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Find your independent quotient

Aldina Braganza

There are no short cuts for life lessons. Sometimes the only way to understand a conflict is to dive straight into it. Like the point I am trying to make today: Do we value independence or do we promote dependency? We may advocate our rights of freedom but do we think, behave and act like freedom people?

What is our independent quotient?

As a parent it is not easy when we speak about freedom, and neither is it for a child. To be able to initiate a probable paradigm shift is to ask some important questions.

For me the crucial ones are: Do we encourage independency in those with whom we live? To what extent do we allow children to grow up to become their best possible selves or are we trying to make them into a best possible image of ourselves? Do we encourage dependency out of convenience? And of course, can we truly be completely independent?

Being independent is about autonomy. It is a developmental process. Since our birth, through our childhood and adolescence, we develop (physically, cognitively and emotionally) so that we can become independent human beings. From the time we take our first step forward we are on this journey. Every stage of human development requires the mastery of certain skills so that as an adult human we can function on our own. There is an evolutionary perspective to our development and that is survival. We are programmed to make decisions that will allow us to survive. Most theories call it the coming of age. The importance of acquiring mastership at every stage of life is so that we grow to become normal and healthy humans.

From infancy we develop a sense of who we are by constant interaction with our environment. The natural order of life is that a young child will develop an identity separate from that of their family and parents.

The idea of freedom dawns during the early teens magnifying itself in the later years till the stage is set for young adulthood. Thus if you look at the way education has set its curriculum, career choice matches the years of identity formation.

Unfortunately the education system does not take into account what happens in a family prior to admissions. The assumption is direct. The child will know. Unfortunately independent thinking is not part of the Indian parenting mindset.

In the name of parenting, we often cross the line of control, where we focus on our own needs and standards rather than that of our children. We use techniques like guilt, shame and disapproval to influence our child’s decisions. Strangely sometimes it is over the most inconsequential behaviour. That would probably be more damaging to the family reputation than the child’s attempt of mastery.

I often come across young students whose dreams are stifled by their parents desire to relive their life through their child, or take the parents’ desire and dreams forward. Sometimes this career aspiration is passed across generations.

Then there are other children whose parents make them so dependent that the basic life skill of simple decision making is completely withheld. These children cannot survive on their own. As young adults these youth purge through their dependency by reacting and indulging in behaviours that are directly opposite to what their parents would ever desire for them and sometimes even harmful to their own self-identity.

Not all children have the courage to react however, and their independence gets stifled into developing a behavioural problem like separation anxiety and depression.

This line of developing independency is one that needs balance. Too much independence at a very young age again is harmful. Leaving children without a structure to fall back on is as harmful as having a rigid structure. When children are pushed to do things on their own they may use this strategy to gain attention when they are not meeting the high standards set for them. Their constant need to standout from others fails to develop close relationships and intimacy with people.

Of course parenting is not easy. But dialogue is. If children can dialogue with the parents without the fear of rejection, then that will teach the child to explore and discover. Gaining independence requires this exploration and discovery but in a frame work of dependability.

If we are to build a healthy society where we respect each other differences and celebrate our commonness then we need our children to realise their dreams. They are our future leaders. They are our teachers, writers, engineers, doctors, architect, bankers, artist, dancers, mental health experts and politicians.

Imagine having an unsatisfied youth population. We are going to get leaders who do not allow us to grow as a nation or nurture our dreams, instead we will have leaders pushing through their own agenda of power and control.

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