Asterix And The Chieftain’s Daughter: Parenting Lessons

The latest book in the Asterix series “Asterix And The Chieftain’s Daughter” is full of parenting gems and wisdom. The comic book is as enjoyable as always and the parenting counsels are a pleasant addition. It has been interwoven with the narrative so brilliantly that the reader barely notices them, yet the impact is hard-hitting and remains with the reader much after s/he has completed the story.

The book is about Adrenalin, the teenage daughter of the defeated Gaulish chief Vercingetorix. Julius Caesar wants to capture her. For Adrenalin’s safe-keeping, till they raise an army, her two foster fathers bring her to the little Gaulish village, we know so well. Vitalstatistix orders Asterix and Obelix to keep a watch on Adrenaline. However, the girl, who is a bolter, has other ideas. We are also introduced to Blinix and Selfipix, the teenage sons of Unhygienix and Fulliautomatix.

The above context, which could have been a regular Roman bash-up story, which it is; and in addition the author also gives parenting lessons. Some parenting advice is mentioned explicitly and a few of them are embedded throughout the storyline.

Here we go:
  • Violence won’t get you anywhere with children. Remember, talk and nothing else.
  • The teenage years are a difficult time. Be gentle and don’t upset the kid.
  • It won’t do the parent any good, over-parenting the young like that.
  • The main thing is that the child gets plenty of character.
  • All that really matters is our children’s happiness.

The above is mentioned clearly. The below requires a context and we have plenty of it in our daily lives.

  • Her father told her to resist conquest and to be free, and that’s what she did…in her own way.

The parents can wish and have ambition for their children. The children, in turn, should be free to have their own interpretation. The parents’ desire to having a safe and sound future for their kids can be fulfilled by children in ways and means that parents may not have even imagined. And, that has to be actually fine for parents.

  • I am not wearing girls’ tunics.

Girls do not have to wear pink. Boys do not have to wear blue. The identity is not shaped by what is worn by norms and traditions, but by what is carried by self-belief and conviction. The parents can get bound by gender stereotypes; however, there is no such need for kids to be shackled down to. And, that has to be actually fine for parents.

  • Wherever I go, Alesia breaks out all over again, I can’t take it anymore. / I’m so over people using me and my torc to start wars.

The kids are not the means to further the hostile cause for the warring adults. For that matter, the kids are not the means to further any type of cause for any kind of adults, even well-meaning ones. The children have to be free to choose the cause of their liking, and even not to choose, should they want to. And, that has to be actually fine for parents.

  • Blinix and Selfipix have no interest in their fathers’ battles and vocations. They actually fancy exchanging their trades.

The parents’ task is to give exposure to their kids, enable them to think and act. The parents’ have to facilitate the kids to grow up to be the individuals with their own judgement, identity and application. The kids are not the means to further the parents’ reasons, leave alone the vocation. And, that has to be actually fine for parents.

  • What are the Gauls like? A throwaway society, they consume and then boom, they throw away.

Remember, what is broken is not repaired by people who have been party to it and allowed it to rot to reach its current stage. The adults do not, always, get it right. The kids have a stake in tomorrow’s society and the world for they are going to inherit it. The children may not have a charitable opinion about the social order they are growing up in. And, that has to be actually fine for parents.

I am sure that there are more parenting lessons in “Asterix And The Chieftain’s Daughter” than what I could muster above.

To be honest, it is not easy to imbibe the above lessons in me. As a first step, I have kept the book away from my twin daughters’ reach. They are sure to ask uncomfortable questions about me and my behaviour basis their interpretation of what they read in the book. They have every right to do so. I am doing a soul-searching to arrive at potential answers and show perceptible changes in me. After all, parenting is growing up together.

Never had I thought that apart from the usual dose of fun and laughter, an Asterix comic would have so much to offer in parenting lessons.

Please do read “Asterix And The Chieftain’s Daughter” and share your thoughts.

Parenting Is Having An Opinion, Getting Involved And Trying To Better

I have written about LSRW, lockdown for children below 10 years, reopening of schools etc. I have no domain expertise to comment on any of these issues. Such topics are not usually on a parenting blog. However, I do write on these subjects. Why? For me, parenting is also about having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.

Parenting is change

Parenting brings change to parent’s lives. The physical routine changes. The financial calculations change. The priorities change. Most of all, the freedom to do things change. Is that all about the change? There has to be more. Yes, parenting also changes the perspective of looking at the world around us.

