This blog post has been contributed by Ignatius Fernandez, and is the second of a 12-part series on ‘Parenting is a Journey’. Ignatius Fernandez also blogs at http://thechildisfatheroftheman.blogspot.in/
The broad forehead of an American mother carried the indelible print of an advertisement. Why did she permit that? Just to collect about $10,000 to help in her son’s schooling. Imagine her trauma as she saw herself in a mirror. The advertisement mockingly looked back at her. Think of the amused looks she got from her neighbours as she walked down her street. She could not hide her shame under fancy head gear or a changed hair style. She was paid to keep her forehead exposed. She would have to live through those terrible experiences day after day, right through her life; all because of love for her son. Perhaps, she understood what St Augustine wrote: “The measure of love is to love without measure”.
With Example (which we referred to in Part 1 of this series) comes PARENTAL INSTRUCTION. The American mother did not have a, ‘come here, my son, I want to talk to you’ session. Instead, through her heroic act she conveyed a lot more. She was trying to tell him that where there is much love, there is great sacrifice.
Parental Instruction is powerfully put across through actions. But it can also be done through words. On the one hand, we could give our children life-enriching inputs through words and deeds, on the following:
1) God comes first. His help is only a prayer away.
2) Family comes next.
3) Education makes a difference at important times in your life.
4) A good name is better than riches. Riches perish, but a good name does not rust.
5) Health is wealth. It is only when you lose it that you know it’s true worth.
6) First, you make your habits. Then, your habits make you.
7) Your behaviour speaks louder than the words you express.
8) Win or lose, play the game right.
9) Caring for others makes us human. And, we cannot touch our neighbour’s heart with anything less than our own.
10) Waste in any form, is wasteful. In the form of time, talent, opportunity or any resource, they are gifts from God. What is wasted is lost, never to return.
And so on.
On the other hand, we could lure our children to believe that:
1) we don’t see God. But Money Power is for all to see.
2) Even Family will respect you only if you have wealth.
3) Education has a limited role. What matters is being worldly wise. There are millionaires even among school drop-outs.
4) People respect what you have; not what you are. Possessions count; keep adding to what you have. Flaunt them and people are impressed.
5) You are right. Health is one form of wealth. But don’t forget what cash can do for you.
6) Cultivate habits that serve your purpose. If you have a habit of dressing well, dress to impress those who matter.
7) Look at Powerful People; crowds stand in awe of them, even if their behaviour is awkward. Power eclipses behaviour.
8) Play by your rules, to win always. Push ahead; nobody gives way. And nobody sees what you do in secret.
9) Others matter only if they serve your purpose. Remember, when you are in trouble, you are alone.
10) Waste is relative. What you see as good for yourself, others don’t see. So, why bother?
And so on. Either through words or actions, or both, we convey our own set of values to children. The software children inherit from us becomes the legacy they log on to even years after they have left home. And on their mental monitors messages flash over and over again: ‘God comes first’, or ‘Money is Power’. Which path they choose to follow would depend largely on the kind of programming they received at home. If our value system is warped, there is every chance that our children will justify their own twisted ways, even as we did. By a process of osmosis children absorb into themselves parental visions which are flawed or flawless.
It is not that ‘good’ parents succeed in giving their children only positive inputs. Some negative ideas will disguise themselves and escape into the mental make-up of children. But, if our inputs are mainly positive and character- building, our children will find a way to counter the negative ones. Therefore, we have to submit to the discipline of constantly asking ourselves if our lives are shedding light or casting long shadows. A glance from us can speak to the children as eloquently as a well-chosen phrase or a well orchestrated action. We should be conscious of this part in our parenting role, and that the lessons we teach should be reinforced with action. For example, if we advocate thrift, then our actions must bolster that lesson. To say something good and do the opposite would nullify the impact of our good words. That is why Parental Instruction and Example cannot be separated.