How To Raise A Teenage Daughter With A Healthy Self-esteem

The father and daughter relationship plays a significant role in how successful the daughter will be as a teenager and an adult.

“I am not interested in talking to people. I like to be alone.”

“I don’t want to learn Karate. It is too hard.”

“I don’t want to compere for the school’s annual day.”

“I am ugly.”

Does this sound like your teenage daughter? 

As a mother, you might have dismissed her fears and self-doubt as normal. You may have even labelled her as ‘shy’ or ‘scared’ or ‘uninterested’ or ‘vain’ or ‘fussy’ or simply ‘impossible.’ 

Your teen daughter may or may not be all those labels you gave her. Or she might be dealing with issues of low self-esteem typical of so many other teen girls her age.

Most teenage girls’ self-esteem indeed plummets during puberty. Your spirited 7-year-old daughter, who was roaring with confidence, is now a mellowed-down teen, much like a wounded tigress who stands defeated in a big jungle battle. 

Such seemingly innocent statements as the above will eventually lead your daughter to doubt her actions and capabilities. If left unchecked, it will slowly but surely turn into low self-esteem. Unfortunately, these negative thought patterns will keep resurfacing and haunting her well into her adulthood.

Self-esteem is a major determinant of success in life – be it personal or professional. It is defined by how you evaluate your value and worth. How you feel about yourself is reflected through your behaviour, words, and actions.

Are you paying attention to your teen daughter? 

A teenage girl with high self-esteem is usually independent, takes on responsibilities and challenges readily, tolerates frustration fairly well, handles emotions maturely, and always helps others. 

On the other hand, a teenage girl with low self-esteem does the drastic opposite. She shies away from challenges and responsibilities, blames others for their failures, pretends to be emotionally strong and indifferent, self-deprecates their worth and talents, feels neglected and unloved, and cannot tolerate even the slightest frustration easily susceptible to peer pressure and influence.

Your teenage daughter may fall anywhere in this spectrum of high and low self-esteem. Where do you think she lies at this point in time? 

The Surprising Secret To Build Your Teenage Daughter’s Self Esteem

There have been increasing research studies to prove the connection between a healthy father and daughter relationship and your teenage girl’s self-esteem.

In our society, the spotlight has always been on mothers and their undisputed supremacy in parenting. And rightly so because the entire burden of parenting has always fallen upon women! But this haloed spotlight is unfair to both the mother and the child, and it comes at the critical cost of the father’s role in parenting. 

There is a largely prevalent misconception that the role of a father is a non-issue. And that his absence from his children’s life is completely justified, especially for his daughters.

Dr. Linda Nielsen, an adolescent psychologist and author of ‘Between Fathers and Daughters,’ has been studying father-and-daughter relationships for more than 15 years. She says, 

“It is the society that sends the message that mothers are ideal for raising daughters and fathers should focus on their sons. In comparison, the father-daughter relationship is viewed as secondary to the mother-daughter relationship. The father-son relationship is universally seen as important, where the boy needs his father as a positive role-model as he grows into a man. But his relationship with his daughter is just not viewed as important as with his son.”

At the same time, it is also true that today’s fathers are more ‘hands-on’ than ever before in their daughter’s lives. Be it changing her diapers, brushing her hair into pigtails, pushing her in the pram, teaching her to swim or play basketball!  

However, once his daughter attains puberty, it is the mother’s turf now. Unfortunately, many fathers make the crucial mistake of backing off after their daughter’s puberty, failing to realise that it is in the adolescent stage that they are most needed in their daughter’s life.

How a father has the greatest impact on his daughter’s success

Several scientific studies have proven that the father’s active role in his teenage daughter’s life affects how her nervous system is wired. 

A father’s presence significantly contributes to his daughter’s overall health – physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual.

Here are specific areas in which a father majorly impacts his teenage girl’s life. 

1. Self-Image

When your daughter sees that her father treats you and all the women in his life with respect, love, pride, and joy, he is essentially teaching her to perceive her self-image in a similarly positive way. They see their mirror image in their father’s eyes. Loving, respectful, and supportive husbands subconsciously and automatically reinforce their daughters’ self-worth as a woman.

2. Body Image

Different from self-esteem, body image is how we view ourselves physically.

Dr. Margo Maine, a clinical psychologist and author of the book ‘Father Hunger: Fathers, Daughters and the Pursuit of Thinness’ clarifies- 

“Daughters of fathers who are emotionally distant are more likely to struggle with issues around food and weight.” 

Usually, fathers are uncomfortable talking to their daughters about anything related to their bodies, leave alone discussing body image. As a result, most fathers feel incompetent and inadequate talking about the subject. But fathers must break that mental block and approach this subject fearlessly and normally. 