Would these changes be limited to the four walls of the house? Would the change be limited to within the family? Then, it cannot be termed as a change. A change has to be universal/complete across all the spheres of life, for the entire being, to classify as a change. The changes brought forth by parenting fall in this realm.

The changes encompass all the aspects of the child’s upbringing. It covers the wide spectrum of subjects till the time child becomes an adult. Whatever is related to the child or whatever the child relates to, either way, is parenting for me and hence, a candidate for change. After all, parenting is growing up together. And, to grow is to change, to change consciously.

An adult cannot change unless s/he has a stake in the new game. To have a stake means to have a view, to have a belief, to stand up for. Once a person has an outlook, a person cannot remain indifferent any more; a person will get drawn in. It is for these reasons that I say parenting is having an opinion and getting involved.

Making the world a better place

A parent wants a future for the child that is better than theirs. Is this future limited to a certain status of academics/finance/social hierarchy etc? The future surely includes all these aspects and hopefully goes beyond, as well. The generations to come will live a more inter-connected life and cannot go on in a bubble/cocoon unaware of the world around them.

We have been polluting our planet and degrading our society as if there is no tomorrow. Climate change is a real existential threat and so is our hatred and extremism. The child of today will be able to live a life tomorrow only if the earth becomes habitable, society becomes tolerant, and mankind becomes kind and accommodative.

How is this going to happen? Leave aside happening, how is this going to even get started? Surely, not only by focusing solely on JEE/NEET but also by working together constructively on all the aspects that affect kids and their childhood. Of course, it goes much beyond and covers all aspects of our adult life on this planet.

This is my interpretation of making the world a better place for children to live and lead a life of purpose. Everybody will have their own version of a change for the better. Everybody’s methodology to achieve change will be different. However, one thing will remain constant for everyone. That is, having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.

Well-intentioned as the only criterion

In this journey to trying to better nobody is a know-all. Everybody learns along the way, by trial and error, by moving back and forth. An only qualifying criterion is a person having an intention to bring about a positive change in the immediate surrounding and the world at large.

Of course, one need not be a parent to have the mind and heart in the right place. But again, it requires having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.

You will not be taken kindly

This is the most difficult and tricky of all. You have formed an opinion, want to get involved and surprise, surprise, you will be snubbed. You collect all the details, apply your mind, come up with a plan and more often than not, the service/product provider would be unreachable for feedback/comments. And if you do get through, they will not take any interest; worse, you will be rebuked for taking the initiative.

Somehow the domain experts in child’s learning seem to think that the parents’ role is limited to paying the fees. Any active involvement further, other than volunteering, is strictly discouraged. The parents are made to believe that their child is in good hands and they have done their parenting duties by handing over the child to them.

This is the scenario that dissuades the parents to play an active role in the day-to-day upbringing and development of their child, apart from the payments and the logistics. This further gets accentuated by the society in denial. Seemingly, there is no need for change. Or, if a change is required at all, change at such a pace that it won’t make any difference to the status quo.

Come to think of it. There is actually no incentive for having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.

The only one that will keep you going is a relentless desire to make tomorrow better than today. I could have learnt this lesson without parenting as well. Nonetheless, now that I have learnt, I have to keep going.

What are your views on having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better?

Neem Peepal Banyan Lyrics for Children

Neem, Peepal, Banyan,
Coconut, Mango, Banana,
Tamarind, Gulmohar,
Eucalyptus, Ashoka.

Trees big, trees small,
Trees large, trees tall,
Trees are home for birds and bees,
Trees dance and sway in the breeze.

Trees lush, trees bare,
Trees cool and clean the air,
Plant trees everywhere,
For trees are precious friends rare.

Babul, Ber, Bakul,
Kadamb, Jamun, Badam,
Mahua, Kathal,
Palash, Kokum.

Roots, trunk and the crown,
Branches, leaves and bark that is brown,
Different parts of the tree,
Its nature’s wonder – we agree!

Bilva, Usiri, Eetha,
Thangedu, Thati, Thumma,
Chandanam, Kanuga,
Velagakaya, Nimma.

Tree bower is nice to lie down,
Trees are cool to climb on,
Trees are good to hug and bond,
Trees are great to play around.

Bamboo, Laburnum, Copper pod,
Pine, Teak, Casuarina,
African Tulip, Coralwood,
Tree of Gold, Jacaranda.

