Tigers

From their stripes to their paws, they are worth being fascinated by and gaping at. They are elegance and power wrapped into one.

Do you know how a Tiger is raised?

On my recent trip to a Tiger Reserve and National Park, I had the opportunity to learn more about this beautiful creation of God. From their stripes to their paws, they are worth being fascinated by and gaping at. A tiger marks his territory and regularly patrols it and protects it from competitors. Each of these territories has three to four tigresses marking their own territories within. A tigress litters three to four times in her lifetime and each litter gives her anywhere from one to four cubs, usually. For the first three years of their lives these litters are under the protection of their mother who feeds them, nourishes them and educates them. She teaches them how to hunt and camouflage for safety, she teaches them to identify opportunity and strategise. If she identifies that there is a weakling amongst her litter, she terminates it for the safety of the others. It sounds rather heartless, but Darwin did say that the world functions on a ‘survival of the fittest’ model. And jeopardising the lives of the strong in order to continue supporting the weak is not something that favours life in a jungle.

Anyway, once the cubs are old and taught enough she releases them from her care and shelter. They are expected to work as individual units that moment forward. They are to explore the jungle, find a territory they’d like to call their own, challenge the one who calls the territory home at that moment and then the winner takes it all. A face off of this nature is purely based on strength; relationships being no bar. It is fairly common for a daughter to challenge her mother and a son his father, one among sisters and amidst brothers.

And hence the cycle continues…

In the wake of all this new information I realised that what a Tigress really does is that she season them for the best and the worst to come. She is accepting of the limitations of her children and doesn’t coddle her kids, instead pushes them to be better. She needs them to be better each day because she knows that her strength and glory will do nothing for their survival. While she is the legacy of someone, her litter is her legacy.

This made me think of gratification, the thin line between being pampered and spoilt, the difference between being comfortable and being unequipped. Just the mere realisation of this thought has had me viewing people, situations and stories in a very different light. I mean, I’ve begun to perceive the experiences I’ve had so far in a different light as well. It made me take a step back and analyse my stance on certain actions my parents took for me during my rebel years.. were they being strict or were they making sure that I had the qualities and skills to survive once I was out of their shelter.

What do you think?

Celebrating Women with Dr. Meghna Singhal

A Parenting Educator
A Fitness Enthusiast
A Logophile (deduced from personal experience)

A Parenting Educator
A Fitness Enthusiast
A Logophile (deduced from personal experience)

Let’s give it up for

Dr. Meghna Singhal


I am a clinical psychologist and a parenting educator.

In simple words, I teach parents how best to parent. Wait, isn’t that a bit presumptuous? I mean, who am I to tell parents how to raise their children—isn’t parenting instinctive? Well, I wish all of parenting was. I wish we could all simply ‘know’ what’s correct for our children, and how our actions today will impact them tomorrow. But the bitter truth is that we don’t. We don’t always know, we can’t always know. Its true that we have raised children as long as human have been around. But we haven’t known everything about what’s appropriate for children. A few decades ago, it was considered acceptable to spank children. But today we know that physical punishment has an adverse emotional impact on children.

And why not take advantage of the 30 years of research on parenting we have? Like we don’t drive the car people drove 30 years back, and we don’t use the same medical procedures we used 30 years back, so why should parenting be any different?A lot of parents say, “But you know I was spanked, and I turned out fine.” To this I respond I asking back, “Did you really?” (Of course, this means I don’t get that many dinner invites). Yes, parents have always raised children but that doesn’t mean we have always done a fabulous job. You can look around you and see that adults are not always happy. We are prone to anxiety, depression, and a whole lot of mental health issues—we aren’t exactly the paragons of mental health! We are trying hard, yes, and a lot of us have healing to do from our childhoods to become happier and better people. So, isn’t it better to raise children who don’t have to do this healing? Who grow up being better versions of ourselves? I’m sure every parent aspires that for their child!

So, well, as you can figure out, I’m very passionate about what I do! I have been in my field for 20 years now and I love it! I have *wait for it* 3 masters degrees (yes, don’t ask!) and a PhD in clinical psychology. And if that wasn’t enough, I went ahead and did a post-doc too. 