It is a good idea for you to pitch in at the start to support and guide your husband. You can tell your husband to avoid commenting negatively about you, your daughters, or other women. Make it a family norm to avoid references such as ‘that fat woman’ or any form of body shaming. More importantly, pay attention and bring to his notice the way your husband views and talks about his body.

3. Behavioural and social traits

Teenage daughters of loving and appreciative fathers exhibit positive behavioural traits. They usually grow up to be well-adjusted, balanced, and confident women. On the other hand, women who take the path of depression, substance abuse, and psychological problems may be the possible outcome of negligent fathers.

Studies have proven that daughters who communicate regularly with their fathers in a healthy, positive way are freely able to articulate and express their thoughts, feelings, and emotions with others as well. In addition, they can communicate socially with both men and women with equal adeptness and ease with no fear or hesitation. 

4. Love and relationships

Adolescent psychologist Dr. Linda Nielsen says, 

“The quality of a daughter’s relationship with her father is always affecting her relationships with men – either in good ways or in bad ways. When a woman doesn’t trust men, can’t maintain an ongoing relationship, doesn’t know how to communicate, or is co-dependent, this is probably because her relationship with her father lacked trust and/or communication.”

Your daughter would seek qualities of mutual love and respect in her own relationships if her parents shared a similar bond. Fathers set the tone for their daughter’s relationships with all the other men in her life – friends, colleagues, lovers, spouse, etc. It helps her gauge her relationships with men, including the platonic kind, the healthy boundaries to maintain, how she views men and expects to be treated by them.

5. Academic and professional excellence

Daughters with a strong bond with their fathers score higher in complex subjects such as advanced math and science and excel overall in academics. In addition, their academic confidence and self-motivation levels tend to be usually high.

Women who have broken the glass ceiling barriers and are in top leadership and management positions across the industry, academia, or are top performers in sports give credit to their father’s role in their success story. They cite their fathers for having been their mentors, raising them to be tough and assertive individuals who can sustain and thrive in a highly competitive environment.

Top tips for fathers to improve the bond with their teen daughter

One of the most common traditional fathering styles is the ‘authoritative parenting.’ Think of one of the popular Hindi father and daughter songs Baapu sehat ke liye tu to hanikarak hai from Dangal film. This fathering style is loving and warm yet comes with strict accountability to authority, rules, and responsibility. 

But, fathers make the most effective parents when they share a close relationship with their daughters, evolving and maturing with time. Yet maintains that delicate balance of setting appropriate rules and granting the power of freedom that comes with responsibility.

An involved father playing a central part in his daughter’s life is important for her self-esteem as she grows up. Here’s how the father of daughters can get involved in their adolescent lives for their wellbeing and success. 

1. Show up and listen without judgement 

Get involved in your teenager’s life right now. 

Don’t pass the responsibility to her mother all the time. Your daughter needs to know that you are present in her little big achievements – her school performances, parent-teacher meetings, or sports events. 

You can make a huge difference by doing something as simple as showing up. Give her the opportunity to ‘show off’ to you when you ‘show up’ for her. Let her bare her soul to you whenever she falters to move on. 

The act of listening to your daughter is priceless. Practise the art of active listening without voicing your opinions and judgements. 

Your teen girl needs to feel that she can trust you with her problems, and you will understand and empathise with her. Doing so will help her trust her gut, build her self-awareness and raise her confidence.

2. Find and encourage her mojo

Give your teenager the freedom to explore, experiment, enjoy whatever she gravitates towards in life—her mojo. 

What is your teenager naturally drawn towards? 

What is her mojo that keeps her truly happy, passionate, and satisfied?

As fathers, you can help your daughter find her mojo and explore avenues to help her utilise her natural gifts. It will tremendously boost her self-esteem and confidence. It is crucial for your daughter that you, her father, acknowledge her interests and passion. Else, she might start doubting her own strengths, talents, and abilities.

3. Words are her building blocks

Your teenage girl is graduating into a young woman. Her self-esteem is fragile at this stage.

The words you speak to your daughter leave a powerful and lasting impact on them.

Your words are a reflection of your beliefs about them. What you believe about your daughter shows up in what you say to them and about them. Your daughter internalises everything that you say and starts to believe it. 

Use your words wisely to make and not break them. Choose positive words of love, encouragement, and inspiration. Make sure you look into her eyes and mean all those wonderful things you say to her. Remember, your daughter sees her self-worth in your eyes.

4. Love her for who she is and not what she achieves 

It is vital to your teenage daughter that you, her father, love her for the person she is and not for her achievements. 