Trees fulfil our every need,
Trees do us a great deed,
With our future, we ought to share,
Trees, which are friends rare!

So, let’s plant trees everywhere
So, let’s plant trees everywhere…

Inspired by Neem Peepal Banyan from Karadi Tales, my wife wrote the above poem for O +ve and B +ve. It is similar to My Name is Madhavi adaptation, the first three stanzas are from the original song and the remaining 6 stanzas are the extension.

We use the above rhyme to introduce the trees, the parts, the benefits to the girls. The lyrics also introduce names of the trees in Hindi and Telugu, along with English.

5 Steps Guide to Parenting Without Rewards And Punishments

I have written about our belief in parenting without rewards and punishments. This post is about how we translate the belief to day-to-day behaviour and routine. Here, I have listed down the 5 steps that we follow to walk our talk.

If / Then conditional sentences

Rewards and punishments will invariably have conditions attached. IF you do / do not do, THEN you will get / will not get. Even without thinking about rewards and punishments, if / then sentences are ingrained into our minds. After all, we are the so-called rational human beings.

I have taken a simple rule to avoid the If / Then combination in my conversation with my daughters. I do end up using conditionality in my statements even now, though I do feel that the usage has reduced drastically.

Self-behaviour as an example

This is one aspect that I kept dithering about even though the consequences were very much visible. I, as a parent, would want a well-behaved, well-mannered child; just that I refuse to be a well-behaved, well-mannered adult.

My wife, my parents, my in-laws kept pointing out to me that my daughters were adept at learning undesired things from me. Even then, I would not stop.

When I could not hide myself from the proof, I had to admit that I was in the wrong. It was evident that no amount of rewards and punishments would have deterred my daughters from the behaviour that their father was himself practising.

I understand that rewards and punishments are no supplement for self-behaviour to set an example for my daughters. (Bad habits die hard; I am trying harder to get rid of them). Parental anxiety is better dealt with by parents without involving the children.

Be patient. What is there to hurry for? Explain.

I have come to understand that both the girls are amenable to what they are told to, provided they are given a rational/logical explanation. I do not remember how and when it started, but it has been a recurrent phenomenon that the girls are not listening, they are up to their own doing, however, they are explained the what we are trying to do, why we are trying to do, how we are trying to do and bingo, they agree.

It does sound and looks silly that what would a three or a four-year-old understand about logic? Believe me, they do. It is beyond logic also to an extent. I suppose, the girls understand somewhere that their views are being respected and they are getting answered to.

The practical outcome is that we are invariably late for whatever / wherever. Though, now I start off early to ensure that we are on time. We get looked as non-stop chatterbox. I cannot help it.

Identify and eliminate the triggers

What would lead to the application of rewards and punishments for children? A parental requirement of desirable/acceptable behaviour from children.

I suppose a child on her own would not indulge in undesirable / unacceptable behaviour. There has to be action from someone / somewhere / somehow that would initiate the friction. It is surely not possible to keep the tab on all the goings around, but the active observation of child’s behaviour can lead to diffusing the situation before it goes out of control. And before the use of rewards and punishments is warranted.

There is not much of rocket science to observe a child’s interactions with her surroundings. A well fed and well-rested child will not throw a temper tantrum needlessly. It is my task as a parent to ensure that the need for the outburst from my daughters is addressed before it goes out of control. Their needs are not much to ask for and can be settled either way without getting into rewards and punishments arena.

The public meltdown will happen

We are dealing with children, remember. No matter, how much I try to nip the trigger in the bud, keep explaining, keep them away from If / Then statements, the girls do have some residual effect of their fathers’ unwarranted behaviour. So, a public meltdown does happen.

It is fine. I just keep telling myself that it is fine. There are hard moments, difficult moments, publicly.

I treat it as a passing phase. I am sure that we will get over and I do not need the bait of rewards and punishments to deal with it.

Conclusion

These five steps have been the beginning for me to walk the talk of parenting without rewards and punishments.

I am realizing more and more action points for me as the girls expand their horizon and I try to keep up, building a long-term relationship with them going beyond the short-term behaviour management.

I tell my daughters that I believe in them.

Parenting Without Rewards And Punishments: A Belief

Parenting our twin daughters has been a hands-on journey for my wife and me. It has never been a case that we started with set thoughts on how we are going to raise our daughters. Each of the daily experiences leaves a mark and we try to apply ourselves about how we could have done better.

