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Compassion and discipline: How to communicate with your child?

  • By Sahana Rajan

By the age of 15, children begin to form their own individual opinions about the world. As parents, what we say are received rightly as opinions, which could be followed or discarded. The ability to look at things from the perspective of your child and then be able to guide him/her is the basis of any parental communication.

Every conversation must presuppose that your child is an individual with his/her likes and dislikes, and you, as a parent, are responsible to ensure that their likes and dislikes are conducive to a pragmatically happy future, and then, to be able to provide him/her ways to fulfill these likes and dislikes. In saying ‘pragmatically happy future,’ it implies a future where your child will be emotionally satisfied and physically well-taken care of.

Every child has his/her own way of seeing the world, and depending on this, they form their decision regarding their ambition. Your child wants to become a singer, while you realize that being a singer is difficult, with an uncertain future. You also acknowledge that this would make your child happy rather than being in a routine job, which he/she would loathe. Therefore, you could guide him/her to become a singer by letting them explore the world of music, with words of encouragement on your part. This would lay the foundation for the child to dream.

To see every dream as a source of happiness for the child and also having the realization yourself that this dream could change as he/she matures, would allow the child to transition into a healthy/mature adult. The child would realize that change is part of life and accept the change. Therefore, allow your child to take their decisions and stand by them, lest something goes wrong and they have someone to hang on to.

Your child likes to smoke and you know that such a habit would hurt his health. How would you communicate this to your child? There are three options: (a) limit his finances to ensure he does not have the money to buy tobacco, (b) inflict physical punishment so that he would not have access to tobacco at all, and (c) guide him through reducing the urge to smoke via medicinal counseling and compassionate communication.

The intended outcome of all these options is to stop your child from smoking. However, the methods to reach the outcome are varied - the first one being passively aggressive, the second one being violent, and the last one being disciplined and compassionate. To know the cause of why he began smoking and how such a habit has been sustained would be the starting point to answer about his habit of smoking. Even though you cut the finances or tried to ground him, the reason/cause for the smoking would still remain in their mind and this may result in him/her shifting from smoking to another form of addiction.

Thus, the main aim in any conversation would be to get to the cause of the habit and thus converse with an emotional intimacy and not purely authority.

The relationship between parents and children is thus shaped through a continuous process of evolving the way in which you communicate - based on compassion and discipline. As your child grows, so must the parent - the form of communication must also evolve to symbolize the growing nature of the child’s thinking. An intricate and continually nurturing relationship between the child and parent will lead to the birth of a beautiful and well-balanced association between them.


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