The last thing you want is for her to constantly achieve as it’s the only way to receive your love and attention. Irrespective of her achievements in life, she needs to feel valued and loved for the person she is.

While it does mean a lot to your daughter that you appreciate her hard work and performance, it means a lot more to her when you focus on the character traits that stitch her personality. 

Praise and love her for her honesty, kindness, congeniality, courage, or ethics. And, she will surely grow up to be a self-assured and resilient person irrespective of the ‘ups and downs’ in life.

5. Push her out of her comfort zone

A girl’s brain is physiologically different from a boy’s when it comes to risk-taking and the fear of failure.

As fathers, you can do your teenage girl a whole lot of good by constantly challenging her to come out of her comfort zone. Primarily through her childhood and teen years because that is when her brain is the most elastic.

Again, a guy thing, men’s interaction style is usually to do something together. This typical quality comes in handy when spending some quality shared time with your teen girl. 

Find activities that both of you are interested in. The chances are that the two of you will share many similar interests and likes. 

Here is your chance make exclusive dad-daughter memories. Research proves that teen girls who share regular activities with their fathers exhibit higher levels of self-esteem than those who don’t. So dads, listen to music, dance together, go on a fun date, hike, swim, and cook. Your daughter will look forward to your time together with eager anticipation.

Make her ‘Daddy’s strong girl.’

‘Daddy’s little girl’ might sound cutesy. But in reality, overprotecting and treating your daughter like a delicate flower isn’t helping – rather hurting her. Resist the temptation to be her’ knight in shining armour’ each time she falls.

This might sound like a stereotype, but men usually like to be the problem solvers. Resist your manly urge and let your daughter take charge of her problems. Encourage her by asking her how she would resolve her problems and let her figure out possible solutions after weighing the pros and cons. 

Teach her to change a car tire, make her financially literate and wise, encourage her to be physically fit and mentally strong, educate her about the dangers of the real world, including sex offenders. 

The good news is that this persistent challenge to push her limits will completely rewire her brain structure, enabling her to take more risks later on in life. So, your daughter will confidently take up challenges and risks without the fear of failure. 

6. Let her know it’s okay to be the ‘angry young woman’

Dr. Linda Nielsen, an adolescent psychologist and author, insists that it’s high time to dispel the stereotype that women should avoid confrontation at all costs. 

Her advice for young girls? 

“To accept and embrace their anger and assertiveness.”

She says, 

“While this does not mean indulging her temper, it’s important that when there is conflict, a father engages with his daughter, instead of allowing the mother to step in as an intermediary. A girl has to be really comfortable expressing her anger and being assertive. If she can’t do it with her dad, she won’t be able to do it with a male boss, boyfriend, and others who are all the way down the line. A father needs to ‘receive’ her anger and assertiveness rather than punish her for it. He can also compliment her for expressing herself honestly and assertively.”

Fathers, don’t raise your teenage girl to be a passive ‘pleaser’. Also, enrolling your adolescent daughter in sports is a wise decision as it will teach her the quality of assertiveness.

7. Make her media literate

Media and technology are a double-edged sword, and our children are born into the technological age. 

Several studies have shown how social media causes severe depression, low self-esteem, and body image issues in teen girls. The constant pressure to look happy, strong, sexy, hot, intelligent, independent, in short, ‘look perfect’ breeds a lot of insecurity and anxiety in teenagers. 

The way women are projected in the media doesn’t help build the self-esteem of young teen girls either. That is why it is essential to make your teenager media literate. 

You can do this simply by watching TV shows and movies with her, having discussions around them, making her prudent to know the difference between right and wrong. Help her to be a good critic in decoding and filtering media messages. Expose the unrealistic standards of beauty as portrayed in the media, as well as the rampant sexism.

According to Jean Kilbourne, author, and motivational speaker, 

“The media, in particular the Western, sends girls harmful messages about beauty and the value of women. There is so much peer pressure on young teenage girls to have that perfect body, and it is so easy for many of them to feel insecure.” 

8. Celebrate her mind

Let your daughter know that you see her beauty inside out. Let her be aware that you see her intelligence, skills, talents, passion, character apart from being just a pretty face. 

Encourage her to get into the habit of reading. Start with a few minutes a day and gradually increase the time spent reading. Take an interest in her academic learning. Have thought-provoking conversations and discussions around current world affairs, science, and technology, challenge her to solve puzzles and complex math problems, and play a chess game together.

9. Model a loving relationship 

The best thing a man can do for his children is to love their mother. Fathers, model a respectful and loving relationship with your wife as your daughter will expect to be treated the same way in all her relationships. 

Also, show your teenager that equality between men and women in a relationship must be the norm and not the exception. 

