By Nidhi Chopra
As parents, would it be okay to quickly snatch away a phone, food, toy – or anything our child is currently engaged with – when we are convinced that it is not good for him or her? (I’m making a clear distinction and drawing the line at ‘dangerous’. That, of course, is non-negotiable.)
If we snatch things away from a child without warning or talking to them first, we are communicating to them three things: one, that powerful people get what they want by taking it away from lesser powerful humans; two, that they need to grab or snatch and hold on tighter to what they want by any means available; three, that they need to find manipulative ways to get what they want from the world and people around them.
And these are just immediate consequences.
Long-term consequences can range from being constantly insecure of things in life being taken away from them to being deeply invested in performing actions that are singularly geared towards achieving what they want by any means available.
Now, take a pause here and think of all the real-life scenarios where such an attitude could be potentially dangerous to themselves or others around them.
We have to be cognizant of the fact that we are not raising a child but a future productive adult of society. It is important to give children the power of choice. Taking away that choice makes them feel helpless and without agency. That is a disturbing place for anyone to be in. We have to encourage an active practice in negotiations, arrangements and reaching collective agreements instead of lessons in full-blown aggression.
To treat consent as a living entity in our lives and practising it proactively with our children not only gives them the power of autonomy but also a clear sense that with power comes responsibility, accountability and consequence. It encourages them to think critically for themselves, make decisions by themselves and understand that they have the authority to change the consequences by prioritising their needs, wants and desires more rationally and less impulsively.
Lead by example.
When we are told to “lead by example”, it not only means by being “model” human beings that our children can look upto (which is exhausting even when no one is looking, judging or imitating us) but also, by demonstrating an ideal social interaction while dealing with them.
We have to show them the how by doing it with them instead of depending on some kind of indirect learning of the same behaviour in a completely different, adult-initiated scenario that they don’t necessarily understand or, at times, even pay attention too.
We have to accept that all the little, seemingly unimportant situations they deal with in their everyday lives are actually simply real-life simulations that they get to practise manoeuvring, whilst being in a safe and secure environment.
So, I go back to my original question: as parents, would it be okay to quickly snatch away a phone, food, toy or anything our child is currently engaged with, when we are convinced that it is not good for him or her?
Or, would the more time-consuming but smarter thing to do be to state the problem, the consequences and your own personal desire for them, and then allow them to reach a safe and secure decision on their own?
Nidhi Chopra is a Singapore-based digital entrepreneur, trained psychologist, writer, mother of two, wife of one, friend to many.
Photos: Humphrey Muleba / Unsplash. First published in eShe’s January 2020 issue
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