Synopsis: The days of parents demanding respect by virtue of their chronological and biological disposition are over. Today, even parents need to earn the respect of their children. They need to reinvent themselves. This is no different from managers in organisations who cannot get the work done on the basis of simply their authority. The only thing that really works is influence – both at home and in the workplace.
On December 11, 1998, as the nurse held my daughter in her arms and showed her face to me soon after delivery, something changed in me forever. Becoming a parent does that to you. You just grow up in that instant and that stays for a lifetime.
It will obviously be an unforgettable day in our lives. As I saw my wife battle labour pain through the day, I strangely felt guilty. I felt responsible for putting her through this. Though it seems just so natural that you get married and have children, the intense nine months is not just another episode in life. It is life’s wondrous way of delivering a human being from another human being. Mothers are great and fathers can never take their place, for they do not and cannot do what women do.
I was twenty nine and a half years old when I became a father and perhaps not that mature to understand the dynamics of parenting. Our understanding of parenting was in some way to replicate what our parents did with us. We were probably the last generation of parents which got away with `cloning` their parental style.
When we were kids, we listened to our parents and generally did what they told us. If we liked what they said, we did it happily. If we did not like what they said, we did it anyway. We received advice from all quarters – parents, relatives, neighbours, teachers. But when I look at the new generation of parents, I am petrified at what they have to put up with – a smart child as smart as the smart phone, an environment which is competitive and demands performance from the child, a society which has everything for physical comfort, but nothing for mental steadiness.
I have great empathy for the new generation of parents. India and the world have dramatically changed since I became a parent. Today’s millennial kids know they are smart and have no qualms about declaring so. They also cannot be dictated around. They not only have a mind of their own, but also access to technology which verifies whether what their parents are advising is accurate and sensible or not.
The days of parents demanding respect by virtue of their chronological and biological disposition are over. Today, even parents need to earn the respect of their children. They need to reinvent themselves. This is no different from managers in organisations who cannot get the work done on the basis of simply their authority. The only thing that really works is influence – both at home and in the workplace. Parents today, more than being mother and father, need to be friends. They need to role model the values that they expect from their children. `Do it because I am asking you to` doesn’t work anymore. From that perspective, it is really amazing because children in their own ways are asking parents to be accountable.
A key change I see now is today’s children share more – happiness, sorrow, pictures on social media. This is a great quality. We however were taught to be secretive and hide school notes from our buddies, as that would bring down our performance. Therefore, when my generation grew up, organisations had to conduct team building workshops to make us share and overcome the deeply ingrained insecurity we were brought up with. Our parents probably did that because we lived in a world of scarcity. Sharing would have snatched away the sense of security we held on to so dearly.
Today, there has to be minimum parenting and maximum engaging. Parents need to learn how to deal with the millennial’s. The best teachers for this are the millennial’s themselves. By becoming ready to learn and letting go of their ego, parents can empower themselves and thereby create better influence.
Our parents told us what to do, what to study, what career to build, who should be your friends and whom you should marry. Frankly, it is too hazardous to try these ‘stunts’ with Gen X and Gen Y. They want conversations, not instructions. Parents today need to strike conversations. They need to grow with their children. They need to ‘stop’ parenting, and start facilitating.
There is a strong need for parents to undergo parenting education. Parenting is no longer just a simple handing down of lectures and values to your children. It is about learning the fine art of human relationships within and outside the four walls of your home. It is about embracing change like no other generation of parents were ever required to do.
Parenting today is complex and the faster we recognise it, the better it is for us. Of course, today’s parents too have a certain power over their children and are entitled to `tell` them what they should do with their lives. But the true value of parenting lies in enabling children to become happy and successful. The true legacy of parenting lies in helping your children understand where their passion lies and building a life and career around that.
In many ways, parenting today can be extremely fulfilling as there are options galore for children to choose from as their life path. But this calls for a fundamental shift in mindset from doing to facilitating. Stop Parenting, Start Facilitating.
About The Author: Hariharan Iyer is a man with many talents – Motivational Speaker, Corporate Trainer, Author, Reiki Grandmaster, Professional Anchor. He has a registered trademark for the moniker Enter-Trainer. An ex- journalist, he brings alive his unique ideas through a spread of writing. Besides books, he writes a blog BolHarryBol on blogspot.com and has also published over 50 articles on LinkedIn. His most celebrated book is More Than Just Papad.