I've lived in the United States for 30 years and in the past 20, as a Gen X-er myself, I have heard a lot of complaints from Baby Boomers about Millennials.
Each time I hear Millennials being trashed by Baby Boomers, I remember all the talk back from my youth that cultivated a “generation gap.”
Growing up in India, I used to hear the phrase “generation gap” flung around a lot in conversation. Either the older folks complained out loud about their children, or children complained among themselves about their parents.
When kids trash talk about their parents, I can call them ungrateful, but when parents trash talk their kids, I have only one question racing through me: “Who raised them?”
And then I wonder if their relationship with their kids would be more palatable if they had chosen to get a little more creative as parents.
What is creative parenting and how does it help build bonds with children?
Within two weeks of my older son being born, my 3-year-old daughter came to me and said, “I thought you loved me but you don’t love me anymore.”
“Why would you say that?” I asked her.
“If you loved me, why did you go ahead and get another baby? I thought I was your baby forever.”
Yes, my daughter is intelligent and had a lot of words even as a toddler.
“I had another baby because I love you so much,” I told her. “When you grow up like me, your dad and I will be as old as your grandma and grandpa. Old people die, and your dad and I will die too. Just like I have your uncle and aunt as my brother and sister forever, you will have your brother forever to love you.”
“But I have my friends,” she responded.
“Friends move away when their parents move,” I said. “If you fight with a friend they will not be your friend. But, if you fight with your brother, he will still be your brother and love you. At times I fight with my brother and sister but we always love each other.”
She looked hard at me and I let her, then we hugged. “Family first!” I said under my breath.
If you don’t have words, use what you have to bond with your children. Hugs always help.
One of the things that irked me most about my mother was her secrets. She never told us anything about her past.
Slowly but surely, I learned of her past and put the fragments of information together to write a book. To which a client of mine commented, “And that’s how you got back at her.” She was right!
My mother either didn’t want to burden us or trust us to understand her past. But how can one keep secrets from their own family?
Build Trust to Establish A Life-Long Bond
I have never kept secrets from my children. I tell them everything in a way a child understands, with love. I trust them to trust me. This lets them feel safe to share their day with me.
Kids aren't fools. They see and hear so much. So, why not share your stories in a way that your children could get to know you, as their parent and care provider, but also as a professional (if you work for a living) and as a human being?
I wanted my kids to know their mother, in her own words, as interpreted by them. Also, I wanted my successes to be their successes and my failures to be a source of their wisdom, too.
Gratitude and humility are important for a child to grow up into a wholesome global citizen.
Raise Smart And Kind Kids
When my daughter was 5 and her brother was 2 years old, he got into her stuff and she fought back. I told her once, “How would you like it if someone did the same with you?”
She cried for a bit and he went hugged her and said, “Don’t cry!” and she hugged him back.
When he apologized, I said, “Sorry, isn’t good enough. Promise, you’ll never do it again.” And, he did.
I would tell my children, “How smart you are will take you so far in life. How kind you are will take you anywhere in the world and to the end of your life and even later.”
No one should have to choose between being smart and kind. Many smart people on the planet are only focused on themselves. Kind people are what make the world a better place to live in.
Never be embarrassed by your weakness or failure.
In 2001, I lost my job as a six-figure earning software engineer. My ex had taken a one-year sabbatical in 2000, so we were two parents with no jobs and still living the lifestyle we had a few months ago.
My daughter came over with a request as she always did. She was 7. I told her we couldn’t get it for her.
“Why not?” asked.
“Daddy doesn’t have a job for a year, and Mama lost her job last month,” I responded.
She stood still. Her dad quickly said, “Why do you have to say such things?”
“Because kids need to know the truth. There’s no reason to lie.”
She came and hugged me and said, “We are OK, Mama!”
I started a home-based business and hired my three children as my three helpers. They would help me design business cards and design, print, and fold fliers, put them in envelopes, lick stamps, and seal and mail them.
When it came to designing websites, from 2004, my daughter was busy working for me. She took great pride in her work.
My older son would walk with me through neighborhoods and parking lots, handing out fliers and talking to strangers about his mom’s enterprise. At school, he would get his teachers to buy from me.
Each time I opened an office, my children helped me set it up. Each time I closed an office, my children helped me bring it down, and either give things away or bring them home.
It’s easy when you try.
If you look at most ethnic communities, children help out parents at home and in their business. There’s no shame in it. We take pride and stick together. We laugh or cry together.
Think of how everything was when American families lived together and did everything together. First-generation Hispanic and Asian families still live like that to a great extent in America.
Bonding with kids over creative projects doesn't have to be expensive.
Creative parenting doesn’t mean spending money and engaging in hobbies and pastimes. You can get creative with your kids and cook with them, clean the house, and even plant a garden or grow food.
You don't always have to be the go-to person or the solution guy. Let your child come up with the answer instead of always running to you when in crisis.
When they come to you with a situation, do some brainstorming together to come up with a solution, instead of telling them what to do or what not to do.
I believe that when your child’s shoulder reaches your shoulder, do treat them as a friend, when they grow taller than you, treat them like an adult. Give them respect to gain their respect.
Share your troubles with them too and ask them what they think you could do. Kids love telling their parents what to do. Use it. Kids are always smarter than their parents. Taking their advice won’t make you small but will make them feel big.
Kids who have never faced troubles, whether real or imaginary, find it hard in the world when they are on their own. It’s wiser to let your children grow up under your care, and send them off to the world fully prepared.
Doing laundry, filling and carrying grocery bags, and making deposits and withdrawals at the teller and ATM — all these activities can be a fun, creative, and bonding time for you and your child.
Filling jars with money they earn gives them a sense of pride. Each month, whatever money they had left in their jars, I would double it — this taught them savings, which is so much better than spending.
Don’t make them figure out things on their own.
Do things with them, watch them do it from a distance, and then trust them to do the right thing on their own when you're not around.
Instead of raising a child through praise and punishment, teach them with loving firmness, and you will be always right. It’s never too late to get started.
Keya Murthy, M.S., is a Clinical Hypnotherapist and Spiritual Life Coach at Ventura Healing Center. Also, as a #1 International Bestselling Author on Amazon, she has authored The Book On Happiness: How To Have Peace And Stability As A Working Mom for you.