Boundaries and Discipline

How can parents just shrug off their responsibility of disciplining  their children?

PTM  or the Parent Teacher Meeting is the one place which satisfies my hunger for people-watching. And this is one place which forces me to judge fellow parents.

No. I am not the perfect parent. I don’t claim to be one. Nor are my girls the epitome of discipline.  But I sure don’t turn a blind eye to my child’s  misbehavior like many others.

Mom being a teacher and having raised us single-handedly during the major part of our growth years, our lessons on discipline began right at home and from the moment we stepped into this world. I have constantly blamed her for strict parenting and over disciplining. But today as I look back I thank her for the way she raised us though I still argue that she could have been a little more expressive with her love. Nevertheless, we are what we are because of our parents who instilled values and discipline in our lives. And I am grateful to them for the way they shaped us.

At the PTM this Saturday, I saw all kind of parents. Just like all kinds of children. Overall the bouquet looked beautiful. But certain parts of the garden showed signs of infestation and decay.  I am someone who believes that a child’s behavior and manners reflect the atmosphere at their home. And this has been proved again and again through many of the PTMs.

There was this mother who did not even think twice before hitting her daughter in front of the entire school because she lied about not receiving the answer sheets. Lying is not something unusual for children at this age. As a mother, I admit that I have seen this behavior in my own child. And I do have reasons which are  not at all related to how her teachers were handling her.

She scored good marks, yet she would lie to me about not getting the answer sheets till the PTM day. I would be furious but I would not talk to her till the time I cooled down. It helped me understand her better. She used to lie because she was afraid of my yelling. It’s a different matter that I never scold them or yell at them for studies related matters. I was am average student and I don’t keep high expectations from the children. My duty is to provide them with resources and help them utilize these. She used to lie also to avoid talks about studies for as long as she could. Is that abnormal for a child to do?

I took time to understand her fears and then spoke to her in detail about it. It was a heart to heart chat and the child was ensured that she will not be admonished for her grades and that I would control my yelling issue. 85% improvement in my yelling issue. Still needs improvement. But I hope you noticed that the issue was not with the child or with her teachers, but with the parent, that is me. She was lying to me because she was afraid of me. Thankfully, I caught hold of the situation in time and took control.

At the school, I felt like confronting that mother. But I did not. The teacher did. The child’s face was red with fear, pain and humiliation. I saw a glimpse of my past on her face. Mom used to get instantly notified about the mistakes I did in each paper and the questions I did not attempt in each paper. She had whipped me with the cane stick in the school corridors till I was in ninth standard. That’s what gave birth to the rebel within me. It was so humiliating to be snapped in front of an entire school.  Repeated episodes only distanced me from her and made me indifferent to her behavior. 

There was another set of parents who kept on sitting there without an iota of shame or regret as their son, a grade six student, kept on arguing with the teachers and giving excuses for each of his mistakes. I don’t say that children should not be heard. But I don’t encourage rude and disrespectful behaviour in children. As parents it was their duty to interrupt him and ask him to be polite and respectful. What I see these days is that most parents do not respect the teachers and the same attitude is picked up by the children. It pains me when I listen to children talking disrespectfully with teachers and other elders.

In the name of freedom we are sometimes going overboard with things. A teacher or ‘guru’ must be respected irrespective of whether they are perfect or not. And every parent must give at least that much respect to the teacher to ensure that their children do not misbehave with the teacher.

There was this boy in fourth grade who keeps troubling girls by pouring water inside their school bags spoiling all their books and other items. I mentioned this to the teacher and clearly told her that she only had to counsel him not to do so. But she asked me to give a written complaint as there were many other complaints against the boy and the parents could be apprised of the situation by means of all the written complaints. I did not write one. A 9-year-old making mistakes is far better than all of us making the mistake of branding a child as ‘BAD’. Later I came to know that his mother broke down in front of the teacher. I will not go into the details of this case as I did not witness it personally. But my personal experience says that children imitate the behavior or elders and they express their views and concerns through such behavior outside the home.

There were parents who kept on complaining about each and every teacher. There are problems with some teachers who are inexperienced but there can’t be a problem with all the teachers…right? How can we expect the teacher or the school alone to imbibe values and discipline in our children? Isn’t it our duty first to instill these values in our children.

Parents are responsible for a child’s bad behavior as well as his/her discipline. Forcefully making them accept a certain behavior or rule is wrong. Give logical explanation for everything you tell them and they will understand it better. We are the role models for our children. I am sure you would have seen your children imitating you and your spouse. Mine sure imitate me a lot. They do so even with the yelling and that’s what forced me to take control of the situation by improving my behavior.

Children copy the behavior they see at home, and this can affect their discipline in schools and at other occasions. Adults have to model behavior that they want, because otherwise how does the child learn? What’s your take on this? Do you think that discipline is something that’s the responsibility of the school? Or do you take active interest in disciplining your child at home by modeling responsible behavior and setting the necessary boundaries?

By the way, I forgot to share the expansion for PTM that the girls use at home.

