How I discipline without breaking my child’s spirit

When I became a parent, I was faced with the baffling situation, how to inculcate discipline in my child, without acting like a tyrant, strict mom.

Though I wished for her to follow my instructions, I yearned for a definite plan that wouldn’t aim at obscuring her inner voice.

I’d like to confess, that I have made many mistakes in disciplining my child despite having a vision of what I wanted to achieve.

From defying positive attention (being in the same room but doing my own thing while listening to what my child had to say ) to not letting my child make choices of her own (making simple decisions about what to do in her free time to what gift she would like on Diwali).

With time, I have mended my ways, fine-tuned my parenting style countless times keeping one goal in mind.

I am not hoping to use discipline as a means to raise an obedient child.

Instead, I discipline in a way to raise a kid who is self-reliant and confident enough to know what to do in life (even if it means making mistakes) even when I’m not around.

Though I’m not quite there yet, however, every milestone is an encouragement that I am hopefully getting closer to my goal.

To assist me in staying focused, I have outlined a strategy:

1. Choose your battles wisely:

I am well aware that the way we discipline our child, our actions, and our tone eventually becomes the inner voice of the child.

Frequent rebuking for the choices made instils self-doubt; being yelled at every mistake makes the child react the same way when someone else makes a mistake and worse still smacking a child teaches her that it is the way of tackling disagreement.

In the bigger picture of life, I am now clear that if I want to raise a happy, kind, open-minded child, I need to practice the same myself while disciplining her.

2. Set enforceable limits:

The whole idea here is to put into action the one principle that seems to work for everyone, adults and children alike.

The more perceived control a person has over the situation, the more likely he or she is to cooperate and listen.

The trick to use when applying it to discipline children is instead of always telling Pari what to do, I try telling her what I will do instead.

For example:
I’ll read you a bedtime story if you will sit quietly.
I’ll let you play with your new toy as soon as you finish your homework.

This works only when you patiently wait until the kids are actually doing what you asked before you do your part of the equation.

Are you struggling with disciplining without yelling? Do you fear to break your child's spirit by being a strict mom? Here's how I'm balancing discipline and my child's will without a compromise. #theerailivedin #parenting #settinglimits #parentingquotes #discipline #singlemom #quotestoliveby #LRKnost

3. Attention and time are precious and should be spent thoughtfully:

Everyone craves for the attention of their near and dear ones. Kids are no different. Being a SAHM juggling work with my daughter around gets tough when she constantly complains about me not paying enough attention to her. This is why we now have designated work and play hours for her and myself.

When I work, she finishes her homework. When I’m free I invest my undivided attention free from gadgets, playing, reading and even dancing with her.

Recommended Reading: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk

4. We work together as a team:

Conveying how much I love and cherish my daughter through words and actions has been a major shift for an introvert me.

Earlier when I used to ask my daughter to help me clean up the room, putting the toys and books back in place she would act lazy, keep watching me but wouldn’t move a finger. Once I was done and dusted, she’d insist I spend time with her playing making my hard-work go undone.

Now I ask my daughter to have our little chit-chat while we are arranging the room and she is showing me where we place what, her points of view so that she feels involved. This trick works because she loves the position where she is making the decisions, with mamma paying attention to her preferences.

She enjoys seeing how her choices resulted in the look of her room and also how she can improve it over time.

5. Pragmatism about success and failure:

Discipline has mostly been about training individuals to be successful in life. However, along the way, the need to accept shortcomings with equal grace often raises its head.

Earlier, I used to micro-manage my child, preventing her from making mistakes. Though this attitude didn’t bear any startling results, I always ended up with a cranky, whining child.

Lately, my daughter and I have adopted singing the ‘Que sera, sera’ song as we go on with life. Accepting what comes our way (despite our best efforts) with equal grace and a smiling face.

The ‘it’s all part of the game’ approach on my part has surprisingly helped my child accept life events like standing second in a recitation competition or not being given the largest piece of chocolate better than before.

6. Voicing our thoughts is as important as expressing our concerns:

Nagging or yelling to control my kid’s rude behaviour, whining or crying has never worked. It took me a while to figure out that these antics were nothing but a child seeking attention and expressing their wound up emotions.

