genuine mistake, a careless mistake or wilful mischief. As far as the first two are concerned, rather than get into a frustrating Q and A session, we are better off warning him not to do it again, and enlisting his help to clear up the mess, if there’s one. We can often easily figure out the ‘why’ of it using what I think of as baby logic, viz. what he might have been trying to do, from his perspective. Wilful mischief, especially one that is destructive or cruel, needs watching.
All this isn’t to say children don’t need guidance. Where do we draw the line between guiding, being directive, and taking over completely?