“Pitwayegi Teacher Mummy Se…” 😀

#WordlessWednesday #28 – Parental Love


“Age is a seasoned trickster. To our parents, we will always be children. Within ourselves, the same yearnings of youth; the same aspirations of adolescence, will last a lifetime. Only to the young – blinded by our grey hair and slowing gait – do we appear old and increasingly beyond the pale.”

Alex Morritt, Impromptu Scribe


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Our Turn Now to Parent Our Parents

Ek age ke baad parents khud se zinda nahi reh pate, unhe zinda rakhna padta hai!”

(Translation: After a certain age parents can’t survive by themselves, we have to make them survive.)

…said Piku to Rana in the latest Bollywood movie Piku. And I was nodding. 

She celebrated her sixtieth birthday early September and yesterday she retired from her thirty-five year long teaching service. Mom.

While she is all uncertain about what she will do with her free time after all these years of working and running around children of all age groups, I was thinking of ways to keep her engaged. I know she will be depressed if she sits all alone with nothing much to do. But I want her to do something that interests her.  I have just handed over a few books from my Amar Chithra Katha collection because of her interest in mythological stories. Dad is to take her for morning walk and to temple along with him everyday. I have also requested her to pick up the girls from the school in the evenings. That might keep her motivated a little.

It is very important to take care of our old parents. It is important for them. It is important for us. And it is most important for our children. Old people are the richest. Rich not because of money. But because of the experiences they have gathered all through the years.

We visit in-laws (who are staying with the brother-in-law and family) almost every fortnight. This time around my father-in-law told me, “Tum aate ho aur bachhe thoda khel kood karte hain toh dil khush ho jaata hai. Ghar sundar lagta hai.” (Translation: When you come and the children play around, our heart feels good. The house looks beautiful.) Four-five hours is all we spend there. But I know it makes a lot of difference to them.

Memories, children and festivals keep them going. They don’t need our money. But our time. A visit every week, every fortnight, or every month. A call a week or so. I fail to do that many a times. Mostly because something else takes over. And just before retiring for the day when I look back, I regret. I should have called, I think. That one call, those few words, the ‘are you fine?’, ‘what are you doing?’, ‘what did you eat?’, keeps them alive. The feeling of being cared for. The feeling of being loved. The feeling of being wanted and not abandoned. That’s important.

I know some parents are really difficult to handle with their OCD, their rigidity and their stubbornness. My Dad is one such perfectionist. Dad, I hope you’re reading this. But then not all of us are perfect…are we? I am not. We need to find ways to work together.

Aged parents are like those stubborn kids that you just managed to raise a little while ago. Oh yes, it’s now your turn to raise kids again. Slightly older ones. They don’t know a thing about growing up. They don’t know what their interests are. They forgot all of it in the mammoth process of raising you up. You. You have to tell them. You have to show it to them. The way they did for you all those years ago.

Yes. I remember Mom picking me up and doing rounds on the terrace of our rented flat teaching me Hickory Dickory Dock and Ten Little Indians. She was my first English teacher. I owe every word that I write to her. And Dad, his constant criticism in person and through the hundreds of letters is what kept me grounded and helped me improve as a human being. Now I scold him when he buys not one, but two bricks of Mother Diary ice-creams for the girls. The same mother who taught me to eat whatever was served on the table now cooks different things for the girls according to their taste. And I fight.

My mother-in-law who was upset that I wasn’t accepting the ‘rules’ of the family and refused to eat non-vegetarian food for a long time a decade ago, now cooks everything after asking her grandchildren. Father-in-law who would scold me for taking a chartered for ten rupees instead of taking a DTC for five rupees, now buys balloons, toffees and what not for all the grandchildren without occasion.

But then that’s what keeps them happy. They are themselves tired of leading a disciplined life and now look for variety with the children. And we have to just let them be. Just let them have that time with their children and their grandchildren. This is the age when they are tired of all the accusations they have been showering upon you. This is the age they have accepted you for who you are. This is the age when they want to be kids again. Let them be.

With all of this, there’s one very important thing to do. Do not burden them. Accept their help graciously. But do not expect it as their job. Let them do whatever they want by themselves. Do not force it on them. If we do that, the charm of being grandparents just fades away. I hear many people complaining that their parents do not help them take care of their kids. Why expect? They raised us. Their job is over. It is party time for them. Let them enjoy. Whenever they feel like helping you, be content. But don’t be dependent. It is not their job raising our children.

If you are keeping your parents with you, keep them wholeheartedly. Respect their individuality. Respect their interests. Don’t just be with them to save on your rent or the maid or creche fees. If staying together seems impossible, just vacate their place and give them their peace of mind. Giving a sermon was never the purpose of this post, but to just reiterate that we should respect age and experience.

Today on International Day of Older Persons, let’s pledge to respect older people and help them be alive cheerfully. It is the older trees that give most soothing shadows and help the seedlings grow beautifully.

Let’s make their world beautiful. They taught us what beauty is.

Image courtesy of [worradmu] /
Image courtesy of [worradmu] /

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