We want our children to be unafraid of ambiguity, make their own decisions and own up to the consequences of their action. But if it does not begin at home, they will never grow up.

Consider a typical Indian parent who teaches his/her child to obey and listen to everything they say. There is no room for collaboration with the child – the adult is right, simply because he/she is older! But we know only too well that wisdom and age do not always go together!

We often find ourselves making decisions for our kids because of the immense sense of responsibility we feel towards them. But what we really ought to do is guide them as they make their own decisions and supervise only when necessary.

That’s what we aim to do at Vidyartha, and sure, we’ve found it isn’t always smooth. We have constantly witnessed parents and adolescents having unending discussions about their learning choices, such as which subject stream to take in Class 11 or what college and course they’d like to get into.

Needless to say, we find very few parents who collaborate. They usually direct the child and make the decision for them. But why is that?

 a) Fear of consequences – Parents believe that children are likely to make decisions that result in bad consequences
b) Biases based on their own experience – Parents arrive at certain conclusions based on their own life’s experiences, which may or may not hold good for their children, who have their own distinct personalities, preferences and needs
c) Hearsay – The tendency to go with what the majority does is high in a country where society directs life
But is there always a happy ending? We’ve met plenty of people with regrets because they could not do what they wanted to – they were not independent, in the true sense of the term.

How do we make sure our children grow to become independent?

#1 – Have a conversation rather than make statements
Do we like it when people tell us what to do without listening to us? Your child is a human being with a unique personality, just like you. We need to have two-way conversations with them instead of making judgments and close-ended statements. In Vidyartha’s counselling sessions with thousands of students and parents, we have seen parents making statements that inspire no further conversation from the child’s end – “He is weak in Maths!” – a final judgement of the child’s potential. What you can say instead – “He may need help with Maths”.

#2 – Keep asking your kids what they think
When a parent says, “What do you think?”, he/she does three things:
a) Shows the child that his/her opinion is valued
b) Increases their belief in themselves
c) Instills a sense of responsibility

#3 – Discuss the consequences of decisions made
You and your child are bound to have different opinions. But instead of ordering him/her to do what you think is best, talk about the pros and cons of both choices. As the discussion progresses, you and your child may arrive at one conclusion – and that’s bound to be the best, whether or not things go wrong.

At Vidyartha, we strongly believe that your child’s future as a professional is determined right from school. And the largest influence is the parent!
After all, life is all about making great choices – let’s teach them to make it themselves.

This piece was penned by Priya Mohan, Co-Founder and Executive Director at Vidyartha.

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