To get the situation in control, I’ve learnt that keeping calm and telling what’s disturbing you (“I don’t like it when you scream, can you ask nicely?”) work better. Sometimes, I step out of the room leaving my child with her thoughts.

Given a moment to reflect, with a clear idea of what mama likes, helps my daughter feel in control. She gives up the tantrum sooner and approaches me in a more peaceful way.

7. Use the child’s imagination to keep them entertained:

This year during the school holidays I was running out of ideas to keep my daughter from getting bored just two days into vacations. Everything I’d suggest would make my child whine or not follow for long. This was making it impossible for me to work.

That’s when a friend of mine suggested how she lets her son be guided by his imagination. She lets her son draw, colour, paint and at times even get messy (unless it is a matter of health or safety) and it is satisfying to watch the child be happy, creative, expending energy doing what she enjoys.

A mess isn’t always a bad thing.

Finally:

Making these positive changes, battling my own fears and changing the way I raise my child from the kind of upbringing I have had has helped me communicate better.

I now pair my disciplining with kindness, compassion and love. I’ve been working hard at letting Pari grow up as an individual while nurturing her will.

And the best part is the newfound peace in the family with due care of tending to my child’s spirit.

Related: How I became the calm mom I always wanted to be.

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The song on my mind: Hum Na Samjhe They ~ Gardish

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The Car Story- Final Part

With the year-end just around the corner, I thought it would be only wise to finish this story that I started in 2017.

Please read the previous parts before proceeding. Part1, Part2 and Part3.

Now that you have a grasp on what had been my driving force to learn to drive, you’re in a good position to understand why I chose to do what I eventually did.

The Car Story- 4.2

Like I mentioned here, that because of a twist of circumstances, I got an opportunity to migrate abroad, this proved to be gamechanger in my equation with driving. In my early years, while I was a student at the university in one of the busiest cities of the world, driving wasn’t on my mind.

Soon after, when I got married to a man working overseas, things changed completely. My ex-husband had witnessed my apprehensions about car driving during our courtship days. Though he chose not to comment, he had made up his mind for something, I learnt only after our marriage.

Since I had an Indian driving licence, I could drive overseas (for a limited time) till I passed the tests for an overseas driving licence. Stating this obvious fact, my ex-husband made it clear to me on day one that he expected me to start driving right away. He was well-aware of my apprehensions but chose to encourage me saying that he had my back covered and was ready to devote hours after-work to help me get used to driving in the new country.

As dramatic it may sound, I picked up driving in a matter of a couple of days but the gearbox continued to haunt me with the traumatic experiences I’ve had in India. This was when my ex-husband made me understand why driving independently was so important for me, especially in a new country where we had no family except each other.

To help me further, we decided to invest in a new car. A car with an automatic gear shift. There was no looking back. What initially started with daily drives (during the day, while I was still looking for a job) to the local library and for grocery shopping, became a regular practice as I was always the designated driver being the only teetotaler in our growing group of friends.

“Be not the slave of your own past – plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep, and swim far, so you shall come back with new self-respect, with new power, and with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

I was loving this new-found freedom. I was growing in the love and trust my ex-husband had shown in me. I felt like I was healing in the hours I was behind the wheel undoing the hurt that had kept me from driving all these years. This was why I cleared the driving test quite easily and there was no looking back from then on.

Time flew past with life getting busier and me juggling responsibilities at work and home. One day, my parents hinted at their desire to come visit us.

In the deepest corners of my heart, I secretly wished that my father feel proud seeing me drive confidently in an altogether new country. The day finally came when I was driving my parents home, with my father in the passenger seat.

I was driving the car at 120kmph (on a highway) and was acutely conscious of the fact that my father was neither flinching nor was concerned (at least in an obvious way) about my our safety like he used to be in India.

In the days that followed, while my parents stayed with us, I drove them around regularly but not even once (not even on my mother’s prompting) did my father choose to comment on my driving.

