Fight, Don’t Scold!

Yes, you read that right. That statement means EXACTLY what it reads like. Fight with your kids, don’t scold them.Allow me to explain. Yes, kids being rude and disrespectful are big issues these days. Teaching kids to be polite is becoming an ever-increasing challenge. This very site has carried an article some time ago about how to manage kids who talk back.And yet I am saying: all this is a product of our ego as parents. Actually there is nothing wrong with a kid talking back. If that challenges us, insults us or makes us insecure then we need to get our own heads examined.Because when we tell a child “don’t talk back” what we are teaching her is that it is not ok to have an opinion. And it is definitely not ok to have an opinion contrary to ours – the all-knowing ‘parents’.Why? Are we God? Do we know everything? Why can’t we be challenged? As adults we want the right to challenge our boss, our government, our laws, our ministers. We say we are a democracy. We have a right to speech.And yet, at home, we insist on a dictatorship and hang it all on a convenient peg called good behaviour.Can we stop fooling ourselves, and pampering our own egos? Can we stop saying that asking a kid to keep quiet is for their own good when, in fact, we actually do it for our own sakes?It is quite simple actually. Children don’t know what is good for them, what is safe for them. Sure, nobody is denying that. Children have to be kept away from the dangerous, the harmful, the debilitating, the unworthy. No arguments with that. But children should just do as they are told without airing their questions, confusions, issues, grievances, disagreement and differences? How on earth did we end up making that giant leap?We have to set down rules until they are older, sure. We tell them: you have to brush your teeth, eat your meals, attend school, do your homework, go to bed on time, not talk to strangers, not play with the gas stove – and sometimes grown ups do know better so they WILL tell you right from wrong, and good from bad.But, we simply must give them the space to argue it out. They don’t know. If we don’t allow them to question, to doubt, to debate, how will they ever get the bigger picture? “Because I said so” doesn’t teach anybody any life values. It doesn’t teach anybody anything actually. It only communicates unreasonable bossiness. And one-sided arbitrary decision making.Yes children do take wrong decisions, do naughty stuff and make unreasonable demands. There is no virtue in giving in to this brattiness. Of course a badly behaved child must be reprimanded and course corrected.In such a situation we would all want a quiet voiced explanation and an amicable chat on the subject to suffice, but let’s face it, that doesn’t always work. That should always be option one, but sometimes it fails. Sometimes the battle lines do get drawn, in spite of all our attempts to “talk about it reasonably.”What I am saying is that when that happens, FIGHT. DON’T SCOLD.Scolding is one sided, patronising, superior and unequal. The image of a parent wagging a finger at a kid while the kid stands there shuffling her feet, head bowed, being bellowed at if she tries to speak, may be a classic image but it is actually a humiliating one that takes away all individuality and independent thinking from the child.Fighting is equal, respectful, feisty and free spirited. It may sound crazy to your family members, and you may be embarrassed to be seen getting into a highly equal spat with your five year old, but the good it does far outweighs the silliness of the moment.When you fight, the messages you are communicating to your child are manifold. Such as: your opinion counts. Such as: you have the ability to impact me emotionally, I am not so smugly superior that what you say can’t touch me. Such as: you can have a point of view and even express it and that is fine. It is valid. I will listen. I will argue, I will fight back, but I WILL listen.When you fight with your kid you tell that child: Your voice matters. Do not silence it. Ever. You may lose the argument, but don’t ever lose your voice. You may have to give in to the rules, but don’t ever give in to silence. You may have to follow my lines but you have every right to understand those lines.Oh, and there is a postscript to this. It is necessary through this whole fighting business to ensure that the child gets a sense of unconditional love and respect. I personally have this weird and highly deranged habit when I fight with my daughter. When we are screaming at the top of our lungs, I make her sit in my lap and we have to hug while fighting. That looks utterly crazy to an outsider, but even when my daughter is yelling at me or crying in frustration, she has her arms around my neck and her argument is punctuated with the line: “but we still love each other right?” Equally worked up, I also respond: “but of course we do” and then we go right back to fighting.The reasoning is simple: when you are withdrawing the permission, don’t withdraw the love as well. In fact, if anything, when you are saying: “I am taking away the TV / the junk food / the late night”, that is exactly the time to also say: “I am giving you even more love.”So Fight. Don’t Scold. And Love like crazy while doing it.