It has happened a number of times that without a conscious realization, we start acting in a definitive manner. It is only when we get questioned / when we get the time to think about our own doing that we realize what we are putting into action. One of such aspects of our parenting that I recently realized was a belief of parenting without rewards and punishments.

Why would I believe in parenting without rewards and punishments?

Rewards and punishments are one and the same

Rewards and punishments are of course diametrically opposite. However, for me, one cannot exist without the other. I believe that punishments do not deliver the desired results in a child. If this is the case, I also believe that rewards too will not deliver the desired results in a child.

For me to believe in rewards, I also need to believe in punishments. A perceived positive action needs to be balanced out by a perceived negative action. Else, the dice get loaded in one direction.

I would rather be neutral, for once, in this scenario and avoid both.

Intrinsic motivation of the child

I see my daughters stretching their boundaries and limits on a daily basis. Right from the time they were trying to balance their necks to today when they come up with all kinds of interesting questions.

The children are born curious. They work hard to develop their minds and bodies. They have an innate desire to know and apply themselves.

I believe that offering rewards takes away the natural motivation of the child to do anything for her.

Inherent rewards of the activity itself

Why would a child be offered a reward? I suppose for the desired behaviour. A stand-alone desired behaviour on its own can and will have a satisfying outcome for the child. With an extrinsic reward system, the child can imply that the activity that she is being prodded to do is unpleasant and not worthwhile, and she will never realize the inherent rewards of the activity itself.

Our daughters eat all the vegetables and they have never been rewarded for this. I suppose, they actually like the taste of what they eat and this leads to the repetitive behaviour of eating all the vegetables.

I believe that the activity itself is the main ingredient to savour for the child and not an add-on to a reward.

Understanding the underlying reason

The children may not be as rational, but they are also not as unreasonable. More often than not, there will be a reason for the behaviour of the child – why she would do / why she would not do. If the parent can figure out the reason for the child’s refusal to do the given task, the underlying cause of the behaviour can be addressed directly.

I believe that my daughters have an inborn willingness to do a given task, just that they need to be respected and explained the desired behaviour.

A reward is followed by a reward, is followed by a reward, then what?

A child may be rewarded once. Even if done implicitly, she can comprehend what she has been offered. A child gets trained to expect that she will “get” something whenever she is asked to do.

It is not just about the “good” desirable behaviour, but the bad “undesirable” behaviour also. When the child gets rewarded for stopping the bad behaviour, the child actually gets trained to misbehave to get future rewards.

I believe that reward is like a genie which once out of the bottle is beyond control. Simply put, I do not play with fire.

Conclusion

It has not been smooth sailing for us as parents as put above. There have been moments of weakness and life is far from being perfect. I have made many mistakes and I could have been better in putting into practice our belief of parenting without rewards and punishments.

We are convinced about our belief though. With every lapse, we strengthen our resolve.

We would want to parent our daughters without rewards and punishments.

What are your views about rewards and punishments in parenting?

Little Moments: How do fish learn to swim?

Little moments of life with B +ve and O +ve. Moments that are memories of a lifetime.

How do fish learn to swim?

The girls have a pet at home – fish. The fish stays in a fishbowl; we do not have an aquarium. It is a daily task for the girls to feed the fish. They also spend time, once in a while, looking at the fish for an extended period. Whatever they do/undergo, they extrapolate it to their pet and ask questions related to fish. The favourite question is – How do fish poop?

One day, out of nowhere, B +ve asked a question – How do fish learn to swim? I was completely taken aback. This question never occurred to me. As an adult, I just took for granted that fish swims. I never thought as to how, why, when and where fish learn to swim. I checked the internet and tried explaining to the girls. However, that is a side point.

I get this question even in my sleep – How to fish learn to swim? And, why this question never occurred to me.

How do crayons get their colour?

The girls were colouring in their books. Again, out of nowhere, O +ve came up with this question – How do crayons get their colour? What makes a pink crayon pink, a red crayon red and so on? I was again taken aback.

I checked the packaging of crayons; of course, there was no information. The children are supposed to colour and for sure, they are not expected to ask how crayons get their colours.

Hanuman is God. Why does he pray to another God?

B +ve was speaking about her favourite Ramayana. We knew she was going to drop a question that will leave us scratching our heads. And, she did not disappoint us.

