“Not my kids.” “Look again.”

Baby's Got a Temper

Baby’s Got a Temper (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not long ago, I would look at infants screaming aboard flights, or toddlers wiping their dirty hands on the walls (or sofas or curtains), or siblings chasing each other in busy restaurants,  or teens talking back to their parents, and I would judge.

Yes.

I would blame the parents for being incompetent, unskilled, ill-mannered and clueless. I’d question their child rearing methods and criticise their inability to mould and reform their own children.

And then I had my own kids.

Baby # 1 was bewilderment. I conceded, I was young and I improved as I moved along the learning curve. Yes. I allowed myself that. And to be honest, he cooperated, so not many complaints there.

Baby # 2 was bewilderment all over again. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get him to cooperate half as much as baby # 1. Now, no one at my house balls up their fists and starts kicking and punching others when angry, or arches their backs and becomes slippery and immoveable, if you interrupted them or tried to take them somewhere they didn’t want to go. So, I couldn’t for the life of me fathom, where he was learning his “manners” from. And then the realization came: he came pre-installed with his own software, and his own hot buttons. He’s not a robot I can program and forget.

If I were a student of human behaviour or psychology I would have known about the New York Longitudinal Study, but folks like me have to google stuff to enlighten themselves. Turns out parents cannot give their kids “new” personalities. They must work with the personalities or temperaments that kids come with. Some kids are high-maintenance, and others not so. Rules that work with one child will most likely not work with his or her siblings. Here’s the bright side though. These studies do conclude that parental handling can result in positive outcomes for difficult kids – yep, your responsibility for their behaviour doesn’t go away. You just need to learn more tools. So go ahead and read up on all the parenting manuals and self-help books you want. Better still, if you want results get your infant, toddler, tween or teen to read the good doctors’ prescriptions.

Finally, have a sense of humour. When you can’t get any angrier, get a good laugh.

Of never-ending needs …

People vary in what they expect from others – some need financial assistance or tangible things money can buy, and others demand your time, attention or reassurance. There are some who claim it out of necessity, and others as a matter of right. Before, I evoke defensive responses in some of you, let me clarify that I believe in charity and I believe in helping those in need. It is desirable and highly recommended, actually, to share some of your good fortune with the less endowed, of your own initiative.

English: A leech (Hirudo medicinalis) beginnin...

A leech (Hirudo medicinalis) beginning to suck. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This post however discusses people who claim out of a sense of entitlement. Some call them free-riders, and others call them leeches, but the fact is that these people live off the hard-work, smarts or compassion or vulnerabilities of others.When applied to these individuals, you’ll discover that neediness is a state of mind more than a state of deprivation.

If you have lots of time at your hand, like I do, and know a few needy people, you’ll realize that they have a lot in common.

They are, to their credit, keen observers and resourceful people. If you have what they want, they’ll spot you from a mile and embark on instant rapport and trust building exercises. In fact, until they’re needing, they’re very charming people. A few steps into establishing trust, they may work to socially isolate you. You may notice yourself spending disproportionate amounts of time with them, by neglecting your person or by ignoring those around you, or worse, some of your former friends may actively start avoiding you, probably because of the way your *new, best friend* treated them behind your back! You’ll be amazed at the variety of tools that they employ – they can switch back and forth between the babe-in-the-woods, to the blood-sucking, blackmailer, and the shy, vulnerable man/woman, to the determined pushy individual that lurks underneath. If you’re stuck with them, don’t depend on them though. Most of them are selfish to the core. Once you’ve fallen into their trap, they can drain you with their incessant demands for whatever it is that they are after, without bothering to think of the negative impact it may have on you. Fortunately for you, when you are no longer able or willing to meet their demands, they turn bitter and eventually disappear.

While I am no expert on human behaviour, I suspect, that neediness has its roots in low self-esteem and a marked inaction to address the causes of low self-esteem. A needy person highly values wealth and social status. They are masters of illusion and excel at superficial expressions of success and achievement. Despite the fact that they’re determined in their pursuit of you, there is real inaction on their part to improve themselves. Their insecurities never really go away, no matter how much you feed them, because, deep-down they know they are inadequate and incompetent.

Now, I’m taking the liberty to make a sexist remark here. Neediness is more commonly observed in women rather than men. It is possible that women, especially in the East, are raised to be dependant, both mentally and physically, upon the men, or older, authority-holding women, in their lives. Because independent thinking and action is widely frowned upon, in time, the women learn to constantly seek approval for who they are and what they are doing. I’m sure though that they exist everywhere in both genders.