Over time, with the turn of events, I was back in India, in my parents’ home, a new mother and going through a difficult divorce. Even in those trying times, I couldn’t help but be mindful of the fact that I needed to keep driving to stay independent.

When my daughter was hardly 2 months old and I was slowly beginning to feel myself after being bedridden for almost a year, I embarked on regular car driving.

I spared an hour in the evenings when Pari was usually asleep or was in her best mood, to keep things simple for my mother. My father and I would go for a drive in our family car. My father didn’t take long to return to his ‘tiger parenting’ days, correcting, reprimanding and at times even resorting to shouting at my slightest mistake.

This time around, though I had the experience of driving for years at stretch, it was not in the chaotic Indian traffic. Besides, my driving experience was considered no good as I used to drive an automatic car during my stay overseas.

I can confidently say, that this time around, I picked up driving rather smoothly in less than a week. However, my father’s opinion was rather contrary.

Today, half a decade later, when I look back, I can safely say that my father was yet not ready to let me be on my own in India. At that time, I was given confusing excuses that I needed to focus on my baby so I shouldn’t consider driving (as lame as it might sound). My depressed, not-so-healthy being, struggling with the trials of a messy divorce couldn’t stand up against my father’s will.

Two years elapsed and then came the time when my mother was diagnosed with cancer. Among other things, the realization that I had to take up the responsibility of my elderly parents while also catering to the needs of my child was one that has never left me since.

“I wonder if fears ever really go away, or if they just lose their power over us.”
― Veronica Roth

This time, I was adamant, I wanted to drive regularly, irrespective of what my father thought about my driving. I wanted to be confident enough to be able to drive to any destination on my own, at any hour of the day, without having to look up to anyone for help.

That’s when, after a break of almost three years (as I was too occupied taking care of my mother in the year that followed her diagnosis) I resumed driving. My father would sit in the passenger seat and in the matter of a week, I was ready to be driving, rather decently in the city.

The Car Story-4.1

On one of these days, on our way back home, when I took a turn into the lane that led to our home, a speeding bike appeared out of nowhere and zipped past hardly an inch away from my car’s bonnet. Though I had applied the brakes on time and by God’s grace nothing untoward happened, my father chose that incident to make it clear to me that I was a pretty reckless driver who didn’t deserve to drive his car.

I was badly hurt but this time the anger that filled my system, made me promise myself that I shall not drive my father’s car again.

My mother tried to pacify me, though without sparing a single word to tell my father how his aggressive ways were jeopardising the well-being of the family.

To make things further difficult for me, the car in which I was confident I could drive should the need arise anytime, was sold by my father (within a fortnight of the above incident) to upgrade to a pricey model that he (indirectly) made clear he wouldn’t let anyone but himself drive.

I had made up my mind that I shall save enough money to buy a car of my own (irrespective of how much time this would take).

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’d be well aware that I have been working from home and that doesn’t allow for making a lot of money. This was rather critical because I had lost all of my belongings and the money I’d earned (thanks to the betrayal of my ex-husband) during my stay abroad.

In the meantime, I hoped and prayed that someday, my father will see sense in my decision to drive regularly. That day didn’t dawn for the next two years. By then I was clear that all these years my father had been preventing me from driving because he didn’t want to lose the position of the alpha-male of the family. He wanted me to follow suit of my mother and stay restricted to the four walls of the home unless he wanted me to do otherwise. Maybe, that’s how things are in every patriarchal family, but with every passing minute, I could feel the urge to break free build up in me.

It’s a very complicated and heartbreaking realization. Though I am grateful to the universe for helping me find the elusive answers.

Finally, when my savings hinted that I had enough funds to go ahead and buy a decent family car, I announced at the dining table that I was going to buy a new car with an automatic gear shift on Pari’s birthday that year.

“Patience is power.
Patience is not an absence of action;
rather it is “timing”
it waits on the right time to act,
for the right principles
and in the right way.”
― Fulton J. Sheen

I expected resistance, but there was none. I decided to not overthink it and to go ahead with my plan. I opted for a car that had a strong engine, was within my budget, made for a comfortable family car yet had an automatic gear shift (for the sake of peace during family drives).

