Give your children space, and their own time says bestselling children’s author and philanthropist Sudha Murty in an exclusive interview with SheThePeople.
Sudha Murty is out with her second book in a series of three, titled The Gopi Diaries. Based on lessons in unconditional love and a dog-human relationship, Murty, a mother to two, uses her lived examples to share what it takes to change ourselves and recognise the privileges we all enjoy. In this interview with SheThePeople, Murty talks about dilemmas each of us have when it comes to love, entitlement and relationships.
Q. Why is it important to give children their own space?
Few things I have realised about today’s kids especially because the time I raised kids, there were no telephones, there were no video games etc so it was rather easy for me to raise children in that atmosphere. Today’s parents face a lot more difficult time than our time. One, there is a lot more prosperity than we have ever seen in India. Because both parents are working, there is more affluence, number of children is less, so children get what they want. As a result children’s behaviour becomes difficult. But you have to give space to your children. If a child doesn’t want to eat, you cannot force. When Gopi (the dog, who is the central character of Murty’s new book series by HarperCollins, The Gopi Diaries) doesn’t want to eat, I don’t force him. I cover it and keep it. After two three hours he comes and eats. Or sometimes I give him less when his stomach isn’t well.
Just because I care for him doesn’t mean I pour everything in his bowl. Similarly with kids today you have to give space. If children don’t want to eat, we get so scared and we go, “you want to eat paneer, you want to eat pakora etc. No. Don’t do that. Make simple good food as a meal with dal and sabji and salad and rice. Just to please them don’t give them sweets. Save those for festivals. Today if kids don’t like A, you give B, if they don’t like B, we give C. Don’t do that just to please them.
Second, if children sometimes say I don’t want to talk, give them their space. Don’t get scared. Give them some time for ‘their time.’ Example, once a week, give them two hours where they do anything they like. TV, video games whatever they want. But keep a eye on what they are watching from the corner of your eye while giving them that space. Also we should not go on harping all the time ‘you should do well, you should get the rank, you should eat this, you should be healthy, you should look good etc.’. No don’t do that. Everybody cannot do everything.
Q. How do you address the issue of privilege among children. We are all privileged and sometimes we forget to recognise that. What can we do to do more with our privilege?
Sudha Murty: There are two kinds of privilege we should be aware of. One is that we take it for granting. Spending money, good food etc. Create some scarcity. I have money but I will not buy. That is disciplining your mind.
Other privilege is always reminding yourself that you have the privilege and ask yourself what have you done. For that, you have to do your inner journey as mothers. You need to recognise that privilege and not use it without any reason. I have a story in Gopi’s book which I like the most. My daughter-in-law and my son decided to adopt two dogs from the shelter. They were Nandi and Hari. Nandi has two legs and lost two other legs because of an accident. Hari has three legs, one is amputated. One day these two dogs came to visit our home and Gopi felt something. He was normally the king of the house and now we had two visiting dogs. I felt a bit of concern, on how could I tell Gopi.
Gopi knows my language but I don’t know his language. He loves paneer and I gave him a couple of pieces. Gopi took one piece of paneer and shared it with his friends, the visitors by throwing it through his mouth. A dog like Gopi though extremely fond of paneer, wanted to share with these two new comers. It’s the big lesson I learnt from Gopi that it’s not the money, it’s the privilege we have that we must share.
Fun Fact: Sudha Murty has a bank account for her dog Gopi in which all royalties from the book series on Gopi are deposited. These funds are then used to donate in various shelters around the country.
As Sudha Murty says, “Gopi is already a philanthropist”