Kayra loves Karate, while her brother Arnav loves to paint. So, should you be worried, if the senior Mrs Khanna finds it odd? Should you shudder, when she says, Arnav, be a good boy, learn karate? Or Kayra, why don’t you try to paint? Karate is for boys! (Well, this applies in a hell lot of other gender defined scenarios too.)
No, because if you do give in. Your kids will end up succumbing to the pressures of social conformity, and someone else’s benchmarks. Gone are the days, that defined what girls and boys should ideally do. For a matter of fact, anyone should do.
Why is conformity an issue?
Conformity at times is all well and good, but sometimes our strong human tendency to conform can cause us to say or do things that objectively don’t make any sense. They may even be downright silly, or in some cases tragic.
Like an incident, where a child next to my seat, at the movies, was obviously thoroughly bored and was chattering away, much to the dismay of his parents and the others around him. So, when his parents, who had run out of options on how to keep him quiet, suddenly pointed at me, and said, ‘Aunty is looking at you and laughing’. Stop making a noise. Well, the child suddenly looked worried. All of probably four, and now, suddenly quiet.
This sapless yet nagging reinforcement into the child’s psyche, to do what gets approved from others can have effects more adverse that we can think. If a 4-year-old is coaxed into getting validated by strangers to keep up his “good boy” image, what are the chances that it would not propel into the more pressing issues through his teens and eventually as an adult?
Its time to change, we change!
We are living in times, where mental health has become a concern. Whether you are 7 or 70, there is something stressing your mind. But, when a 12 year old girl, is chided for not liking to help mamma in the kitchen, or that Rahul, must become an engineer as its the right job for boys, you are insisting that your children conform to what the world expects, than to respect their own individuality, is giving way to create really unhappy human beings.
What we need to do is redefine the parameters of success in life. Start with your children. Get off the herd that conforms to worldly validation and conformity and let your child thrive in a beautiful sense of well being, and give his life better meaning.
How many of us are working tirelessly in jobs we hate or as a safety net, just because society thinks it’s risky that we think out of the box? Or do you remember not learning to skate, as skating is not for girls? Most of the time, it is this conformity that stops us from taking a chance at just being happy and content. Do you remember the hindi movie ‘Dangal’? Do you think the Phogat sisters would have achieved what they have achieved, if their father or the sisters would have conformed to societal norms? Im guessing it’s a no.
So, how do you teach your child to remain her individual best, in this expectant world?
1. You stop any, form of comparison
Every child is unique, and they all have a balance of core strengths. Comparing your child to his peer is the most irrational thing you can do. Or may be even comparing them to someone who were in your childhood. Apart from short term damages, comparing your child can derail him from the path he chooses and walk on a path that wasn’t really meant for him.
2. Let them explore, themselves and their environment
We often live our fears through our children. Believe in them. Come what may. For instance, you were scared of water, and hence never learnt to swim. Or you were scared to travel on your own, so you are restricting their travel exposures too. So, if you continuously spur that fear into your child, he is never going to take a swimming lesson, or learn to travel on his own and be independent. You may have just deterred a future swimmer from experiencing this sport. Let your child, explore!
3. Support. Reinforce
Your child has many interactions and hence, can develop a lot of complexes, through peers, siblings and so on. Take time out, to remind him about who he truly is, his strengths, his weaknesses, his likes dislikes, accept and support him and reinforce the good. Again and Again. This will empower him to achieve the greatness that he sets to achieve.
Summing up conformity with a famous movie line, ‘Life is a Race’ But, remind your child, that his race is only and forever, with himself.
Thank you Veera for choosing me as your Mumma <3