MEET THE EXPERT -NEW COLUMN ON MUMS AND STORIES
We begin with a brand new section where we are going to bring you the experts related to the world of motherhood, children and parenting.
These will be on health, emotional quotient and issues that need to be addressed by parents and we hope our features on experts will be of use to you.
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Meet the expert- Dr. Debmita Dutta from What Parents Ask
1) What do you think most urban parents are going wrong these days that needs to be rectified?
The problem with parents today is that they are parenting with hearts that are full of fear. And because of that there is too much stress and anxiety. Children thrive when they are enveloped in love and happiness – and of course there is love – but it is often overshadowed by stress and anxiety.
Parents want to hand their children a life free of struggle, they want to remove all obstacles from their children’s paths and hand them success and happiness on a platter. That is an unrealistic target. It is impossible to do this because true happiness comes only from overcoming obstacles. So trying to the impossible leaves both parents and children dissatisfied and unhappy and that is the real problem.
Also a few generations ago when there were 7-10 children in each family – it was Ok for one to be a doctor, one to be a musician and another to just be a wastrel. But now – with the family size shrinking and families having one or two children – every child is expected to be good at everything – which is just not possible. So parents want a child who looks angelic, is an extrovert, can rule the stage with his oratory skills, can sing, can dance, is good at athletics and is an amazing artist ….and that frankly is just not possible. But parents invest so much of their time, energy and money into trying to make their child perfect and good that they feel they haven’t received their due if their child does not excel at whatever he/she is learning. As a result we have tired, unhappy children who are demotivated and whose self-esteem is plunging because they see themselves as failures in their parents eyes. Being inconspicuous and mediocre is no longer acceptable and that is the real problem.
The world is changing rapidly. We are anxious about the change and we want our children to be prepared for anything and everything and so we want to teach our children everything as soon as possible and we want them to be good at everything they learn.
But this is what I think. We cannot prepare our children for tomorrow because we don’t know what tomorrow will be like. They say 65% of the jobs that exist today will no longer exist by the time our children join the workforce. So we are basically preparing our children for the unknown and to deal with the unknown – a child will require 3 qualities
- Good social skills
- The ability to make good decisions
With our focus on teaching children things and making them look perfect in today’s world we are depriving them of all three qualities
Creativity is the mind’s voice that can only be heard in the silence of boredom. A child who is too busy to be bored – will never be creative enough.
Social skills are learnt when children are allowed to interact without adult supervision. A child who is always a part of organised activities and organised play will never learn how to forge relationships and learn the skills required to thrive in the world.
Decision making is a skill that is perfected with practice. You make a decision and you endure the consequences and that experience is what guides you when you make your next decision. A child who has everything decided for him – including when he will play, what he will play, how he will play and with whom he will play – never has a chance to practice decision making and will struggle when he has to decide.
The problem is not so much that parents don’t spend sufficient time with their children. The problem is that when they are with their children they are focused on a distant tomorrow. We are not present in the moment. And children realise that. This damages their self-esteem because they feel that they are not good enough as they are.
More than anything else – children want to see their parents happy. When a child sees that my parent is satisfied and happy with me right here right now – he feels like he can conquer the world and overcome any obstacle. In contrast – when the child sees that his/her parent’s happiness lies somewhere in the distant future and realizes that there are endless hoops he/she will have to jump through to get to that place – the task seems so insurmountable that the child loses all motivation and begins to feel small and unworthy.
Children don’t need much from us as parents. Other than the basic necessities what we need to fill them with is the desire and confidence to “do”.
2) With mothers getting into professional roles, managing homes and parenting are there simple tips they can adopt to manage all of these comfortably.
Mothers are wonderful – they can do just about everything and their great gift is that they can do everything at the same time. So most mothers are excellent multitaskers. The problem with mothers is that they are constantly aiming for perfection in everything that they do. And perfection is neither possible – nor necessary. And this is what the problem is.
“You don’t have to be a perfect individual or a perfect woman to be a good mother.”
So – I think the first thing I would like to say to mothers is that – You don’t have to be a perfect individual or a perfect woman to be a good mother. Whatever our shortcomings may be we are just right for the child that we have. There may be a dozen moms around you who are doing a dozen different things for their children – but you don’t need to do that. Your child needs you and what you can do.
So of course mothers who get into professional roles have less time with their children than moms who stay at home – but the problem is not that they have less time. The problem is that in the time that they do have they are preoccupied with being perfect – with doing things that other moms are doing – and because of this they are not their own authentic selves when they are around their children. And children sense this. They feel the absence of their mother – not just when she is physically absent because she is at work – but also when she is physically present. Because even when she is physically present she is mentally preoccupied with being someone else and doing something else. The inability to connect with their mothers is what affects children the most.