Refrain from any sexist jokes about husband-wife relationships, mother-in-law caricaturing, etc., as it sends a wrong message to young, impressionable minds.

Dr. Linda Nielsen says, 

“A father can help his daughter build strong relationships in the future by teaching her to be herself. And not change like a chameleon to try to suit the man she’s with.”

10. Talk about sex and sexuality

As a father, you can demystify the male mind and talk about boys to your curious daughter. You can tell her just how awkward adolescence is for teenage boys, and everyone has their self-doubts, issues, and the emotional need for healthy relationships. 

It is important to teach her to respect her body, resisting peer pressure, maintaining her dignity, understanding boundaries, the significance of consent, trust, and fidelity in relationships.

11. Embrace vulnerability

In many cultures, men shedding tears is considered a sign of weakness. Real men don’t cry! 

But this comes in the way of the father-daughter bond. Especially when she is going through a rough patch and is highly sensitive and vulnerable, do not bother about societal dictums. 

Go ahead and show your vulnerable side to your daughter. Let her see the ‘real’ you. There is no shame in showing your weakness and faults. Life is not perfect, and so aren’t you. Doing so will bring you both closer and make your bond stronger.

According to Santiago Trabolsi, a psychologist, life coach, and dad, 

“When you as a father show your own weakness, it gives permission for your daughter to accept her weaknesses. This emotional connection generates warmth, empathy and honest communication between the two of you.”

12. Don’t hold back those hugs and kisses 

Just because your young girl is now a teenager, it doesn’t mean you cannot touch, hug and kiss her as you usually did from the moment she was born. 

Studies prove that such physical reminders of love aid considerably in building her self-esteem. Adolescent psychologist Dr. Linda Nielsen weighs in, 

“Fathers have been told by society that it is inappropriate for them to hug their daughters once they start to mature sexually — past the age of 12 or so. He should ignore this training and give her big bear hugs when he feels like it. It’s important because it’s just one more way of showing her that he is not uncomfortable with her growing up, with her becoming a sexual person or with her maturing body.”

Give her thoughtful gifts. It could be anything, even a handwritten letter expressing your love and support like Prakash Padukone’s loving letter to his daughter Deepika Padukone.

Let her be

Let your special dad-daughter moments add to building confidence in your teenager, who will grow up to be a strong woman. As for mothers, encourage more father-daughter time and honour the importance of a father’s role, perspective, wisdom, and patience.

Finally, please remember that every individual is unique and will respond at their own pace. Be patient with your teenager and give them all the time and space to be comfortable to accept, bloom and flourish in this new phase of life. 

Ensure both of you, her parents, are always there for her, keeping the channels of communication open. It is only a matter of time then for your teenage girl to be flying high with her newfound sense of freedom, confidence, and a high level of self-esteem.

In conclusion, I leave you this informational video by Dr. Meg Meeker, renowned psychologist (and one of my personal favourites) titled ‘Good dads — the real game changers.’ 

My 2020 Year in Review

If you’ve been following my blog, you’d know that I usually pen my yearly reflections. My word of the year for 2020 was ‘Gratitude,’ and the decade was ‘Kindness.’ Looking back now, I can’t help but wonder how apt these words were and have held me high during the pandemic times.

First, let’s check out my 2020 reflection and goals post and see how I fared at the end of the year. 

Read: It didn’t happen with the pandemic. Living in a joint family, where you’re responsible for three generations, alongside a full-time job, and pursuing creative writing on the side, the reading took a backseat. I didn’t have the luxury and privilege of time to sit quietly and read as much as I had planned initially. But I read, and I’m happy with the count given my situation. 

Write and explore different genres: I did reasonably well on this front, I think. I wrote a short story in the horror genre for the first time and surprisingly had a blast. I reworked entirely on ‘Bhumi: A Collection of Short Stories,’ and gave it a complete makeover in its 1st-anniversary edition. I wrote a short thriller story, albeit in a rush. While I penned a decent thriller in a short time, that incident taught me not to rush and submit anything to fit deadlines. Write when it’s comfortable for you and submit until you’re entirely satisfied. I penned a few poems amid the pandemic, and I’m happy with my work there. I continued to blog and write on varied topics from politics, society, gender, and culture. 

Self-care: This went for a complete toss. I put myself at the end of my list of priorities. I’ve gained the weight I’ve lost in the last year. But I’m okay with my corona weight. The pandemic year has been tough and challenging. I have started to work on my body, take myself a bit more seriously, and love myself more in the last few months of 2020. I promise to love myself in 2021 and give my body, mind, and soul the care and respect it deserves. 

