Parenting: Is slapping your child OK?

In India, we grew up hearing the tenet, “Do your work and don’t worry about the result”. It comes from the revered Bhagvad Gita. And falls right in the ambit of Karma — a philosophy that every action you take will come full circle.  Therefore, when it comes to something as important as parenting, your karma matters a lot. Why does it matter so much though, and why is it so difficult at times? As parents, it’s our responsibility that we nurture our kids in a way that adds value to their lives and to the world. 

If absolutely needed, do I use that stick to accomplish my responsibility? “Spare the stick and spoil the child” that’s what Dad used to quip whenever he saw an unruly child. We moved to the US a few years back and are not comfortable acknowledging that we have slapped our kids a few times. The US categorises any such discipline as abuse and it is unacceptable here. We can talk about it only with Indian folks.

Kids can ask questions that really stun you. It’s so difficult to answer certain questions like “Why did you give birth to me?”. I am happy they ask. You can’t say “My bad!” and walk away. At that moment you have to adopt the role of a preacher. So I answer with “Yeah, that’s how societies are built for many many years now. We continue to have generations after generations. And it’s important to have families”. If they say “What’s the use of my life?”, I continue with, “There is so much you can do in your life. It’s this ONE time opportunity completely at your disposal.” And maybe then, I close it by saying “If you want, you can ask your child when you have one.” Nothing but the last sentence silences them for some days.

This also brings up another question — What’s the outcome of successful parenting? Are we successful parents if our kids go to a good college, get a decent job, earn well? I don’t think so. That’s just one aspect of it. That’s only measuring their professional success. So then, when should parenting be considered successful? I guess it’s when my kid holds a clear conscience, is open to discuss everything with me without prejudice and fear of criticism. That’s when I would believe I have been successful at my parenting.

So, back to the predicament. Which parenting style should one prefer? Stick or No Stick? I guess the best thing is – to have an abundance of unconditional love. Everything else will fall in place. “Unconditional” comes from the teachings of Gita. Residing in this country, far from our country of origin, my kids have been chanting from the Gita every day for a few years now. As they say, “Absence makes the heart grow stronger.” And that’s exactly what happens once you move away from your roots. It might take a few months or even years, but someday, you will start to miss loved ones back home. You will begin to appreciate your people, places and culture more than ever before. So today, I am borrowing from Indian Culture’s vast ocean of wisdom and making my humble efforts to be a good parent.