Parenting is one of life’s unique challenges. Every parent no matter how well equipped with knowledge and support, always find themselves struggling on this journey.
Like others, I too was desperately trying to negotiate my way through this maze when a chance meeting with Vineeta Sood, internationally trained Certified Transactional Analyst and educator working in the field of alternative and non-formal education for the past 20 years deeply impacted my understanding of parenting and made me relook at my relationship with my daughter.
Vineeta is the facilitator of the ‘Good Enough Parenting’ series of workshops which have been developed based on her extensive experience of working with both parents and educators. Parenting for Happiness is the first workshop in that series.
Here is an extract from our discussion.
1) What is the intent of organizing the Parenting for Happiness workshop?
The parent-child relationship is ideally a space of exploration. While staying connected to their own sense of being, it allows parents to create for their child a physical and emotional environment to experience the world effectively and develop their own understanding of what works and what doesn’t. Further, it supports them to build meaningful relationships. Most often, even with the best of intentions, when attempts at effective parenting break down it deeply impacts the development of the child.
This workshop aimed to allow for exploration, self-learning and self-development to help parents assess their own understanding of happiness, their roles as parents and how this understanding, in turn, impacts their child’s development.
2) Parenting for Happiness – is there such a thing as ‘happiness’ when it comes to parenting?
Happiness is not a euphoric state. It is the satisfaction of living a life of courage and compassion, knowing one’s capacity to take challenges and find solutions that are original and empowering. Happiness originates out of love and respect for self, others, and life. When a child is grappling with issues, and you’re trying to make them happy, then there is a huge difference between providing them with solutions and answers and enabling the child to find solutions and answers for themselves. An enabled child knows inner happiness and joy. A catered child seeks catering throughout life and finds himself/herself always seeking happiness from external situations of life.
3) Parents especially mothers are always stressed and second-guessing themselves. How open do you think they will be to someone telling them what they’re doing wrong?
The workshop invites parents who are questioning their understanding of happiness. No one can tell you what to do and what not to do. This is a self-development and experiential workshop which helps parents to understand their own confusions, examine their personal expectations and conditioning, explore for themselves how they relate to their child and be aware of that tipping point when their anxiety kicks in. A mother and child share an organic relationship. When bogged down with mothering, often mothers are unable to find time for themselves and in turn, cannot provide space to their child. The more she is aware of what is happening with her, the more confidently and effectively she will relate to her child and thereby the self-doubt and second-guessing will reduce.
4) “She brings out the worst in me,” said a mother struggling to deal with her daughter’s adamant behaviour. How would you respond to such a mother?
There are a couple of aspects related to this issue. Children have an uncanny way of triggering certain feelings in us, which are usually related to ‘the worst in me’ as a parent. If we look at it deeply, we realize it is not about them but what is being triggered is something about ourselves. These triggers are an indicator of some developmental gaps within us, as a part of our growing up. So, if we look inwards and try to understand, what is being triggered, what the feelings and thoughts are around the issue, what action/reaction it invokes within etc., it leads us to some self-discovery and shows us the way to resolve those issues within us and also with our children. These triggers present a huge opportunity for our own growth as parents and as individuals.
When things don’t go our way with our children, we become impatient. We question why they’re not listening to us when we’ve said no and often worry about the kind of person they will become in the future. As parents, it’s our belief that the authority lies with us, children should understand and this is how they should be. During these moments, we do not relate to the child. It’s not like we shouldn’t say no. If we have an authentic reason to say no, we can communicate it to them clearly and allow them to express their frustration. We as parents find it hard when children are unhappy, frustrated or angry. These are important emotions to understand and learn to navigate. And we can be present to their emotions with compassion and help them learn to express them constructively. Too often we can’t take it and look to either snub or patch things up quickly, not allow the child to express their anger, sadness, frustration or other emotions of non-acceptance of our stance, in a constructive way. Freedom of choice, exploration, and expression with empathy within appropriate, enabling boundaries can resolve many issues that fall within this area.
Raising children is a 24×7 job. Taking some time for ourselves in between gives us space and is energizing allowing us to reach out to our children with greater enthusiasm and positivity. Yoga, a solitary walk, listening to music etc. can be very helpful. Building support systems are very important. Though no one can replace a parent in the child’s life, if a parent has a good support system, it can be very invigorating.
5) Parents as individuals sometimes struggle with their own set of issues and it often crosses over into their role as parents. Can you share one way how they can help themselves to ease into their parenting roles?
The concept of parenting is mired in societal expectations and our understanding of parental roles is based on our personal conditioning growing up. For example, a parent might be conditioned to believe that showing anger is taboo. They have always suppressed their anger and when faced with their own child’s temper tantrum they become immobilized or freeze with their inability to deal with it.
Parenting calls for being mindful and often when a parent is able to understand exactly what their child is triggering within them, then it is very helpful and allows them to understand their role and behaviour.
6) In your experience what are the key challenges that parents face today? How are they different from the generations past?
The world that we live in today has changed dramatically. Life, today is fast-paced and support systems have diminished considerably. In the past, people used to say it takes a village to raise a child. Today with communities diminishing and support systems reducing, it is a challenge to raise a child.
Too much exposure to media and technology significantly affects how we view the world. In addition to this, the internal confusion amongst parents about their understanding of their own aspirations and ambitions vis-à-vis meeting the child’s needs raises its own challenges. A child’s biological and emotional needs cannot be altered on the basis of needs and compulsions of the parents and society. In our inability to meet those needs we tend to find substitutes for our children. Even when we’re not working, we may remain mentally preoccupied and miss precious moments with them.
7) One hears of many instances of violent behaviour amongst children and young adults today. Your comments.
A child expresses emotions the best way they know how. Even when we are present to our children physically and listening to them, often we are unavailable to them mentally and emotionally. They absorb our sense of presence like a sponge. Often there is a gradual progression of their aggression in response to how we are connecting with them. When a child feels unheard, he raises his voice, might throw things and scream. If he is still unheard then he feels lost and his aggression is an outcome of his inability to understand what is happening within. It is therefore essential to connect with the child emotionally and listen to them completely, not only to the words but also to what is behind those words. A child also looks for recognition and respect. Violent behaviours are generally their desperate attempt to be heard and be regarded as a worthy human being.
8) What are your future plans? How are you intending to expand the scope of the workshops?
Parenting for Happiness is one of the workshops in a series, ‘Good Enough Parenting’ which aims to address various issues related to parenting and growing up. The intention is to enable parents to self-reflect and introspect about themselves, their children and the relationship that emerges between them. Each workshop is a learning space. It is often seen that only mothers attend such workshops. Fathers play an equally crucial role in how the child sees himself or herself so they should also to be a part of such explorations.
(She brought out the worst in me and I was afraid of being stuck till I found a way out was first published in Momspresso (formerly mycity4kids) on November 28, 2017)