Love & Relationships: If there’s one thing that was great in 2020, it was the time spent with family. There were rough times, and good times, but we were together cruising through them all. I’ll be grateful that I have a family to count on in these times. I became an aunt to the cutest twin girls born in Feb this year. Spending time with the babies was a huge stress-buster. And connecting with friends here, especially in the US over chatty phone-calls like the good old times. There was no rush to get up in the morning, and prep the kid to school, or go to the workplace. The different time-zones didn’t matter. It was yesterday once more! The downside was that it made me miss living abroad so bad.

Travel: Hah, you must be joking! 

Career: Apart from family, this aspect of life wholly consumed me. It’s good that there was stability on that front, and I had a pipeline of freelance projects, as well. There was learning of new technologies, and it was an exciting and satisfying year given the volatile employment situation. Never mind, more than half the year was spent working in my PJs, and multitasking – cooking, work calls, tasks, and helping the kid with her school work. I’ve learnt now to dress for work at home too. I have 3-4 uniform codes at home now – My night PJs, my kitchen rags for cookings, work wear, and exercise wear. The multitasking never ends. I was switching between cooking and attending a zoom call this morning. Looks like this is the new normal.

Speak: I took baby steps on this front, and I’m happy with the slow progress. I started the ‘Writing Tip of the Day’ video series on social media, conducted some social media and blogging related workshops online.

Cook: Who knew we’d have a pandemic this year, which would force us to stay indoors and cook like there’s no tomorrow. Of course, I experimented and cooked a lot this year. Most of my 2020 was spent in the kitchen. It peaked during the holiday season.

Home sweet home: We have started renovating our home this year, starting with our daughter’s room, which has turned out better than we had imagined. The renovation will continue in 2021 as we move on to the other areas of our home. 

Spirituality: This aspect has been my sanity keeper. I don’t know what I would have done without a prayer or meditation. At the end of it all, we are born from dust and will go back to dust. That’s our true worth. Spirituality keeps me grounded and gives me a reality check on what truly matters at the end of the day. Those moments of quiet reflection, meditation, family prayer time, and listening to soothing music have worked like magic on a weary body, soul, and mind. Materialism and spirituality don’t mix for me. It’s why I don’t buy the prosperity gospel preachers or abundance life coaches. There is nothing wrong with failure, poverty or even negative emotions such as anger, anxiety, and sadness. Scarcity is proven to fuel innovation and creativity. One can’t stay positive all the time. There is nothing wrong in being realistic and even negative or cynical at times. It’s natural human tendency to feel every kind of emotion, and go through all kinds of experiences. As my mum says, “Everything in moderation is good.” My spiritual goals are inner peace and wisdom and not tied to material prosperity/wealth, status, fame, and other worldly pursuits. The material aspects of my life were nonetheless good this year, and I’m grateful for that; but that’s not what defines me, or my identity and character.

My 2020 learnings 

I know this has been a joke ever since our Prime Minister first mentioned it. But, I think if there’s anything I’ve learned from 2020, it has been survival, self-reliance, and independence. Aatmanirbharta! 

While I’ve always practiced minimalism in my lifestyle over the last few years, this has extended to my outlook as well. ‘Less is more’ in all aspects of life. ‘Quality over quantity,’ and you don’t need to impress or chase anyone. Be you, and those who were yours will always stay beside you. For that matter, there’s nothing to chase. What’s yours and due to you, will make its way to you.

I’d vowed to be kind to everyone, including my foes, at the start of the year. And I’m happy, and even proud, that I conducted myself with immense grace and dignity on that front. Even when provoked to the hilt, I’ve stayed calm and stoic while holding my ground. I intend to continue with this behaviour. Forgiveness is a rare trait, and it’s good to strive and be a higher version of yourself. 

I’ve also learned from the elders and youngsters in my family. I plan to open my mind and heart, learn the best traits from people around me while leaving the rest. While I’d love to have diverse people in my circle and broaden my horizons, I’d also love to hang out with myself more in the coming year. 

2020 might have been a tough year, but I am thankful for the hard lessons it’s taught me. It’s forced me to pause, introspect, and use my resources for survival. It’s taught me my strengths and limitations, how kindness and gratitude are much more important than ever before; it’s taught me to learn to unwind and destress, be less judgemental, and spend time with people who matter. It’s also taught me the importance of education and financial stability on the brink of an unknown and unpredictable future.

My word for 2021 is ‘Wisdom,’ and on that note, I wish you a happy and healthy new year! 

‘This blog post is a part of the Welcome 2021 Blog Hop hosted by Swarnali Nath.’