Of course, being a shrink comes with its own moments. Like when my friends thought that the guy I was dating (my now husband) was my MPhil case study! Or the time when a delivery guy hung up on me because I told him I lived in a mental hospital (I was pursuing my MPhil and put up in the girls’ hostel in IHBAS, aka ‘mental hospital’ in local parlance). Or when, because I walked in late, one of my teachers mistook me for a patient and started to ask questions for my mental status examination!

I am currently with ParentCircle, this parenting organization that brings together parents, educators, and experts to raise healthy, happy, and successful kids. What I love about my job is the several hats I get to don- I write parenting articles, facilitate parenting workshops, interact with a lot of parents, conduct live sessions, and interview some of the best parenting experts, authors, and speakers the world over! (See some of the experts I’ve interviewed herehere, and here, and watch some of my live sessions herehere, and here.)

All of this with raising two kids and running a house. I also love baking and am a big fitness enthusiast. And how I manage to pack all of this in 24 hours—its simple planning and time management. I guess I’ve always loved a challenge and right now one of my biggest challenges is managing all the hundred things I do, without compromising on the quality. My super cool hubby, my mum, and my kids (who always lend their enthusiasm for any project I take up) are my strength and pillars of support. With them around, I feel anything is possible!

“If you’re a parent, I’d like to share with you some of the most precious lessons in parenting I’ve learned over the years:

Frustrated with your child’s behaviour? Seething with anger? Pause and breathe. You cannot possibly discipline your child when you’re angry or upset. I know it takes all of one’s self-control to do so, but calm down before you even attempt to say or do anything. It’s called emotional regulation (i.e., you’re learning how to manage or regulate your own emotions). It’s the single most powerful tool in your parenting toolkit. If you learn to manage your emotions, you can deliver any message or lesson to your child effectively. Added bonus: your child will learn how to manage his own emotions. 
Here’s how I do it: When I find myself getting upset at my child’s behaviour, I go stand in the middle of the drawing room and say, “I am so frustrated right now, I think I’ll splash water on my face”, and then I proceed to do exactly that. After I have calmed down, I softly, politely, calmly say to my child whatever it is I want to communicate to her. Now, my kids have started to do this too!

How connected are you to your child? Are you your child’s safe person? Do you make time to connect with your child? We sometimes approach connecting our with child as a duty. But it’s a good idea to take out time to connect with your child. Our children need to know we take joy in them or they don’t see themselves as worth loving. That deep connection is what makes everything possible, including their cooperation. So make time everyday to consciously refocus on your child and shower them with your love.
Here’s how I do it: Everyday, for 10-20 minutes, with each child individually, I do what we call ‘special time’. We do exactly what my child wants in that time—I resist the urge to teach or structure the time with activities. I roughhouse him to help him giggle out his anxieties. I do what he wants me to do, without looking at my screen, running to finish the chores, or taking loo breaks. 

Itching to launch into a lecture? Well, all your child hears is “blah, blah, blah….” When we give unsolicited advice (no matter how well-intentioned) or instruct our kids, they only hear the judgment. Connect before you correct. This means you take time to first reach to your child with empathy (where you truly attempt to understand what it must be like to be in their shoes) and then when your child feels understood, you can proceed to communicate and engage with your child. 
Here’s how I do it: Say, my child is throwing sand around while playing in the playground. Instead of lecturing and scolding, here’s what I say, “You’re really having fun throwing that sand, aren’t you? [empathizing] I see you’re in a throwing mood. What can you find that’s safe to throw? Would you like to throw leaves or flowers [offering a choice]?”  


People can get in touch with me on my email: meghnas@parentcircle.in

Also our FB page https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=parentcircle.com

The Circus Elephant

The show stopper for me always remained the elephants. The ginormous and magnificent beings that have ears and noses larger than all and suspiciously tiny eyes.

