Recently, I heard a conversation between two mothers of grown up, married daughters. Both mothers are people that I know very, very well. One was telling the other about a few nights preceding her daughter’s wedding, when they sat down for a mom-daughter heart to heart. During this conversation, the daughter brought up some incidents when she had gone to her mother, rather hurt and sad. One instance being, when, as a child, she was being teased about her ‘dark complexion’ and other such. The mum, in an attempt to not let it become an issue in the daughter’s head, had brushed it off, saying it was just silly and shouldn’t affect her at all. But that pre-wedding night she told her mum that this and other times, when her mum had told her “not to take it seriously” or “be bold“, how in fact, she had only felt more lonely, sad and ashamed of her feelings instead.
So today, I’d like to discuss a very pertinent topic that has been rearing its head in many different forms around me these days — FEELINGS — children who are comfortable emoting and children who are not.
When we deal with a bunch of kids, we always find a few who have no qualms about sharing their feelings — be it joy, sadness, anger or frustration. And then there are some who are uncomfortable with their feelings and do not express anything at all.
So, it got me thinking that could it be that in an attempt to raise “well behaved”, “non-tantrum-throwing” kids, we could be, knowingly or unknowingly, raising them to suppress their own feelings — feel guilty about those feelings, even?
For instance, imagine your child waking up grumpy and when asked, starts giving a different reason every day, like a missing notebook or an upcoming exam. Over a few days, it is understandable that we start losing a little patience.
But we have two ways of dealing with this — either we let our irritation rule and tell the child to perk up and stop being cranky first thing in the morning, OR, we take a little time and patience, simply ask him what the concern is, address it and then move on to other happier topics like something fun they told you about school or from a favorite show or book.
But by taking those five minutes, we are constantly showing him/her that their feelings and concerns always matter and shall always get a patient hearing. Not that what they feel is futile and irritating and only “bad children throw tantrums”.
And what I have come to conclude now, is that these two attributes are two sides of the same coin.
The child who did not throw a tantrum about wanting anything, grows up to be an adult who still does not express a need or feeling about anything.
So, what I am saying is, what is perceived as “bravery”, in a lot of situations, could actually just be a person who believes that their feelings of “fear”, “sadness”, “wanting something different”, “humiliation”, “frustration” or “anger” are all wrong, that they don’t matter and shouldn’t even be felt —because these are as shameful as a public tantrum of a child. And so they just suppress or swallow these feelings and live with their problems.
Think about that friend who puts up with a really bad relationship or a completely unreasonable boss, for an inordinately long time through inordinately unacceptable situations without too many complaints. Perceive them “brave” or perceive them ‘cowardly’ for not taking a stance? Or, could it just be that they have been conditioned to not even acknowledge being ‘taken for granted’, unappreciated or unloved since only “brats” throw “tantrums” and “teenagers” act “difficult”?
Of course, this all sounds good and easy in writing. And we are all as human as they come — tired, stressed, worried, busy, and hence, impatient. So our first reaction, usually, is to snap back a “please stop throwing a tantrum!” or something in those lines. And guess what, once in a while it is okay, be human. Just not all the time. Most of the time, just show them HOW to deal with emotions instead.
Yes, it takes time, and patience, and parenting. It is tough to talk calmly when a child starts screaming in the toy store and when a teenager bangs a door in frustration. But, TALK. Keep the conversation channel open. Because that is the only way to ensure that they will always come to you.
(At least, this is what has been working for me while I deal with all the kids I do. However, with kids, you learn something new everyday.)
So, be firm.
Don’t give in.
Because always remember, a 7-year-old’s missing math note is a 17-year-old’s best friend’s peer pressure into doing something wrong, is a 27-year-old’s emotionally absent marriage.
So, coming back to when I was listening to those two mothers conversing and reminiscing about their daughters, and from the current stage of my own life, I have come to acknowledge that all parents do what they believe is in the best interest of their child. And in that regard, they do everything they can, and beyond.
But in today’s times, times of instant gratification and strange online friends, it has become inevitable to stop and think things through, evaluate their impact and ensure that we are present.