B +ve said – So, Hanuman is a God. We nodded our heads. B +ve said – So, Rama is a God. We nodded our heads. She connected the two data points, and asked – So, both Hanuman and Rama are Gods, then why does Hanuman pray to Rama?

We have told her that we will check and let her know. I am checking on the concept of junior and senior Gods, but not getting any hang of it.

Why the men are not wearing shorts in Ramayana?

The girls were watching Ramayana movie in Telugu. O +ve came up with this question – Why the men are not wearing shorts? On one hand, it is a silly question and at the same time, it is also a deeply profound question.

I suppose nobody around has witnessed the Ramayana era, provided it existed in the first place. How can people assume the dressing in any particular period without any proof/evidence?

It might be considered sacrilegious to even imagine in wildest of dreams that Lord Rama might be wearing shorts or something on similar lines. However, I do feel  O +ve has a valid point for a child not shackled by beliefs and hand-me-down rigid ideas.

My take

I keep questioning myself why the above questions and many others that the girls ask on a daily basis do not occur to me. I suppose it is a disadvantage I face having grown up.

We just want our daughters to keep coming up with questions like this. We do not know as to what leads to their questions / how they come up with it.

I assume their questions are a confirmation that they are still children and their initiation to worldly ways – to accept the things, the way they are; is still some time away.

A message to my daughters on Women’s Day

My Dearest Daughters

It is quite possible that even when you grow up, the charade of Women’s Day may still be going around. This message is meant for you to develop the understanding of the men on why they would want to continue this eye-wash. I do not want you to fall for this pretence of Women’s Day and hence this message.

2 days back, it was 8th March and I saw a number of Women’s Day messages. They were regressive and nauseating, to say the least. In the name of respecting and celebrating women, men continue to shackle the women furthermore.

No labels please – Daughter, Sister, Wife, Mother

Men will tell you that women play the role of daughter, sister, wife and mother through her life, ever since she is born. As a reward and recognition for the selfless service and sacrifice made by women for these roles in the family, men will salute you on Women’s Day.

I do not want you to get chained up in these labels. You are an individual and you have your own persona. You are not dependent on the relationship with men in your life to derive your identity.

If men have to respect you, men better learn to revere you for who you are, what you are, how you are, basis YOU as a person.

No adjectives please – Loving, Caring, Giving, Sacrificing, Multitasking and the other SH**

Men know how to sugar-coat a bitter pill for their own advantage. They know that women will anyways find it difficult to come out of the labels forced upon them. To cement it further, men will use the adjectives mentioned above to describe your services for the betterment of mankind, yes – mankind.

Do not fall for this honey-trap. You are free to do what you want. You decide the manner in which you deem fit to contribute to your family and society.

If men have to admire you, men better learn to appreciate you for your positives and also the negatives. You do not have to carry a load of the world on your shoulders.

No jargons please – empowerment, capacity building and the likes

Some men will go beyond the labels and the adjectives mentioned above. They will use the terminology of empowerment of women for the celebration of Women’s Day.

Do not fall for this well articulated rubbish either. You are not to be dependent on the largesse of men to be empowered. You are not to be empowered for a day in the year and then be chained back again.

This world belongs to you as much as the men mouthing this verbiage. Only you can empower your own self.

The cynicism about men

The opportunities for the women since birth – be it in family / education / career choices / employment / life choices continue to get constrained due to their gender. This is provided she gets born in the first place in a country like India with a skewed gender ratio.

Even after carrying the load of the family, women continue to have no say in the final decision-making process. Women get paid lesser as compared to men for the same quality and quantity of work in the professional arena. It is not safe for women to move around in their own city for lack of security and protection.

The Women’s Reservation Bill is a lapsed bill in the Parliament of India. The Rajya Sabha passed the bill on 9 March 2010. However, the Lok Sabha never voted on the bill. The bill lapsed after the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha in 2014.

Do men have any moral standing on Women’s Day after their diametrically opposite actions to the cause?

Conclusion

It is said that changes happen incrementally. It is said that men’s outlook towards women is changing for the better and the situation is improving.

Just that, I do not expect the situation to improve any dramatically in next 14 years when you become an adult. Rather no change at all in the omnipresent patriarchy in the Indian society.

Your mother has suffered at the hand of men, for that I am a man myself. I do not want the same fate for you.

If you have to celebrate the Women’s Day, do so for your own self, for your own identity and none of the above. Let men not have a say in it for they do not deserve it.