As a 90s kid, a large part of my summer vacations was making a day out of a trip to the local circus. We’d spend days planning the day; making a group, convincing parents, thinking of the potluck, prepping for the post show games in the garden and actually picking a date- most of which was done by the mothers while we just nagged around.
As trivial as it sounds right now it meant a great deal then. The drive to the venue was filled with incessant chatter among cousins and friends, trying to recall the events of the previous year’s circus, making creative assumptions about everything we wished to see in the current year’s performance and how much fun the immediate future was about to be. There was a large part of this conversation which revolved around the food our mothers had packed, the sandwiches and juices, the jams and candies… no one wanted to talk about the fruits of course.

The sight of a familiar, larger-than-life, multi-coloured, striped tent would automatically have us gushing. Our caps and hats in place and shoe laces tightened, we were like bulls waiting to charge, waiting to find a seat and waiting for the show to begin. Visiting the zoo was one of the compulsory trips on our annual curriculum, but a circus always held a different charm. The animals were the same, but here they were let loose instead of being inside cages and yet they were sources of entertainment rather than being intimidating; funny, isn’t it?
Year after year, the routines remained the same. The monkeys cycled, the gymnasts were on acrobats, the dogs carried baskets of flowers and sometimes fruits, the lions roared, the bikers rode in horizontal circles defying gravity, the masters made the lions act like tamed dogs, the magician pulled out vibrant ribbons, white pigeons and rabbits from their hats.

The show stopper for me always remained the elephants. The ginormous and magnificent beings that have ears and noses larger than all and suspiciously tiny eyes. Unaware of the order of the food web or placement of herbivores in it, to me they were the most powerful of them all. The reason they had all my attention was because despite their size they played the role of a juggler with hats and colourful balls. They stood on two legs over an inverted bucket. They made me laugh and tickled my ribs like the clowns around them.
Why was someone who is strong enough to uproot trees with a whisk of its trunk alone, being so cordial?

The answer of course came much later. Years after I had stopped going to circuses. Years after the use of animals at circuses was declared as cruelty against animals. It came in a lecture when the professor was teaching the concepts of Conditioning, Learned Helplessness and Parenting.

A baby elephant is left in shackles and nailed to the ground for majority of its free time. Every time it tries to break free, it is punished with severe pain around its ankles. With years of trial and error resulting in pain and failure, it learns a lesson for life!
Fast forward many years ahead, as a full blown adult sized elephant with the ability to crush anything and everything on its way, it remains humble. It is humbled by an experience of its childhood. It has the potential yet it undermine itself. Tied down to a spot with just a feeble rope and anchored to the ground using a disproportionately small piece of wood, it never tries to make a run for its freedom and allows itself to be commanded at the helm of a midget stick being pointed at it.

Many of our actions have consequences large enough to change the fate of a person and their self image.
When you compare between siblings or friends, you are always inflating someones self efficacy while deflating the other though the short term agenda was to motivate. When you tell your child that they are not yet prepared, you could be leaving a long term impression about them not being good enough. When you tell your spouse to be more like your parent, you are telling them that they do not compare or provide as well as you have been provided for. When you tell a hurt boy to not cry like a girl, you are forcing the thought process that girls are weak and among girls that boys are stronger. When you ask someone to work on their size, complexion and tan with the intention of helping them work on their appearance, you could be instilling an inferiority complex through discrimination.

There is an old hindi proverb “हाथी के दांत खाने के और दिखाने के और” which loosely translates to “elephants have different teeth to eat and different to show”.
It is the same with our words. They intend something but could have a very different effect.

Guided Choices

In this world, there are things you can only do alone and there are things you can only do with someone else. It’s important to combine the two in just the right amounts.

During a group discussion in a management session, the professor said that he will get back to my colleagues question in a little while.
Then the professor further asked my colleague, “If you don’t mind me asking sir, do you have kids?”
To which my colleague replied with a smile, “Yes sir! I have a son.”
Professor: “How old is he? What is he doing?”
Colleague: “He is currently pursuing a financing course.”
Professor: “Does your son have freedom to make his own choices?”
Colleague: “Absolutely?”
Professor: “Do you trust your son?”
Colleague: *almost immediately* “Of course, completely!”
Professor: “Oh, that’s great…. How did he come to choose his field of vocation?”
Colleague: “By himself, with some council and guidance from my wife and I.”
Professor: “Are you sure you were just a guiding force and not an opinionated person with a convincing fatherly instinct?”
Colleague: *lost for words and drowning in retrospect*

Professor: “… so to answer your earlier question Sir, do you really think you trust you employees and give them freedom to perform when you did not really give your own child the complete freedom to choose what he will be practicing all this life?”


