Is ‘Transparency’ Your Go-To Parenting Mantra?
“As a parent, taboo and embarrassment are the words that get no place in your lexicon. You are supposed to be the most authentic sounding board for your children with radical transparency,” says Dr Swati Lodha.
It was three years ago when an MBA student interning with an HR firm was asked to attend a late-night party on the weekend with a diktat, “If you don’t attend, you do not get your working certificate.”
The educated student did not talk to anyone, parents or friends and decided to attend.
This girl met me at the Institute and I started talking about her internship and she shared it all. It took me five minutes to talk to the head of the HR firm and take corrective action but it took ‘forever’ for that girl to share her ordeal with someone who would not judge, but understand.
Why can’t children openly share their anxieties with their own parents?
Why can’t children openly share their anxieties with their own parents? Whenever I ask this question to teenagers, many of them give me a ‘hopeless’ look signalling “Are you serious? Aapka kuch nahi ho sakta.”
Let’s try to understand the whys behind not having a transparent relationship between parents and children.
- First, parents enter into the ‘parent’ role with a baggage of biased beliefs. A boy can’t cry and a girl can’t be aggressive, a boy can’t give up and a girl can’t hold on – are some such stereotypes that they swear by.
- Second, parents feel ‘embarrassed’ in talking about sensitive stuff with their children. They want to believe that bullying, depression, relationship anxieties, harassment happen to others.
- Third, parents are a fearful tribe. They fear for the lives of their children and hence believe in ignoring incidents that could tarnish their future. ‘Cover it up’ is their mantra when it should be ‘fight it out’.
‘Physical Safety’ of their daughters is their biggest concern and they do not have the inclination to think about the mental and the emotional challenges that the children face.
- Fourth, mothers of today are fighting their own demons. They still need to prove their worth to a judgemental family and a rigid society. They are tired of sitting on the brink of ‘change’ that they anticipated to happen in their lives but it eluded them.
These reasons are stopping parents from having honest conversations with their children. They are merely turning into ‘audience’ in the lives of their children when they need to be ‘audience’ as well as ‘actors’.
You have the potential to be the ‘game changer’ in the lives of your children. Please play to this potential. Gift them the judgement of ‘what is acceptable’ and ‘what is not acceptable’ since childhood. Tell them that they can dream in any colour and you will get those colours.
Tell them that they can speak up their minds and hearts unabashedly in front of you while you learn to listen to them with your ‘attention’ cape on.
Teach yourself to raise a ‘gender agnostic’ family where daughters and sons are ‘children’ with an equal proportion of ‘dreamery’ and ‘doery’ up their sleeves.
As a parent, taboo and embarrassment are the words that get no place in your lexicon. You are supposed to be the most authentic sounding board for your children with radical transparency.
Be ready to listen to their fears as well as dreams. Be their shock absorbers with a smile.
Give them the leeway to fail. Share your failures so that they learn to welcome it in their lives.
This is the era of acceptance. Accept yourself and your children with more love and candour than you ever thought possible.
A Doctorate in Women Entrepreneurship, Swati Lodha is passionate about creativity and innovation. She has been Dean, Faculty of Management Studies, Jodhpur National University and Director at AIMSR, Mumbai. Dr Lodha is also a bestselling author of several books, including “54 Reasons Why Parents Suck and Phew!”
The views expressed are the author’s own.