Monday, January 25, 2010

New hues of old parenting!

Danny, a friend of mine, was shocked out of his wits when he overheard his 7 year old daughter lash back at her 8 year old male friend over an innocent game of house play one day. It was one of those moments Danny had never imagined he would ever be required to confront. Sure – children being children, they always complain to one another, bully themselves into tears and eventually become friends again. But this was a ground so alien, that he had never expected to even see it, let alone being asked to tread upon it. And this made it extremely scary.

The backdrop was simple. The boy had managed to con the little girl into a false move during the game and needless to say, the clever girl had called him 'stupid head' for doing so. When the clueless fellow asked her what made her think he was a 'stupid head' – and reader, get ready for this one please – she had promptly responded without batting an eyelid– 'Cos that's what boys are! Cos boys got your G-spot up in your bum you know!'

A large cloud of extremely ghoulish clouds of questions and confusion immediately exploded over Danny's otherwise calm head. Two instant reactions followed – a) he promptly asked the boy to leave as he came up with some flimsy excuse and b) he quietly walked into the kitchen to share the story with his wife and hopefully come up with a proper course of action (if there was one!) to what the girl had just said.

As I heard poor old Danny share this episode with us, I couldn't help think about how extremely critical it has become today for parents to be one step ahead of their kids. There is a revolutionary paradigm shift that is happening with kids these days and with each passing day it is becoming impossible to ignore. Just look around you, anywhere, and you see kids embracing technology (nay, knowledge!) in a way that has redefined the expression 'information is wealth'. It now seems that every kid barely into his/her teens has an account on FaceBook, a video blog on YouTube, an iPhone hooked onto a Twitter account, a MySpace profile and at least a dozen email addresses. Why, Stuti, my wife's niece who is barely 2 years old knows how to use the DVD player on her father's laptop! She knows how to operate the remote control for the TV and heck, she even knows what to do if the computer says 'Low on Battery'. It is seriously amazing how much today's children are absorbing each passing day. If anything, this is also a wake up call to those of us who still believe in the 'traditional methods of parenting' that we were subjected to as children.

Now, as much as all this sounds like an alarming situation, the truth of it is we cannot really stop it. In fact, we should not. A kid who has the privilege of formal education today also is entitled to all the opportunities out there to enhance their young minds. It is an era where children, just by sheer association, are able to distinguish what works and what does not. One look at the talents showcased on TV and it becomes clear that kids are at least 10 times more smarter and braver than we were at their age. It is only natural of course, given that each generation evolves into a better species. But then there lies the challenges for us – current and future parents – that will create benchmarks through which our kids will grow. This is where a mature discussion, an open platform for transparent conversations, a clear understanding of how to approach such an open-source and readily available universe of data – all this takes automatic priority. Gone are the days when a father would just shout at the child or beat it and the kid would succumb to sheer physical strength. Today's kids speak with so much more maturity that it is extremely important that our response to them are equally sane. Snapping back at them with a 'Shut Up! You don't need to know that!' will, I am sorry to say, not suffice. This shutting off method will not only distance you quickly from your little one but also manage to undermine your authority as a parental figure. If you are asked a mature question, answering it responsibly seems to be the new mantra. Of course, anyone who has seen 'Taare Zameen Per' hopefully knows what I mean.

Today's kids understand logic, they question meaningless radical behavior, they speak their minds without fear – as Danny's kid ended up doing. Yes, there are threats there too. Questions like 'Where did she hear the word G-Spot?' and 'How does she know where men have it?' and 'Why does she connect that to being stupid?' - and a dozen more will arise. But that is where we, as parents, will either take the route of conversation or ostracize the child for using the word 'bum'. A change, I am sure, won't be easy for most of us who were brought up in knee deep orthodoxy. But if not attempted, might end up ruining the life of our kid's future.

As technology continues to open doors, it has now become essential that parents follow suit. The fine line between loving your child rotten by buying him/her all the latest gadgets and educating him/her well enough to know how to use them, has to be walked upon with care. One mistake could prove to be fatal. The hues of parenting are changing shades fast. We just need to be sure we know which colors to show our kids and when.

As for my friend Danny, he did have an impromptu talk with his daughter who told him she had heard her school mates chatting about it. Apparently some kid who was being bullied at school in the US had posted a video of himself on YouTube where he was venting his frustration and had inadvertently mentioned that '...I am not stupid 'cos my G-Spot is in me bum...!'

That was when Danny decided he needed to pick up some new books on today's parenting. He is currently going through his third book.

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