Polish your shoes- A lesson in parenting

Well if you think this post is about preaching parenting lessons or some enlightening parenting trick, then no that’s not what this is about.

Before we begin, I also want to share one learning from my experience of fifteen years of parenting. You can never be an expert parent. Not even after a lifetime of parenting. You are always a ‘learner’ as a parent! A total novice at every stage of your child’s life. The sooner you accept this fact, the better your parenting game becomes!

This disclaimer is particularly important and relevant in this blog post as this story teaches an important parenting lesson that I learnt from a friend’s dad. In my journey of learning how to be a parent and the struggle that one goes through literally on an hourly basis, striving hard to raise those humans that are your responsibility, this has been the most beautiful and an insightful one.

Years ago, my friend narrated how his father used to ask him to go polish his shoes – every time he felt arrogant or high headed. Or even on instances when he answered back to his parents.

I never got a chance to ask him if he felt grounded after he polished his shoes but how it became a source of great discovery for me was when I had to polish my daughter’s shoes one day in the absence of our staff.

While polishing my children’s shoes, I wondered how my child would feel if I asked to do it herself. So here is my thesis on what a simple act of shoe polishing can teach a child ( and the parent too!)

We are a generation of ‘scared parents’. We are always scared of doing it right, of doing the perfect thing. The food has to always be healthy, the dress has to always be prim, the grades have to always be ‘A’ or even A plus if there is. And the funny part about all this scared-to-death-to-raise-good-children attitude is that we are failing miserably.

As Bette Davis once quoted,

“If you have never been hated by your child, you have never been a parent.”

~Bette Davis

But we are scared to be hated!

After pondering enough I came to the conclusion that it is not the act of polishing shoes that can make one feel small or miserable or in my friend’s case – grounded. It is the reason behind it. Which in this case was a penalty for negative behaviour.

The fact that parents have a right to discipline their children in the way they deem fit, that works for the personality of their child, yet they are scared to do so and look for scientific researches about how to discipline their child, is scary.

Our parents were a generation of brave parents. Not only did they have faith in their methods but they also had the confidence to pick up that shoe and hit if necessary. We don’t need to be that brave!

We just need to be a little less scared.

We are raising a generation of over empowered children and it’s time to pause. Not to go old school and make basic house chores seem like a punishment. That is reinforcing that doing household chores is not a responsibility rather a punishment.

But pause.

And make them polish their own shoes, but not as a reprimand of a particular conduct. But as a habit.

A habit of being self reliant and responsible towards one’s household. When we teach children to be responsible for their own jobs, they learn to be responsible towards their household. In turn, being responsible towards their community.

With this beautiful realisation, I handed over the polish and shoes to my daughter.

To my surprise, she excitedly took up the job.

That’s when I learned a new lesson. The best place to look for parenting advice is with your child.

Every child and parent combination works differently. Our families are basically a different combination of personalities. What works best for me doesn’t work at all for someone else.

So stop being scared and hand them that brush anyway!

Be brave and have confidence in your child. They will teach you everything you need to do to raise them right.



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