Finally, four months ago, I bought my first car in India.

I have been driving it regularly ever since. There are still days when my father gets angry with the way I drive, he still doubts my parking skills, but things are no longer what they were before. I can take Pari or my mother for shopping or drop them anywhere without having to worry about my father’s mood or the need to have him accompany us everywhere.

I have come a long way in gaining the freedom to drive, in a country where there are no restrictions on women driving a car. In the due course, I have re-learnt driving many times, have been away from the driving seat for years at stretch.

In hindsight, I can’t help but feel immense gratitude for my ex-husband for being my cool-headed coach in the early days when I (re)learnt to drive fearlessly, for being the one who’d taken the leap of faith and bought a car with an automatic gear shift.

Today I can safely say, that though it took a long time, I am proud of myself for never giving up and finally having acquired the freedom of driving a car, confidently. Though my battle isn’t over yet. In due course of time, I hope to switch to driving a car with a manual gear shift. There’s a long way ahead but until then I am going to drive to my heart’s content.

“Keep your best wishes, close to your heart and watch what happens”
― Tony DeLiso

The song on my mind: Ruk jana nahin, tu kahin haar ke ~Imtihan

My Daughter’s Mum: Essays by Natasha Badhwar

I am very selective about the parenting columns and articles I read. If a writer’s view of life matches mine or successfully leaves me craving for a deeper insight, I am sure to dig up more articles written by them before becoming a devoted reader of all they publish. This isn’t limited to the trending articles but applies also to bloggers.

Needless to say, social media has gifted me the ease to follow my favourite writers. Natasha Badhwar is one of them.

I had been introduced to her weekly column in the Mint Lounge around a year ago via a retweet on Twitter. Her gentle humour and candour without a hint of preaching made me eagerly wait for her articles every Saturday morning.

This was when, earlier this year, she announced that her essays were being compiled into a series of two books. I at once knew I had to grab a copy.

My daughter's mum #bookreview
As a parent blogger, I was curious about how would Natasha balance the fine line of baring her life with her children, the nuances of her married life without showing it all, yet delivering without sounding like she’s got it all sorted.

To my utter delight, the book despite the title hinting it to be a book on parenting is a memoir, a collection of essays that plunges deep into Natasha’s life and views on everything that has been a part of her existence. Here, she introduces the readers to her parents, siblings, three daughters, maids, in-laws, her colleagues and everyone who has left a lasting impact on her.

Have you ever met someone, whom you’ve come to know via the Internet and have an only cursory idea about their life through the limited interactions?

I had a similar anxiety while making up my mind to pick this book.

The book has a vibrant cover with a family portrayed in warm shades, highlighting the fact that the book primarily revolves around the author’s family life.

From the moment I started reading this collection of personal essays, I got more and more comfortable with Natasha’s voice and couldn’t help but nod my way through every line.

Her first essay is aptly titled ‘It is okay to talk about this’ where she addresses the fears I have always harboured being an anonymous, personal blogger, sharing my private life in detail.

“In my early thirties, I began to blog anonymously after our second daughter. I write to express happiness. I write to see myself through the tunnel of darkness. I write myself out of the bottomless well. I sort out my position and my feelings by writing about them. I write, also, to make a place for love. This is important. We refuse to recognize love, for fear of what it might ask from us. We shoo love away and destroy it. We express love as anxiety and fear. Let’s separate fear from affection. Let our love be seen and felt.” ~My Daughter’s Mum

Her introduction of her daughters and the family at large opened the gates of validation, recognition and most importantly of relatability in a way that I could see my daughter in Natasha’s second daughter, Aliza and myself in her eldest child, Sahar.

Her nuggets of wisdom, that I have come to love from her weekly columns, adorn this book, holding together the essays in a heartwarming way.

I have been increasingly feeling how I was gradually becoming like my mother, despite my belief that it was something I least wanted to happen. Though I have been contemplating on this for a while, my answers came in Natasha’s words.

