Tuesday, January 13, 2015

What are we teaching our children?

A long time goal of mine has been to be non-judgmental of other parents and parenting techniques, and I dare say I have made reasonable progress in this area. The most common example is the child throwing a tantrum in a supermarket or mall, which of course is a whole lot easier to not judge once it has happened to you ;). In many other situations, I try to ask questions in my head such as "What are the challenges the parent might be facing" rather than quickly forming a judgement. I have always maintained though, that when someone's parenting affects my child in some way, I find it tough to not question it :P.

Conversation between me and S this morning:

S: Does eating non-veg make your mouth smell bad?

Me: (A bit shocked at first but realizing there must be more to this) Not at all! As long as you rinse your mouth properly, and brush well when you're supposed to, your mouth would smell just fine. Why do you ask me though?

S: My friends at school keep telling me and A (the only other non-veggie) that our mouths would smell bad because we eat non-veg. They are all vegetarians no (in a very wise aside), that's why.

Me: Repeating the above answer with emphasis, and hoping he'll stand up for himself more strongly the next time. Also couldn't resist mentioning that a vegetarian's mouth could smell worse if he doesn't follow basic hygiene.

In my understanding, a child would not make a statement like that unless he has heard something similar from other adults or his own parents. If not the exact same words, definitely that eating non-veg is dirty etc. As someone who was born a veggie, this is a weird situation for me to be faced with because I do understand where they are coming from. It was probably because of the way the subject was treated in my household (I knew it was not traditional, but not a crime either) that I could adapt to different food choices as I grew older.

On a larger scale though, I wonder if it's not possible to bring up children to be sensitive to the choices of others, however different and unexpected they might be. Whenever I get a chance to put across something like this in a conversation with my kids, I try to ensure this. Do you?

14 comments:

  1. This is so unfortunate. Parents often, for their convenience, take the route of such untruths without bothering to help children appreciate differences. It would be harder to say 'we don't eat meat but some people do and it's right for each of us'. That would take more explaining and would encourage the 'whys' so this is just an easy way out. They do not realise that they are encouraging a 'we are right' and 'they are wrong' approach which is the basis for so many many problems in life later on. Coming from a family where some of us are vegetarians and some are non-vegetarians it was relatively easy for me to let them be and not push it either way.

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    1. Thanks so much Tulika. Yes, that is what drives me a wee bit crazy sometimes. But the truth is that we can really only mould our own kids, to be polite and to be able to stand up to such situations as well. So fingers crossed and all the best to us :) !

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  2. Spot on, Aparna. I think as a society, we're somehow becoming more intolerant that we should be. And yes, kids often pick it up from adults. So something is wrong in their upbringing. My wife is a vegetarian and me, well although mostly a vegetarian but I do enjoy my meat too. However with our little one, we've decided to raise him as a vegetarian for now and let him make his choice when he's old enough to decide what he wants to follow. Apologies - I went off in a tangent :)

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    1. That was no tangent Sid, and thanks for understanding where I was coming from even with being a predominantly veggie family :).

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  3. So true Aparna. It's horrendous the judmental and insensitive behavirour being passed onto kids these days. And even if it is not learned it is the parents job to correct the kids wrong opinions by teaching them to be sensitive to others thoughts and needs.

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    1. Thanks so much for dropping in Adisha :). My fingers are crossed that folks like whom I have ranted here are in a minority.

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  4. As already discussed, sensitisation is key here. I am a vegetarian but I respect everyone's choices be it food, parenting, religious inclination, you get my drift. There really isn't much you can do about another kid, but you can sensitise your own and I think that is important here. At the same time, you can instruct them to stand up for what they believe in, a tricky thing given S's age. But, knowing you, you will do a great job of it :)

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    1. Thanks for the kind words Shailaja :). Yes, respect has to be there above all even if you don't understand the other's choices. Hopefully, enough of us are going to do it right!

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  5. I think it is important to raise informed kids that are tolerant, understanding, and accepting of others, their cultures, and their lifestyles. We are all different, but yet all the same. We must have compassion and live our lives with acceptance and love instead of ridicule and censure.

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    1. Nail on the head Kathy :). Sounds like we're hoping for too ideal a world, but I'm sure some of us can make a difference. Thanks so much for dropping in!

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  6. I think it's great that you are teaching your children to be open-minded towards others's viewpoints. It will help them to formulate their own choices and decisions while respecting those of others. :) <3

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    1. Thanks so much Elly, I am so glad to know that the post struck a chord with you.

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  7. Yes, I completely agree with you, Aparna. I think kids mouth what they hear from the mouth of their parents. I was brought up by veg parents. But my mother insisted that the scrawny us eat meat and cooked herself for us. I was a reluctant non veg who gave up meat for a decade. I began re-eating later. My mil is veggie and so is my sil. And there are times when they make extremely discriminatory comments. It is quite sad. I do tell my kids that it is their choice. But yes at school, sometimes they are picked on for taking egg. The school has a new policy -- send only veg food. So, I guess, I can understand where your child's experience is coming from.

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    1. Thanks for dropping in and for commenting Rachna :). Yes, it is tough to sensitize children in a world surrounded by folks who can be judgmental!

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