#Welcome2021BlogHop

How To Support Local Artisans By Buying Beautiful Rugs Made in India

Tina Sequeira Hyderabad Influencer Indian rugs online

We are almost at the end of 2020.

It fills my heart with immense joy and gratitude for surviving an unforgettable pandemic year, that’s turned the entire world upside down. It’s also that time of the year to purge and tidy up the place. To donate things we don’t need around in the home and bring in new additions to the home, which add splendour and sparkle to it.

In an attempt to look for Indian rugs online, I came across the website of Raj Bespoke, which had a variety of rugs in modern, contemporary, traditional, and kids categories. The initial plan was to get something for my tween’s room, but then when my husband and I browsed through their collections, our hearts were set on the YURUK NOMADIC RUG. It had a lovely vintage look to it, and we decided to buy it first before ordering another rug for our daughter’s room.

We bought the YURUK NOMADIC RUG with the upcoming Christmas and New Year festivals in mind. It would look gorgeous next to a Christmas tree, and we cannot wait to set it up for the Holiday season and ring in 2021 in style.

Our rug arrived in perfect condition and was compactly packed. It matched the picture we had seen on the site and true to our ordered specifications of 4’X6’ size. It looks and feels like a rich wool Indian rug. But, unlike wool, it has zero shed. It’s easy to maintain and clean with a vacuum.

We’ve set it up next to our television for now and will move it to the area where we plan to set up the Christmas tree in a few weeks.

I’ve noticed that the rug lends a delightful contrast, when set against a modern backdrop and compliments a traditional decor. We have a blend of different styles in various corners of our home. So, post-New Year, we will move the rug to multiple spaces in our homes – living room, bedroom, dining area.

It is easily one of the best buys of this year for its high quality, durability, convenience, and versatility.

We are looking forward to buying more products for our home from the company. What makes me most excited is that we will renovate our daughter’s room soon, and once the theme is finalized, we cannot wait to upgrade it with the other products from RajBespoke.

Another aspect I’d like to highlight is to support Indian artisans and businesses, more so, during the pandemic. If you want to buy Indian rugs online and add more beauty to your home, this is a good time to do so. Please do check out https://rajbespoke.com/.

Kyunki Bra Bhi Kabhi Beti Thi

“Mummy, can you not eat from my plate, please?”

What? My daughter is giving ME instructions? Is this the ‘Kalyug’ phase? My hair follicles stood erect on my body, rings of fumes erupted from my ears and nostrils.

I’d never dare to speak to my mother in this way, even today as I inch towards 40 in a couple of years, lest I get a ‘Nirupa Roy’ like response from my almost 70-year-old mother.

“Of what use is having children! Motherhood is such a thankless job.”

“Ek chutki aansoo ki keemat tum kya jaano, Ramesh babu.” One tear is all it takes to put the big child, aka me, in line.

But, as I scanned my tween daughter, showing the signs of adolescence already, I realised I had met my match. My mini-me!

“You were a rebel child. So, you can expect the same from your daughter.” my father grimaced in sweet victory. 

He’s right. It’s payback time. Karma has to find its way through all those years of rebellion at home, of why I can’t do this or that. It was my turn to be challenged now.

In battle 2.0, the mother aka moi is the reigning champion & my daughter, the worthy contender.

I understood that my daughter has her preferences like us. If she didn’t like her food to be plucked from her plate, so be it.

But I would not lose face in this little defeat. I lifted the fork in front of my face dramatically & promptly left it aside on the table with a poker-face, “Sure!”

Kids grow fast. Fast enough to get into the irritating adolescent phase where the answer to everything, even a kind request, is a ear-drum breaking ‘NO!’

“Beta, sweater pehno!”

“NO!”

“Beta, susu karlo!”

“Jeez NO, bra!”

“Bra?”

“It’s ‘Bruh,’ dude!”

So, I’ve officially gone from ‘Mom’ to ‘Bruh’ and ‘Dude.’ What’s next? I dread to think further.

I’ve made a silent vow to be a rock-solid pillar & witness my baby caterpillar fluttering hazily at first & then confidently into a beautiful butterfly.

But a little fun hurt no one! After all, I’ve got to play the villain with conviction in the story shaping up in my daughter, aka the heroine’s imagination.

And so, I chisel my claws into the euphemistic sounding ‘stiletto nails,’ lift my breasts and chin up high, as I strike the ‘Wonder-Woman’ pose with my hands on my hips, ready for Battle 2.0, a battle I’d smilingly lose (just don’t tell the kid.)

Breaking aloud into the war-cry in all gusto & flashing an evil canine and two, my lips go – “Aa dekhen zara kisme kitna hai dum!”