“Being a parent means feeling, at once, a sense of pride and a sense of loss. It’s hard to put your finger on what is missing. You sift through childhood memories again and again for clues- for a sense of what has been mislaid. You sift through them, also, to identify fears that you don’t want to pass on and the traumas you don’t want your kids to relive.” ~ My Daughter’s Mum

In this memoir, while sharing memories of her life as a journalist and now a working from home mother, Natasha takes the reader through all the important aspects of modern life from an open-minded perspective. Not being judgemental and opting for the rational route is what makes her writing so appealing.

Natasha’s words are a warm reassurance to everyone (like yours truly) who had to make a career shift and start working from home building a career from scratch, that they aren’t alone in this, feeling the pangs of loss and anxiety.

“In the early days, it felt as if I had returned a borrowed superhero’s costume and walked in everyday clothes in the street, like a nobody”.

If you’ve lived a similar life, you’d be moved by how powerful and extraordinary these seemingly simple words are.

“In the middle of my career, I was starting from scratch. I was doing nothing. But I was healing.”

If you’ve been impressed by Natasha’s columns, be prepared to be amazed by her clarity while charting out the working woman’s manifesto where she’s said it like it is, while leaving plenty of room for every reader to carve her own path and work like the world is her oyster.

My daughter's mum

“Women are always at work. We need to start honouring the work we do every day. A global culture that calls it ‘work’ only when it is remunerated needs to be challenged with a new language and framework.

Unacknowledged fatigue and unarticulated responsibilities bog us down. The narrative that women and mothers should compromise their ambitions and neglect their talents for the greater good of the family is a lie. Don’t accept it!” ~ My Daughter’s Mum

Her thoughts and first-hand experiences on interfaith marriage, taking care of elderly parents and in-laws, grief, death, births, self-love, identity, nationality, changing times, working from home, road trips, feminism, aloneness, self-discovery, saying sorry to Shahrukh Khan, using the phrase ‘Dehati Women’ as an abuse, women’s safety and so much more. It is all there.

This is a book that every Indian woman, parent or not, can relate to. The simple yet impactful writing inspired me to read this rather fast-paced book in small bites over a span of two months. I savoured it like a prized bar of exquisite chocolate in small chunks to let it’s magical, delightful flavour fill my system with validation, revelation and self-discovery in a way, I’ll cherish for a long time.

Beyond the beauty of her thoughts and words, the author has shared real-life episodes of her family life, in form of colourful interactions of her children shared in sketches and collages are the cherry on the cake.

My daughter's mum - food for thought

My only criticism about the book is that the personal snippets would have had a better impact on the reader had they been printed in colour as photographs instead of the black and white photocopied versions.

IMG_E0441
Snapshot from the book

 

IMG_E0442
Picture from the author’s Instagram page @natashabadhwar

Overall, the book works like a balm on the bruised soul leaving it feeling fuller, validated and at peace of being who they are and for all the choices they have made thus far in life.

The candidness of Natasha’s voice, the humour in her fleeting narratives, and the fragility of the diary entries add to the charm of this memoir.

In my mind, Natasha is now my best friend who somehow knows how to give my zillion thoughts the shape of words that make perfect sense. I can’t wait for the second book in this two book series.

I’d like to end with the words, the author used to open the book;

“I’m carrying within me various permissions for myself. Simple words meant to override the messages I had internalized while growing up.” ~ My Daughter’s Mum

About the Book: 

Title – My Daughter’s Mum
Author – Natasha Badhwar
Publisher – Simon & Schuster India
Genre – Non-Fiction/ Memoir
ISBN –  978-93-86797-00-1
Pages – 254
Price – INR 350 (Get the best deal on Amazon)

About the Author:

Natasha Badhwar was born in Ranchi, grew up in Kolkata and refused to accept Delhi as the home for the next three decades. She began her career in broadcast journalism with New Delhi Television (NDTV) as the first female videographer in news television in India. She quit thirteen years later as vice president, training and development. She now works as an independent film-maker, media trainer, columnist and fashion entrepreneur. Natasha writes the popular column ‘My Daughters’ Mum’ in Mint Lounge. She lives in New Delhi with her husband and three daughters.

Rating: 4/5

P.S.- Recipes of the food items used in the above pictures can be found in my kitchen corner.

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