Because of the baggage these folks bring to relationships, it is best to run, before they invade your life. Speaking for myself, I am wary of unusually sweet people. If I am suddenly the centre of someone’s world, I would guard my wallet and my heart. There are other signs too. If someone’s income doesn’t explain their lifestyle, you want to be careful. If someone asks for a favour, without looking visibly embarrassed (never mind the words, watch the non-verbal cues), asking is not strange to them. If you’re barely acquainted with someone and they start pouring out dark and mushy secrets about their life, you ought to be suspicious. And here’s the over-arching rule, stay away from drama queens and drama queers.

Oh, by the way, if anything in this description sounds remotely like you, I have a few generous tips for you:

  • Don’t take all the eggs out of a single basket/nest. Have at least 5-10 hens in your resource network. 
  • Pace your demands. Don’t ask more than two favours in a row, of the same individual.
  • Don’t demand instant gratification. It triggers a fight-or-flight response in the other person.
  • Choose your favours carefully. Several small ones can be more irritating than one big one.

Now that I’ve said what I’ve wanted to say, let me concede some ground. This post is not meant to be a harsh judgment on some persons. After all, we are all needy at some point or the other. And we need different things at different stages in our life. The challenge is to not let neediness become a habit or a lifestyle. To quote Mohammad (PBUH), ‘the hand that gives is better than the hand that receives’, so be the upper hand.

Related articles

Rising

This poem, by Maya Angelou, is dedicated to all the wonderful women who make this world worth living.

Onebillionrising.org

Onebillionrising.org

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?

Why are you beset with gloom?

‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells

Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high,

Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?

Bowed head and lowered eyes?

Shoulders falling down like teardrops.

Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?

Don’t you take it awful hard

‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines

Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?

Does it come as a surprise

That I dance like I’ve got diamonds

At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame

I rise Up from a past that’s rooted in pain

I rise I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,

Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear

I rise Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise

I rise

I rise.

You, Creep, You!

Wordle: Hate

You can love someone with all your heart and if you had two hearts, you could hate someone with both. After all, the poor hate the rich and the rich loathe the poor. Fat people resent the thinner ones and the thin ones despise their endowed counterparts. The faithful abhor the faithless and the faithless find them insufferable. The list just goes on.

At the heart of all hatred, you’ll eventually discover a deep sense of insecurity about resources which may be as tangible as money or a job, or as intangible as affection or appreciation. 

At a very basic level, the process works like this:

  • You don’t have something you value. Let’s call it the prize.
  • You consider all the reasons you don’t have the prize and choose a convenient one – you don’t have it because you were denied it (the denial of rights)
  • You look around and find others who do have the prize. These are the usurpers.
  • You make fundamental assumptions about the usurper’s intentions – that the denial of rights was intentional because they’re either supremacists or simply deceitful and unprincipled.
  • You are enraged and decide to fight back, because they deserve it. Now you’re not only playing to kill, you want to be as brutal as possible.   
  • They retaliate and the cycle starts.

Several sociologists, notably Dr. Martin Oppenheimer, have looked at organized hatred that is against the other race, religion, ethnicity, gender, value, choice and basically any and all differences between you and them. They note that sometimes it is based on actual injustice but most often, all the provocation one needs to deal with their own weaknesses and frustrations, is a perception or bias against another, fuelled by notions of supremacy and entitlement.

Whatever the cause or the object, the bottomline is that hatred is destructive for all involved. If you’re acting on it, you’re starting a vicious cycle. If you’re not acting on it, it’s affecting your mental health and possibly your heart health.

So then how do we deal with hatred?                                      

Confucius has nailed it before me by saying:

“He who requires much from himself and little from others, will keep himself from being the object of resentment”.

On a personal level, when (and thankfully, not very often) I am feeling resentful towards a person or a group, I first try to address the rage because it not only propels undesirable actions, but also impairs logic. So, calming down is crucial. No, I don’t, in any way try to be in their shoes – it’ll always be a bad fit, but I try not to let my dislike for them influence my actions. For example, I shall not cross my arms, frown, say anything rude, or change my plans, in response to their presence. Many times, I succeed at pretending they don’t exist, at other times I don’t. But I try, nevertheless. In the longer term, it is best to distance ourselves from people or situations that make us angry or act irrationally.

