It is extremely important and imperative these days to allow children to follow their instincts. Whether they make good or bad choices, they have to learn to follow their gut. But, how to teach a child what instincts or gut feelings are? It's a tricky terrain that needs to be traversed with care.
Depending on the age of your child, you need to help him/her understand what instincts are. Simplify and explain it in a language that the child will follow. Teach them to recognise them from an age where they understand. I feel parents should talk about this with their children at a young age. It could be anything. For example, we always tell our children not to talk to strangers or take chocolates from them. They do know this. However, it should be accompanied by a talk on learning what a gut feeling or instinct is.
I started talking with my daughter about this when she was five-six years old. I used to tell her, if you are at the park without me or unsupervised if someone comes and talks to you, go with your gut, recognise your instinct, and then react. You need to be smart about it, sense it, and not talk to the stranger and just go your way. That is unless your father and I introduce you to someone. You need to recognise your safe space and circle, which is important in today’s day and age.
When your child is slightly older, s/he may be under peer pressure to have fun outdoors. The first reaction as a parent would probably be to not let your child go, but you know that will only create problems later. Seek details of your child’s escapades and also tell your child that what his/her friend says may not always be the correct thing to do. S/he needs to differentiate the good from the bad by following his/her instincts.
As parents, we are there for our children, but we can’t protect them forever. Don’t get upset with them for making wrong choices, support them. But at the same time train them to acknowledge them and follow their instincts. I also feel parents need to keep communicating with their children and encourage them to ask questions. Never brush their queries under the carpet and always make efforts to provide answers to their queries.
The most crucial thing is for the child to know the difference between right and wrong. Like I said earlier, even if they make a wrong choice, it's okay. Let them fail, fall, and learn; just guide them every step of the way. Parents should talk about behaviour and emotions with their children. The children, in turn, should also be able to gauge when the parent is angry; learn to be intuitive to understand what they did to upset their parents.
At the end of the day, communication is the key. Talk, so that children learn from an early age.
(Riddhima Kapoor Sahni is a jewellery designer, and daughter of veteran actors Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Kapoor)