One-way communication can't build healthy relationships, says Anupam Sibal
In a freewheeling chat with Firstpost, Dr Anupam Sibal simplifies the complex parenting issue through anecdotes, live examples, practical dos & don’ts.
“When it comes to being a father, it really doesn’t matter whether you are the CEO of a Fortune 500 corporation, a sports star, an army officer, an engineer, a farmer or an IT professional – for your child, you’re just a father. Nothing more, nothing less”. This is what Prof Anupam Sibal, group medical director, Apollo Hospitals and a senior consultant Pediatric Gastroenterologist & Hepatologist tells parents in his upcoming book – ‘Is your child ready to face the world?’ In a freewheeling chat with Firstpost, Dr Sibal simplifies the complex parenting issue through anecdotes, live examples, practical dos & don’ts and a set of 18 values that guide parent-child relationship.
What is your upcoming book all about?
The book is about parent-child relationships. Rather I would say it’s more about father-child relationship --on how a father can deal with various issues of his son or daughter, and simultaneously impart values to a child, and prepare him/her to face the world. This book is an attempt to share my 7-8 years of observations and experience.
What inspired you to write this book, which is more about relationship psychology, rather than on pediatrics or gastroenterology?
Over the years, I learnt a lot about parenting by observing relatives, friends and parents of patients at my clinic. My personal experience as a father of a son helped me in knowing the nuances of good parenting. The thought of shouldering the huge responsibility of fatherhood can be daunting. Beyond meeting the material needs of a child, which can be challenging, there is also a deep-rooted worry of failing as a father. There is one underlying sentiment: will I be able to discharge my duty as a father to prepare my child to face the world? All these factors prompted me to write this book and it’s not a commercial venture. Even if one family benefits from this book, I’ll consider myself fortunate enough to have achieved my goal.
Do you think parent-child, especially father-child, relationships are deteriorating?
No, I don’t think so. Every child wants a strong relationship with his/ her parent. The onus is on parents to change themselves first and then expect the same from their child. I believe parents are struggling to adapt to changes. They expect their children to listen to them; but they too have to listen to their children. I have seen parents express their exasperation when teenagers vociferously voice their opinions. A one-way communication can’t build a healthy relationship and will leave a child isolated instead.
Do you think a deteriorating parent-child relationship is irreversible, especially in urban areas where the pressures of life are constantly increasing?
Absolutely not! Once a family is formed, it brings in a lot of changes in our lives. As a parent, one has to incorporate changes in one’s life. You have to condition your brain accordingly. If you are a parent, you have to put your child’s responsibility above everything. Now-a-days, I have observed many parents struggle a lot, while dealing with their children. Unlike the past, when a child used to follow orders without any argument, the situation is different now. A child questions a father’s decision, which is normal and a father should be prepared to answer and convince his child in a positive manner.
You write about 12 being the ideal age for a parent to start engagement with the child. What is so crucial about the age 12, why not earlier?
I wanted to say that 12 years of age is right to discuss complex issues. The dialogue between a parent and child should begin much earlier, say, at five. Children evolve very fast. A child understands values such as honesty and integrity at a very young age. A parent has to walk the talk and should behave as he expects from his child.
Do you think there is a strong need to revert to the old system of joint family to give a more holistic upbringing to a child?
It’s not in our hands. Now in urban life, both the husband and wife are working. It’s not possible to get back to those golden old days. We’ve to see how in the present set-up, we can have a happy family.
What are the top 5 challenges that a growing child faces in India today that make it rather difficult for him to be world-ready?
1. A child faces tremendous pressure from all around – from the peer group, school, home and society—pressure to perform ‘best’. Parents expect their children to be an all-rounder. It’s a pressure-cooker like environment.
2. We as parents want our child to live our dreams. Why should it be so? Your child has his dreams; so let him live and achieve them.
3. Children need to be told that no one is perfect. One should learn to accept flaws and mistakes. If one is allowed to fall while one learns cycling, why it should not be in academics?
4. We don’t talk about things that make a child happy, but presume what we think would make him happy. It may be something different. There is a need for conversation with your child.
5. There is tendency among parents to condition their child. There is a lot of compassion in a child, but parents try to influence them with negative characteristics like lies, dishonesty, etc. Parents should avoid this.
How has the changing role of Indian women impacted the growth of a child in a household?
A working mother faces multiple pressures – as a wife, mother, daughter-in-law and employee. What a mother can give to a child, even a perfect father can’t. I would advise them to take out some time, however little it may be, for the family, especially child. There is need for work-life balance. For any mother, the prime responsibility is her child. It can’t be compromised at any cost.
How can parents tackle the problem of their children getting distracted due to television and attractive gadgets?
There is a need for discipline in the family. It’s the parents who expose their children to watching TV and gadgets. To buy out time, parents give mobile phones to children so that they can get busy playing games. A father must make it a point to give his child some time, listen to him and establish a dialogue with him. It has to be a two-way communication, telling stories, involving in activities, etc.
Finally, I’m told that Amitabh Bachchan has written foreword for your book…
Yes, I wrote to him and after a week, he got back and said he would write the foreword. There couldn’t have been anyone better than Mr Bachchan, because he’s an icon for a father-son relationship. He has always expressed deep respect for his father and the values he got from him.
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