Our six-year-old son is fond of his “mama”, my brother, who is 30 and lives in the same city. He too loves our son and takes time out for him. The only problem is that he is a bit of an iconoclast and tries to indoctrinate our son too, with statements like “Most teachers are stupid”, “Possessions are pointless” and “Rules are for breaking”. Our son adores his teacher, and is quite possessive of all his toys. But now he just does not know what to do with these ideas. What do we do? We are reluctant to tackle my brother as he will only laugh and call us “establishment”.
Your 30-year-old brother sure has a lot of growing up to do, if I may put it bluntly. He is so full of his iconoclastic notions that he is not able to simply live by them but feels the need to pile them on to the very young mind of your son. You will have to “tackle” him, as you put it, but not as a confrontation — because posturing rebels love confrontations!
Take it easy: Let children discover the world for themselves.
You and your husband need to take him aside and speak to him as you would to a child. Explain to him that you admire his choices and what he does, and value his relationship with your son. However, point out to him that by providing these predigested thought bytes, he is stifling the child and not letting him discover the world for himself. Also, do tell him that everyone has a right to experience the world fully and can only then choose to reject and accept certain things. It is horribly premature to have a six-year-old make those choices when the material world and that of ideas is just opening up to him. By doing this, your brother too is being exactly like the “establishment” that he has rebelled against, isn’t he? Explain to him, kindly, that if he sincerely lives the life he believes in, the child will pick up on some of these things on his own. He does not have to be indoctrinated!
Once you get your brother to see it this way, you may find that he comes to regard his own behaviour as immature and overbearing (and very egocentric, if I may say so).
It’s important that you get this sorted out, because you do value the other things he brings into this relationship with your son.
The sustained presence of loving, responsible and fun adults other than their parents is very important for our kids, especially in our nuclear urban families. When parents have someone willing and happy to be in their child’s life in a sustained fashion, they’ve hit the jackpot, no doubt.
The third adult or godparent brings in different experiences and perspectives, a lighter touch to the sometimes heavy tasks of parenting. He or she provides that intangible and lovely thing for which there is no exact English word: sanskaras (values). But if that person is overeager to mould the child to some pre-planned image, it is godparenting gone a little wrong and parents have a full right (in fact, a duty) to intervene in some way. It’s not easy to tell someone with apparently good intentions — and someone who’s important in your life too — that they’re not doing the right thing for your child. So this would have to be done in a way that doesn’t put off the godparent altogether — some are known to back off in a huff!
Read more insightful suggestions on bringing up children in Gouri Dange’s book ABCs of Parenting (Jaico, Rs175).
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