I’m sure everyone experiences the dislike/resent emotions once in a while. I’d love to hear what other readers do to deal with it.

Justice for Lama

I don’t know if I should cry or scream.

In the Arabia predating Islam, young girls were buried alive. Several centuries and a prophet later, the region shows little promise of reform. Now, young girls are raped by their fathers, burnt and tortured to death.

I can, with some effort, ignore the fact that the perpetrator is a Muslim and a cleric at that, because perversion, cruelty and evil transcend boundaries, religions, and professions. But, I shall forever begrudge it if Fayhan Al Ghamdi could atone for this crime by paying USD 50,000 to the mother, and worse, that any morally bankrupt judge, could sign off Ghamdi’s freedom, by negating everything the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) stood for, and instead quoting a weak hadith, that enables him to overlook the transgression.

Lama Al Ghamdi

Lama Al Ghamdi

I am ashamed to say that while most Muslims look towards Saudi Arabia for religious guidance, the Kingdom, in many ways tolerates or even encourages the hate, bigotry, stereotyping and abuse practiced by many Saudis in the name of Islam. I’m baffled as to how a society, that practices rigid gender segregation, even entrusts a father, with the care and custody of a minor girl? Isn’t incest and rape a crime that is worthy of stoning to death in the opinion of many Islamic scholars? Can you pay blood money for your own child?

I demand justice for Lama (#Ana Lama) – an exemplary punishment that I wish could be as gruesome as the treatment this little girl received.

Readers, spread the word and sign this petition. If you are not with Lama, you are with Fayhan Ghamdi.

Little Prince, Big Tyrant – Nip the Gender Bias Now

Prince found his own space 08/01/09

Prince (Photo credit: Kotomicreations)

We are what our parents let us be. For the most part, we represent the best in them, or the worst. There is no escape.

It’s not just the genes. It’s our approach to life that is shaped every day at a subconscious level by those around us. When we are repeatedly exposed to a given stimulus, our minds and bodies learn to adapt. Even if our first impression about it was negative, after repeated exposure, we will not only learn to tolerate it, rather may even adopt it.

It has been this way since forever. Traits and attitudes run in families. Influential families attract followers. When a large group of people espouse something for a reasonably long period of time, it becomes the culture of a given place.

And herein, lies the responsibility. Parents, especially mothers, should tackle minds at the age when impressions are made and etched.  To eliminate gender bias and tackle the oppression of women, women themselves must participate in the process.

So please, if you are raising a little boy, don’t make him a sexist, disrespectful, misogynist. Those are harsh labels, I acknowledge, but I know so many people who deserve much worse. If you don’t know where to start, try this:

  • Do not treat your sons and daughters differently when offering privileges, showing appreciation or handing out punishment. Be as fair as possible.
  • Let your boys handle simple tasks independently. Show them how, remind them when they don’t, but don’t be their personal assistant.
  • Ask them to help you sometimes (like setting the dinner table, loading the washing machine) if only to teach them that no job is beneath them.
  • Let them celebrate you by saying “thank you” and “love you” when you do something for them, even if it’s something as simple as making them French fries.
  • Don’t be a doormat. If they are being ungrateful or insulting, rebuke them, take away privileges, and make sure they understand why. Do not sulk – it’s immature and doesn’t work with children.
  • Build up their conscience:
    • When dealing with younger kids, keep it simple. Don’t lie, cheat or act spiteful yourself, and hopefully they won’t do it either.
    • Teach older kids the value of hard-work, integrity and sportsmanship.
    • Above all, teach them respect for those not as strong, advantaged, clever, attractive, wealthy or polished as they are. Show them that real strength lies in protecting and not oppressing the weak.
  • Teach your children to interact with other girls respectfully.
    • No name-calling and “I-am-smarter-than-thou” attitudes, please.
    • It’s a no-brainer, but don’t let them beat up their sisters – of course, discourage vice versa too.
  • Let the father lead by example – a good example, that is. If your spouse displays unacceptable behaviour (verbal or physical abuse, for example) don’t make excuses for him! Instead make it clear to your children that while dad does it, they must not consider repeating it – use reason, guilt, sympathy, love, fear of God, fear of you, or whatever it takes. Break the cycle before it becomes intergenerational. When doing this, make sure that the object of criticism is the behaviour and not the person.

Finally, as always, now, is an excellent time to start fixing up things. So ladies, do it out of respect for yourselves. Gentlemen, please don’t dehumanize the women in your life!