(Author’s Note: There is humor in abundance everywhere, in the mundane of places and situations. In the pandemic lockdown, stuck 24*7 with the family, there were ample parenting humor moments in times of confusion, darkness, and despair. I wrote this piece with a headstrong tween daughter in the house and living under one roof with her gave enough fodder for funny parenting teenager quotes and parenting with humor arsenal.)

A Teacher’s Reminiscings

My first day as a teacher in the saree dress code

Good teachers are a blessing and grateful students even more.

It is my privilege to share one of my trysts with gratitude during my brief stint as a teacher in a graduation college for one semester.

A serendipitous happening

I had just returned from the US in the mid of 2016. As soon as I landed, as destiny would have it, I received a teaching job offer. Within three days, I was teaching management subjects to graduation and post-graduation students.

No experienced teacher wanted the headache of having to manage an unruly class of grown-up young men and women. And so here I was assigned as the class teacher of the ́most notorious class ́ in the college as soon I was freshly appointed. In hindsight, it was the best decision I took as it not only helped me readjust faster in my home country but also the daily interactions with youngsters rejuvenated me.

Lessons as a teacher

Before the end of the semester, the students had to write one last internal exam. And in my generous mood, I corrected the papers quite liberally, overlooking minor flaws like grammar, spelling mistakes, etc., which I am otherwise quite particular about. As long as they understood the practical concept, I overlooked the rest.

After distributing the answer-sheets, I was flooded by a surge of students who kept hankering for the maximum marks possible. Including the one who scored the highest at 29, wanted ‘just’ a half mark more to make it a perfect 3-0. I congratulated the topper of the batch for what I thought was a well-written paper with some innovative answers. But I had to turn down his request as I couldn’t give full marks for theoretical subject papers.

Anyway, I couldn’t blame the students. You know how it is with us, Indians! We are born in a highly competitive environment where we are taught to fight for everything. In an educational setup, every single mark, the half or quarter of it matters. We are taught not to give up without a fight. It’s how we, parents and teachers, have trained our children to become. And so, we have made it a ́dog eat dog ́ world for them!

There was one student who I watched from the corner of my eye, amid the teeming crowd which surrounded me from all the sides. He was patiently watching and observing the ongoing proceedings with the answer sheet clutched in his hand. After a long wait, it was his turn. Needless to add, he was the last in the line. But that was his choice.

As he brought forth his answer paper, I asked him how I could help him. And he replied, ́Maam! I did not come to add more marks. I just came to show you my paper and tell you you gave me more marks than I deserved. Thank You! ́

I was speechless. This was a rare happening.

The grateful young man, one of the most intelligent students I taught, was not fighting like the rest to be first in line and haggle for extra marks.

That incident will never be erased from my memory and will always pop up as a sweet reminder to show gratitude when you ought to.

And I have to thank that young student for teaching me a lesson or two. Yes, we teachers learn from our students as well.

Gratitude is so important in our lives, but it should not be confused for what it is not. Often, I see people who make tremendous efforts in going to great lengths to express their gratitude. But only to people who hold influential positions and titles. People whose close associations will be beneficial to them.

That is not gratitude. That is opportunism. There is a subtle but huge difference.

Sycophants love sycophants love sycophants. Arguably, we live in a sycophantic culture.

Anyway, that student was not the only one to express his love and gratitude during my brief teaching tenure. Class teachers, and teachers, in general, are treated like superstars in college. There were many students; each had their own style of expressing gratitude. Some through words, some with gifts, some through their thoughtful actions. But it is the intention behind those acts which holds a greater significance and meaning. Some did for a covert benefit; for some, it came from a genuine place.

As I completed the semester, the students had given overwhelmingly positive feedback not just to the Principal, but also to me personally. Some said I was the best teacher they had right from their elementary LKG class. I’d have fellow teachers with an experience of over a decade who would watch me in action in the sidelines and enquire later in the staffroom as my methodology seemed interesting to them. I had no teaching qualifications or prior experience—my lack of expertise infused in a fresh approach to the classroom teaching style. So, to make an impact in such a short time felt satisfying.

I must admit here that my motherhood experience helped tremendously in being a good teacher. I taught my students and tried to make routine learning fun for them, as I did with my daughter. At least my experience of teaching my child came in handy and did not go in vain, I thought.

Industrial Visit with my class where I broke the teacher dress code
WIith my students

Teaching and learning go hand-in-hand. To be a good teacher, you need to be a good learner. Most importantly, you need to be a good listener, patient observer, and a selfless giver.

I’ve witnessed fellow staff members scream, admonish, and insult the students. Losing control and one’s steam is a natural human tendency. But in our role as a teacher, we must be the bigger person always, have hope and faith in our students. Let them make mistakes, learn from them, and flourish in their own sweet time. Also, words have the power to either build or cause long-lasting damage to the students’ psyche and self-esteem. As teachers, we hold power to create or destroy our students. The choice is up to us.

