The adage ‘all is fair in love and war’ has always been contentious, debatable and questionable but there is no iota of doubt whatsoever in my mind when I respond with ‘all is fair in parenting’ to my cheeky little one who frequently cries foul and yells ‘mummy that’s not fair’. I am not sure how and where my daughter picked up the words ‘that’s not fair’ and am astonished to find her often successfully deploying them to her advantage! She astutely uses them as a strong defense to absolve herself from her inconsistent behaviour!
All is Fair in Parenting!
'All is fair in parenting' is my repartee to my daughter who often yells 'mummy that's not fair' when her needs remain unfulfilled.
She resorts to this line of thought when she doesn’t want to own up her mistakes and to shirk off responsibility for her inappropriate actions. ‘That’s not fair’ is a convenient strong defense of my child who brandishes it with stunning regularity when things don’t work in her favour. When she doesn’t get what she desires and fancies she immediately knows what statements will be effective to make and use them for me to pause and wonder at the deeper and hidden layers of meanings of those words.
The other day when she was clearly instructed to turn off the TV so that she would be able to focus on her academics, she conveniently touted those three words which instantly make the other person in this instance it was me to introspect and rethink if I was performing the right action in saying no to her requests and demands.
The three powerful words ‘that’s not fair’ have far reaching consequences and are strong enough even for those people who aren’t very sensitive and empathetic to digest their import. Given the negative connotation and the impact these words can generally have, it was only natural for me to dwell and contemplate on them. The powerful words forced me to review the situation as well as my responses and reactions. They made me to take stock and rethink my parenting strategy while assessing and self-examining if I am indeed being unfair to my child who at the drop of a hat would just scream out those words at me. Much against my own inclination and volition, I was left to do some quick analysis, self-questioning and consider her views and opinions before embarking on the next steps and taking the appropriate course of action.
Was I a considerate mother? Did I empathize with her feelings and really understood and considered her wants? Or was I deciding arbitrarily and behaving in a dictatorial fashion by being insensitive to her requests and pleas. These were the questions that roamed freely in my already stressed out head feverishly rummaging for answers. As a person with absolute conviction in liberal, democratic thinking and approach to finding solutions, I usually try to think from the other person’s perspective. I don’t mind stepping into the shoes of another person to view things from her/his angle. This time though I had gone overboard and taken it too far that I actually fell for those insidious tricks and sinister traps my child had so masterfully laid and designed for me!
I begin to overindulge her and thoughtlessly entertain her never-ending requests and demands as I mindlessly pander to her myriad emotional needs. Empathising and understanding the needs of our children is crucial and rightly so but going out of the way to consider all their pleas and meet all their requirements will only have catastrophic consequences! Needless to say that overindulging the wants of children can end up doing more harm than any good to our little ones!
However, when I understood her line of reasoning and her way of thinking, I realised it was just her natural and sovereign manner to defend her rights, stand up for herself to justify her needs, demands, wants and fantasies. The words ‘that’s not fair’ became her support mechanism to cope with undesirable outcomes and unfavourable situations. She was venting out! It became easy for her to reconcile with the rejection of her wants when she uttered those three influential words! By saying those words, she also showcased her remarkable negotiating and debating skills and her exemplary ability to strike deals with adults. I too realised I don’t have to cater to all her needs but can certainly allow her to have her right to opinion and free expression without contesting her charges against me.
As she realised she won’t get her way all the time and her pleas won’t be entertained, her favourite words actually came to her rescue in such a way that allowed her to develop the maturity and strength to internally process the rejection of her unreasonable and unjustified needs.
Mentoring, counselling and giving reasons behind our decisions and actions are better than engaging in arguments with our children as it would unnecessarily escalate the situation instead of defusing it. I would rather let my daughter have her say all the while making sure I am being resolute and replied assertively and consciously ‘oh yes, that’s completely fair’ to her accusation of me being unfair. While mentoring and sensitising my child, I ensure she categorically understands that I am definitely here to support her. I reassure her that I am indeed mindful of her needs and in fact carefully consider and weigh them before saying a no. That reassurance to her usually accomplishes the job of putting an end to whatever resentment she may feel within!