For the love of our children

The teen years are always going to be difficult but they need not be impossible.

Juggun Kazim August 18, 2013
The writer is an actor, an anchor and a model. She is currently the host of “Morning with Juggun” on PTV Home and can be reached via twitter @JuggunKazim

My son, Hamza, is seven-and-a-half-years-old. Because I had no real interaction with children before he was born, parenting was especially difficult for me.

I tried very hard to see if there was a formula for raising a functional, respectful happy child: I read many how-to books, talked to my friends in Canada and Pakistan, and, of course, my mother. But there were so many schools of thought out there that by the end, I was more confused than when I had started out. So, I decided to look into my own childhood to find the answers.

I grew up as a classic problem child. I listened to no one, had huge authority issues, wanted freedom of every sort and as the cherry on top, flat out refused to study.

My poor mother went crazy trying to control my madness and couldn’t understand why I was so difficult. My sister was and still is the perfect daughter — polite, respectful, intelligent and diplomatic. My brother is very much the same. I, however, was a wild child, till I went off to Canada at the age of 17.

The one thing that made a difference for me was when the people around me encouraged my ideas. My professors and counselors told me that I was smart, creative and responsible. Even if I actually wasn’t, I was made to believe it. I therefore started to work towards proving it.

What my experience taught me is not only that older kids have very different needs from younger kids, but that society tends to treat them in the wrong way. We are told to mollycoddle younger children and to reason with older kids. We need to do the opposite: to talk logically with younger kids and to give unconditional love and support to older ones.

After children learn to talk, but while they are still under the age of 10, what they need is not cuddling; they need answers. Children want to make sense of their world. That is why they have questions like, “where did I come from?” or “where do people go when they die?” We tend to avoid these questions, either by yelling at our kids or by changing the subject, but those questions are very important to the child. By comparison, the cuddling, the cooing and the baby talk are much more our needs, than theirs.

Let me ask another question: what is the point of kissing a sleeping child? After all, he will never know. Kissing him is only satisfying our own need for affection.  Instead, as someone very wise once told me, “Never kiss a sleeping child. Every time you kiss your child they should be fully conscious of it so that both the parent and child reap the benefits of that act.” And ever since I got that advice, I’ve always tried to be conscious of what I’m doing and what my son gains from it. He deserves to be shown that I love him when he is awake and attentive, not when he’s sleeping.

When the terrible teens kick in, we stop giving our children unconditional love and instead try to establish our authority, either through arguments or through discipline. The problem is that arguing with a teenager is like shouting at the deaf. The teen years are a terrible time for the most secure of young people. Their hormones are going crazy and there are body and facial changes to deal with, let alone a whole new realm of social awkwardness caused by the opposite sex.

At this stage, what teens really need is a hug and a cuddle; to be told constantly, “I love you” and, “I am proud of you”. Yet, we tend to do the opposite of this because that’s what we have seen other parents do.

Obviously, parenting can’t be broken down to a simple formula. But if a child is treated like a thinking person from a young age, then chances are that the child will be naturally inclined to listen. And because that child will have been respected by his parents, he will, in turn, respect his parents and keep communication open with them.

The teen years are always going to be difficult but they need not be impossible. What teens need is to know that ‘mama’ and ‘baba’ love them and that they will be proud of them, no matter what. There is no replacement for the confidence a child develops from his parent’s love and faith in him.

My son is only seven right now so I have a few years to go before he hits the problem years. Obviously, I worry about how he will turn out. But while I may not know what works for sure, my theory is one that seems logical to me. And as someone who was a problem child herself, I certainly know what doesn’t work.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th, 2013.

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Sarwat AJ | 10 years ago | Reply

Dear juggun, u r right. Parenting can not be broken down into a simple formula. And our own childhood experiences help a long way in understanding the kids. It really means a lot to bring up a positively oriented child.

Rakhshanda | 10 years ago | Reply

I'm sorry but this article is ridiculous. Answering children's questions and cuddling them should not be an either/or situation. Why shouldn't parents do both? At any age? I won't even start on the 'don't kiss your child when he/she is asleep'. ET, your standards continue to drop. If you must print such articles I suggest you start a parenting blog section. The quality of writing and ideas contained in this piece to not merit space in the Opinion section. Thanks.

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