Teachers, like students, come in all shades. There are good teachers and bad ones. The bullies who misuse their power and authority can go the extra mile to tarnish a student’s future.

It’s easier to dump the blame on students than calling them unruly and poorly raised. But we must accept that our students are a mere reflection of us, parents, teachers, and society alike, and own our responsibility in enlightening them with our influence, not authority.

Also, there is a lot that goes behind the scenes as a teacher. When I stepped into the teachers’ shoes; I discovered that a lot of work goes unnoticed and often taken for granted. A lot of preparation goes before each class, and a lot of physical energy is expended teaching one class after the other standing on your toes in a saree and speaking in a loud tone to a class of over 60-70 students. There is a lot of documentation work after the teaching hours. And you are also spearheading extracurricular activities to enhance students’ personalities and give them a wholesome learning experience. It is a tough job, but also one of the most satisfying ones. I’ve learned that there is no greater joy than the love of learning and sharing knowledge.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, I’ve learned many valuable lessons as a teacher, of which gratitude is the biggest learning and takeaway. Gratitude is acknowledging and genuinely understanding the value of even the most minute blessing in our life, and seeing hope and opportunity even in the darkest phase. Gratitude is looking at the proverbial glass, and seeing it as ́half-full,’ – being genuinely thankful for it as well as the opportunity to fill the glass to its full capacity.

Teacher’s Day is less about a paying tribute to the profession and more about the spirit of learning.

I have so many inspiring real-life instances of gratitude that not only touch me but also serves as a reminder to stay humble and thankful always.

On the occasion of Teacher’s Day, I would like to express my gratitude for the opportunity to teach as well as learn from all my students. I have also learned from each one of my teachers and mentors throughout my academic and corporate life.

Do you have a favourite memory to share on Teacher’s Day? I’d love to hear it from you.

A Message For My Daughter On This Raksha Bandhan Day

I was a feminist even before I knew what the word meant.

If my parents asked me to do any chores, I would insist my younger twin brothers did the same. I would not do anything that they were exempt from. As young as I can remember, I was a feminist. A born feminist. It’s in my genes to sniff injustice, rebel, and stand up for my rights.

Like most Indian families that celebrated all festivals, we celebrated Diwali and Christmas with the same enthusiasm. However, one festival that was a complete no for me was Raksha Bandhan.

My brothers longed to flaunt those colourful threads in front of their friends. Girls from their school and neighborhood would tie them Rakhis. Not me.

Who did I need raksha from? I was the Rakshini herself. I argued.

Besides, I’m the older one. I’m there for their protection always and vice versa. We don’t need a thread to prove anything to anybody. That was my logic, and my brothers understood it in time.

Years later, I had a change of heart for one Raksha Bandhan. I think it had something to do with the overdose of oxytocin post maternity.

Am I over-thinking for a festival dedicated to sibling love?

Did I rob my brothers of their childhood joy of flaunting their sister’s love in front of their friends?

Guilt took over. I decided to make-up. But, just once only! My feminist core reasoned. So I bought two ‘Rakhis’ for the first time in my life to tie for my brothers.

“Are you mad?” This time, they laughed.

That’s when I came to my senses. This is not me. We don’t need a thread to show and prove our love to anyone. We are always there for each other in good, bad, and ugly times.

I’d traveled in my student years in buses and trains, dined in restaurants, and shopped alone. Looking back, I did a lot of things solo without ever needing male permission or protection. Apart from my feminist beliefs, it was also to do with my intrinsic nature that yearns for its independence and solitude.

I loitered during the day on my bike and went out to nightclubs with friends. I could just be. I knew well that with freedom comes responsibility—to live up to my parents’ trust in me.

Like most women, especially Indian women, I get stalked, proposed, and subjected to unwarranted attention, whether online or offline. But I can tackle such problems on my own, as all adults do. It’s no big deal, really!

I’m enough to protect myself. That’s also my message on this Raksha Bandhan Day to my daughter, who is an only child — “The hero lies in you!”

(Author’s Note: This post is not against or intended to hurt any religion. These are my personal views on an age-old practice based on the flawed thinking that women are weak, and need protection. Yes, times have changed, and so have traditions too. In some homes, both the brothers and sisters tie each other rakhis and that’s fair. My message is simple – Adult women don’t need protection. Instead, let’s talk about safer laws, stricter implementation, and reformative practices to make the world safe for everyone.)

* Also published on Women’s Web and YouthKiAwaaz.