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Parents don’t think much of it when we say, you can have ice cream only if you finish your vegetables. What are we really teaching our kids?
Finish your homework or I will not let you watch TV.
Eat the greens else no ice cream for dessert.
If you score well in exams that I- pad is yours.
If you keep throwing tantrums like this we will send you to boarding school.
My daughter is 9 now and innumerable times I have been guilty of using this tactics to get results out of her.
When repeated nagging does not work emotional blackmailing is what most parents resort to as a shortcut to discipline. We start using it for something as trivial as forcing them to go to bed, or as important as scoring well in exams. Though it is effective in the short run we often tend to ignore the long term effects it can have on our child.
We tend to forget very early on we are sowing the seeds of corruption in our kids. We are setting examples that bribing is fine. We are teaching them that it is OK to blackmail others to get our work done.
Emotional blackmailing most times makes the child adamant. Repeated blackmailing can curb their own decision making.
It also dilutes the whole purpose of discipline. Kids do not understand the real essence of the task they are asked to do, and instead develop an aversion for the same since they are blackmailed into it.
One day we had some guests over for lunch and their 5 year old child refused palak paneer. My daughter, pointing her index finger at her, said, ”You are not getting the dessert afterwards.”
I was embarrassed, and thought of later having a dialogue with her. When I tried asking her why she had misbehaved during lunch she said, “But that is how it is, there are conditions always. Isn’t it Mumma?”
I realized the what a parenting blunder I have been doing all these days. Eating vegetable had become conditional for her, not that she realized the positives of it.
Corruption, bribery, blackmailing are the last things any parent would want to inculcate in their child. This is exactly what I have been doing all these days.
Freedom of choice and independenceis what I wanted for my child and I was doing just the opposite.
Well! What are the alternatives to Emotional Blackmailing?
I have been struggling with it and sometimes I lose the patience and do fall prey to it again. But I avoid it as much as possible. I try to be more patient, I listen to her and ask her for alternatives. It doesn’t work all the time. But I know that at least I am doing the basics right. I am not compromising with the values that I want to pass on to her.
She has a long life ahead and would face many challenges. But now she would know “Not everything in life is conditional”. At least not vegetables with ice cream.
A version of this was first published here.
Image source: pixabay
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