It is said that children are like soft clay—they become what is molded out of them.
Parents are the sculptors who mold them as they are their first window to the world. Parental behavior is the most potent tool in one’s arsenal to shape the child’s personality and future in the desired manner.
Later, particularly when the child enters the teenage years, parents can see the reflection of their own personality in their children’s behavior, state of mind, and attitude.
Though many qualities of parents are often repeated in their offspring because of heredity, the major mechanism through which parents influence a child’s development is by being role models for them. So it is important to strive to be the best version of that.
I understand that being a role model for my child involves a great deal of self-discipline and thoughtful transformation in my personal qualities and behaviors. What my daughter learns by observing and imitating me turns her into a better person.
For that to happen, I must:
1. Live by the rules I preach: going to bed early, rising early, limiting mobile time and internet binging, respecting elders at home. Only then can I expect the same from my daughter.
2. Learn to win over my hyper-activeness and FOMO (fear of missing out). Enjoy quiet time off and on so that she grows up to be a balanced individual.
3. Learn to handle stress and failures—respond to problems, competition, responsibilities, loss, and mistakes—coolly without allowing emotional outbursts. This is necessary so that she can learn to deal with challenges or conflicts calmly and productively. Getting upset or angry when a problem comes up will teach her to respond in the same way, which is not desirable.
4. Learn to forget and forgive. My behavior toward those who have wronged me must be unbiased and unjudgemental. This will teach her effective ways to heal hurts and mental pain.
5. Learn to be truly independent, which involves doing all chores by myself and thinking and taking decisions with confidence to teach her the meaning of true power gained by independent living.
6. Learn to accept people, particularly those close to me, as they are—love them despite their negative traits. This teaches the meaning of unselfish love.
7. Be firm enough never to trade my self-respect in exchange for even the most tempting treat. This will teach her that one’s self-respect is what counts in life and must be protected at all costs.
8. Learn to bask in the glory of realizing that my milestones are no less than my peers though they may be different. My constraints were different and probably harder than them. This will ensure she is always content, no matter how many more miles she has to tread.
9. Celebrate everyday happenings and appreciate mundane things. This will teach her the miracle that happens when one learns to count the small blessings surrounding us all the time.
10. Learn to admit my mistakes and converse freely on how I can correct them.
This will caution her against making the same mistakes and accept that a person can be good without being perfect.
11. Live the edict of “Karmanye vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana”—the sermon from Bhagavad Gita. This holy Hindu scripture advises us to do our duty without thinking about the results—the way to a worry-free life. Once she sees me practice it, she will imbibe the same effortlessly.
12. Learn to take responsibility for my decisions and live with them without remorse, even when something goes wrong, without blaming others or circumstances. This motto, “the buck stops with me,” will get her into a habit of making informed decisions and give her the courage to live the life she thinks is right.
13. Adopt honesty, integrity, hard work, and above all, persistence and grit in all I do—professional and personal life. This will teach her to cherish these values lifelong.
14. Embrace a habit of doing and learning new things just for the sake of enjoying them. Participating in a competition knowing fully well that I don’t stand a chance to win will teach her to open herself to new experiences, endow her with a positive attitude toward learning, and set her on to a path of lifelong vigor and enrichment.
15. Balance the roles of being a parent and a friend. I must make myself capable of loving her unconditionally in a safe environment but at the same time must provide consistent, firm, and flexible discipline so that she knows what is expected of her.
16. Pay more attention. Listen to her without judgment when she is upset rather than providing advice—and sharing my feelings so that she feels she can share (willingly) with me. It offers me a chance to guide her to the best of my ability.
17. Make little acts of kindness a habit—allowing others to use the bathroom before me, offering to help with carrying grocery bags, filling up a water bottle for others even when I am dead tired. This will teach her to be kind. Charity must begin at home for children to understand its importance and adopt it.
18. Never shy away from fighting rightful battles—for myself and others—but ensure that it is done in a dignified way. This will teach her to stand up for their beliefs even when the majority says otherwise.
19. Master the art of having fun together—seeing a movie, preparing a meal, discussing a TV show, playing sports—without getting bogged down by a list of pending work. After all, work is never-ending, but our together time will someday. This will make wonderful memories for both of us and teach her to live life at the moment.
20. Make taking care of myself (what I eat, how much I exercise, balance my commitments) a priority. And work toward a healthy lifestyle by eating well and exercising regularly. It also involves avoiding negative comments about my and other people’s body. This will make me healthier and send an important message to my daughter about body image and acceptance.
21. Last but not least: learn to age gracefully without cribbing about body aches or reduced importance in a certain sphere of life that old age brings. This will teach her that true beauty lies in the soul and mind and that one must nourish both—good thoughts in addition to applying makeup aimed at keeping the outer skin young.
I may not be able to successfully imbibe all the qualities I listed here. Still, the effort to do so brings along the possibility of self-improvement, growth, and increased insight in me, in addition to enriching the legacy of emotional health and resiliency that I build for my daughter, my community, and my country as a whole.