Give it a second before you start thinking or simple let your horses loose. I’m not pointing fingers at the father who wanted the best for his child and calls it his love and concern. I’m not pointing fingers at the Professor who got a bit personal in order to explain a point he thought was necessary to prove to us that just believing is not enough.

Just take a moment and think about the times you’ve made guided choices and now believe that they were truly your own. How often have you just tried to help someone make a decision while what you were sub-consciously doing was letting them know that the universal truth is actually just what you believe to be true based on your awareness… (which is not wrong, but just requires some thought).

Now think, how often have you just heard the other person out.
I know, for a fact, that I’ve made these guided choices and guided people through choices. But I’m also told that I’m a terrible counsellor for someone with a Masters in Psychology. I ask questions, some more questions, and then some more, until a framework emerges. Until a fabric of understanding is woven. Up until there is enough information to create a tailor made answer… Is it bad? Well I’m just indecisive like that!

RESULTS

How you define success has a lot more to do with your feeling of achievement than the result itself.

With a huge number of teenagers and early adults receiving their scores in the present month in the month of May, each summer carrier the potential of transporting me back to a time when I faced the same fate.
I stood on the edge for hours a together, waiting for the fruits of my labour to be announced. Pondering if I had made silly mistakes. Fretting if I had not given my cent percent. Pulling at my inability to vividly remember what had been asked and how well had I tackled each shot.
And just as the time grew closer I started listing down all the reasons why this was important for me. Everything that had been told to me with the intent of motivating me suddenly started feeling like an extra pound on weight on my shoulders. Slowly it stopped mattering whether I had done a good job, what made me more nervous was whether I had done a job better than my counterparts. Oh! What a badly timed downward spiral it was.

Today, after a decade of receiving my higher secondary results and looking back at how far I’ve come from that day I have understood one thing.
Its not the percentage or the grades that have made me who I am today. It is what I chose to do with myself inspite of the grades that make me the person I am.
By no means am I saying that it is okay to not do your best, but it is essential to push yourself to the limit and then a little more, then the results you achieve should be accepted with open arms. Because somewhere, only when you know you have given it all that you got is it possible to not feel let down by yourself.

There are young adults who brand themselves based on the scores and parents who differently treat their children through comparison with others and then there are educators who segregate kids based on their memorising power.
This remains beyond me.
I have been a top scorer who through sudden turn of events struggled through high school to just float through the rest of my school life. I cannot and will not lie- it was difficult and sometimes even traumatising.

How did I survive?
My parents were my story of inspiration and my heroes. Even though they kept pushing me to work harder, sometimes through more harsher ways than the others; they made sure that I knew that they meant well. They were sensitive enough in their pursuit to know when I was reaching my limit.
But the inspiration was the fact that, two individuals with limited means and even more limited education, have been successful in creating a happy family, wealthy relationships and a respectable living. Through my childhood to early adulthood I had witnessed a wavering graph but most of it was growth. I had grown up seeing their humility and acceptance of their shortcomings while working hard each day with honesty and happiness.
Somewhere, I had started to believe that in is my character certificate that holds more weightage in life than my school marks certificate. But I also knew that if I could not improve one then I would have to work double hard with the other as I would be pushing a cart on a single wheel rather than having the support of both.

Today when I talk to my younger cousins and other students, I tell them only one thing:
Everything is equally important, make sure to create a neat balance. But don’t worry if you are falling short in one area because there are other areas which are your points of strength and can be used to your help with a little bit of faith and some confidence in yourself and the world.
Just make sure that you know where you place your happiness and that you use the right parameters to measure it. Sometimes even the most expensive car cannot buy you the contentment that a cup of tea being shared with well wisher.