By Sunil Mahajan –
During my session on Bullying there is a point that says, ‘Children Have Parents That Are Bullies and Copy Their Parents Behavior’. It always made me think about my way of parenting. Through my experiences I realized that sometimes we parents can become bullies to our kids. Some of my thoughts and experiences are put down to makes us understand how we need to become more aware of our actions and words.
I remember when I used to correct my boys in public and how I humiliated them. I didn’t realize that was what I was doing. I thought what I was doing was called “parenting.” It wasn’t until I read a book by William voors, made me realise my ways of parenting add up to bullying.
I could bring to mind some instances where I have corrected my kids with the right intention but my method of doing it was wrong.
I do remember at one of family get together the kids were playing outside and they got into fight with another kid and the kid ended up crying, my first response was to correct my son and ask him to apologise and he out rightly refused, this made me more upset. I grabbed hold of his hand and took him another room and told him that he cannot behave like this and if did not apologise we were going to leave.
Looking back on it now, I see that we should have just left at that point — no threats, no other rooms, no demands for apology. But, I wasn’t expecting that kind of a show down and wasn’t mentally prepared to pull the plug and leave. He finally acquiesced and apologized to the other child and the boys played for a little while longer. When we reached home I asked him to help me carry some bags as use to stay on the first floor. He just decided not hear me and continued to walk, I again called out to him this time a more authoritative tone for him to carry the bags, which he did it reluctantly and murmured something, which I took offence.
That day was not so easily forgotten so, when we had our monthly sessions with our counselor I brought up the issue. She explained to us
- You don’t get to blame the 9 year old.
2 You publicly humiliate your child when you tell them, in front of their peers and others whose opinions their value, that they shouldn’t act/speak a certain way.
This one has hit me really hard and caused me to examine a lot of assumptions about my childhood. In so many of my memories, there is still a vague hint of embarrassment or guilt or shame. Usually vague, but sometimes acute. I have always attributed that to two things: my own particular disposition/personality and my upbringing. But, I see now that so much of the way that we were taught to behave was to be chastised in the moment, often in public, in front of our peers and loved ones.
You are a bully. Ouch. This one hurt. A lot. But it’s true. And it doesn’t matter what my motivation is, even the best intentions don’t excuse my bullying of my precious child. Forcing him to apologize, demanding that he immediately obey my commands no matter what he was in the middle of, sitting him in time out when he shouts at me in anger (even though I have been known to shout at him when I’m angry) — these are the acts of a bully. And the only thing bullying teaches him is how to win or lose.
I know from experience that every time someone wins in a situation with me, they also lose something, too. I’m not a person who forgets. I may move on, but that resentment from being forced into a losing position stays with me. And it damages the relationship. It is an undercurrent that affects my interactions without ever announcing its presence, but it is always there.
I don’t want to lose a decade of being close with Nikhil and Nitin. And if that means that I bite my tongue instead of correcting them in public and give them a little leeway to refuse my requests when they’re busy, then that’s a trade I’m willing to make. If I don’t take every opportunity to remind them of who is in control and force them to bend their will to my own, while still setting acceptable boundaries for myself and our family, then maybe when they’re fifteen, instead of bristling at the idea of spending time with me, they’ll look forward to it.
Good Parenting is about making those difficult choices to help our kids experience the Love of God the Father and to want to grow and remain in that love. We parents are a sign post for our kids directing them to Jesus through our actions and words. I hope so. I’m certainly going to give it my best.
Sunil Mahajan is the founder and director of Pathfinder, a catholic ministry that is involved in working with various institutions in South India. Pathfinder acts as a catalyst to bring about transformation in families, teachers and students. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org