So my advice to working mothers would be to stop trying so hard. Juggling roles and multitasking is something that comes naturally to us as women and I think most of us enjoy the multiple roles that we play. What we constantly need to tell ourselves is – that we need not be perfect, our children and our homes need not be perfect and we don’t need to be everywhere all the time and do everything for everyone.
We also need to remember that it is OK to ask for help. Asking for help or admitting that we are tired and overwhelmed is not a sign of weakness or incompetence. In fact it makes us more real. Everyone around us can also relax when we say that because they are not dealing with Super Woman.
It is possible to be Super Mom without being Super Woman is what we need to remember.
Also I think as moms we need to be there for each other. We are not in a race to bring up a child who is better than everyone else’s child. Together – as Moms we are bringing up a whole generation. If we keep that in mind and generously offer to help other moms and also accept help when it is offered – I think it will make life and parenting much easier for all of us.
So if you ask me what is it that needs to be revived in today’s world I think “community parenting” is what we need to revive? It takes a village to raise a child and you cannot be everything to your child so – don’t even attempt it. Instead try and find a bunch of people around you – reach out to them when you need help and generously help them when they need help.
3)Has parenting become more complicated now than earlier times?
So the answer to this question is yes and the reason is that we are trying to do it alone.
Like I was saying earlier we have turned parenting into a competition. We want to do it all – and we want to do it alone and we want to win. This is why things have become more difficult.
We have isolated ourselves from other mothers, we are quick to judge and slow to help and reach out for help and that has made parenting more complicated. We have more roles and responsibilities than ever before and we are also more alone than ever before. To make up for the absence of people in our lives we have turned to devices and products and services – which help us in the short run – but make parenting very complicated and not so much fun in the long run.
4) What would be your advice to parents whose children regardless they are pre schoolers or teenagers don’t seem to listen to their parents on anything. What can parents do to make the home environment more conducive and happy, more interactive?
Children at different ages don’t listen for various reasons and I have written and spoken on this a lot. One of the most important things to remember is that when children don’t listen they are not trying to insult us. Children are programmed by nature not to listen. They are programmed to attempt dangerous and impossible things that will change the world. If everyone had always listened to what their parents said – we would have still been living in the Stone Age. All these discoveries and inventions were made by children who refused to be told what they couldn’t do or what was not possible.
So of course every child at every age doesn’t listen for a different reason and that is a huge topic – but if you ask me in general – I would say that if you want your child to listen to you – say “No” or “Don’t do that” very rarely. A child who is constantly told what not to do – will start blocking your instructions.
Also – listen to your child if you want your child to listen to you. Listening can never be one sided. Children are intelligent beings and when they do or don’t do something they usually have a good reason. Parents must make the effort to discover that reason and then explain their point of view.
Communication in the true sense of the word – which includes talking and listening – is what families require today. Most of the talking that happens at home is transactional or instructional. Parents need to connect with children before they begin to ask them to do things. And for real connections to happen we need to disconnect from our devices. (Check the video clip too for this question).
“It is not easy to be a stay-at-home mom.
Your advice to stay at home moms who due to choice or other compulsions stay at home and how can they utilize their time better with kids
It is not easy to be a stay-at-home mom. Moms who stay at home are constantly consumed by the guilt of not doing anything productive – which of course is not true. Moms who stay home do a lot of work. Unfortunately they are not recognized for it and so they begin to feel that they are doing nothing.
They try to justify this by signing their children up for more and more activities and the strain of constantly being on the go and doing things tells on both mother and child and as result both begin to feel unhappy.
I would like to say here that staying at home is the unique opportunity to bond with your child and discover your child and it must not be lost because of unnecessary guilt.
It is also the opportunity to discover what you like to do and what you are interested in. It is important not to lose out on this time trying to be perfect according to someone else’s definition of perfect. So keep the house as perfect as you are comfortable with and then move on to following your passion – whether it is cooking or painting or writing or reading or anything else.
“ Live in the Moment”
Let your child see your passion and perseverance. Involve your child in what you are doing – show him how special every moment can be made if we approach our lives with childlike curiosity and passion.
Connect with your child – discover what he likes – where his passion lies. Keep your life stress free. Don’t have so much agenda that you constantly need to go somewhere or do something. Enjoy the freedom – unleash your creativity – allow your child to bloom without hurrying him – remain stress free – live in the moment.
About Dr. Debmita Dutta
Dr Debmita Dutta MBBS, MD is a practicing doctor and a Parenting and Wellness Consultant in Bangalore. She conducts workshops at prestigious schools and corporate organisations across Bangalore. She hand holds parents through their parenting journey – right from the time they conceive – up until their children leave their teens.
Dr Dutta also runs a website called www.whatparentsask.com where she brings parents parenting information from Experts. She believes that parents instinctively know what they need to do for their children. All they need is confidence in their instincts and abilities and for this they don’t need advice – they need reliable parenting information