Raise your children, don't just finance them

While driving around Washington DC suburbs during the Christmas of 2014, I saw a hoarding that said, “some families don’t raise children, they finance them!”. At first I was amused by the clever play of words, but then the message resonated deep within me. What does raising children or raising a family mean after all? To raise is to bring something to the next level. It requires a lot of mind space, effort and time to do this. It is giving quality and quantity of time to something that will take ourselves, our loved ones and our relationship with them to the next level.

For example, when a small child is throwing a tantrum in a public place, say in a mall, unreasonably demanding a toy. The parent in this situation has two options. Either avoid dealing with the situation because of tiredness or lack of time available to spend with the child and buy the toy to silence the tantrum. Or decide not to give in and face the consequences of even worse tantrums. In the first option, the child gets the toy, the child is happy and the parent is relieved. In the second case, the child throws a bigger tantrum, starts rolling on the floor, starts hitting the parent, banging the head, etc. The parent chooses to deal with the situation, holds her ground and does not give in to the child’s tantrums. After some time, the child gets tired, stops the tantrum and then the parent talks to the child about his behaviour, about why he will not get the toy at this time. It could be any reason – the toy is expensive, the toy is not age appropriate or it is not the right time to buy a toy. When this behaviour is repeated multiple times, the child knows that the tantrum might not work and eventually things start getting easier with parents’ consistent approach. On the other hand, if the child is used to getting most of the demands fulfilled, the tantrums become stronger with each passing day. There is no such thing as, “the child is small, he/ she will not understand”, “after growing up it will change” and the like. Thus “Some families don’t raise children, they just finance them” is indeed a meaningful thought.

Let me share an experience with you. At my day care centre there’s a 4-year old, whose mother came to visit me the other day. She was concerned about her son’s obstinate behaviour and was asking advice on how to correct it. When asked about how she interacts with the child and how she teaches good behaviour, she replied that to take care of the child, she leaves him at day care centre when she is at work and, when she is home, she has 3 maids to keep the child engaged. She assured me that the child was constantly being looked after, cared for and his every wish was granted. During the conversation one could figure that she was not communicating directly with the child enough; she was not giving the child sufficient mind space and relied on others to keep the child engaged. Even when she was at home physically present, she was mostly mentally unavailable and readily agreed to anything the child demanded to keep him from throwing tantrums. In contrast, this incident reminded me of Pepsico CEO Indra Nooyi, a super busy working mother, who despite her busy schedule, managed to maintain a very close connection with her daughters at home through phone and a strong network shat she created to influence the children.

On similar lines, when it comes to dealing with spouse, nothing compares to having long conversations, spending time with each other and getting to know each other at a deeper level. Giving expensive gifts can surely be a cherry on the cake, but not cake itself! Cake must be baked by the chef with the loving ingredients of time, care, mind space and sacrifice; it must be baked patiently with love and care!

Happy raising yourself, family and career!

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