In his book ‘Active Parenting: How to Raise Children with Boundless Potential‘, author RamG Vallath writes that with parenting, there is “no standard ingredient”, and that “each child is unique and can vary from one extreme to the other on so many different levels”.
He mentions in the book, for which he interviewed several parents to understand their challenges, that parenting, like everything else, “needs to keep up with the times and with our evolving society and culture.”
The motivational speaker, whose book has been published by HarperCollins India, recently interacted with Express Parenting and talked more about the writing process, the very term ‘active parenting’ and what it entails, his own relationship with his parents, raising kids with a can-do attitude, and dealing with an auto-immune disorder early on in his life.
What gave you the idea to write this book, and what kind of research went into it?
Over the last eight years, I have delivered over 120 talks and helped over 60,000 professionals and about as many children to become more successful in life. I do this by instilling certain qualities in them that are the building blocks for success: positive mindset, resilience, happiness, growth mindset, end-to-end ownership, etc.
I realised the largest influence on children are their parents. So the best way for me to make a lasting impact on the next generation is to help parents with strategies and techniques to bring up their children to be great adults. This is the reason I thought of writing a parenting book. I spent four years on research for this. I enrolled for a diploma in child psychology, read many papers on it, interviewed dozens of parents on the dreams for their children as well as many successful people to understand what their parents did to inculcate certain positive qualities in them.
What does the term ‘active parenting’ essentially mean?
Active parenting has three basic principles:
1. In order to bring up successful children, parents need to proactively build certain qualities and attributes in children instead of reacting to each situation;
2. Every interaction with the child is an opportunity to build these qualities and attributes;
3. Parents need to build responsibility in children so they can set their own goals and manage their lives instead of parents micromanaging them.
In your book, you talk about a rather moving exchange with your father in a hospital; what kind of relationship did you share with him?
My father was a mix of superhero and guru for me. At the same time, he was also one of my closest friends. He molded me, guided me, told me stories and we played games together. By his actions and his words (including the many wonderful stories he told me) he instilled all the qualities that led to me being highly purpose-driven and at the same time, to me being the happiest person I have ever met. Without the parenting style he and my mother practised, I wouldn’t have been able to take on the innumerable challenges fate thrown at me.
When you were dealing with an auto-immune disorder, did you derive strength from your parents?
On a daily basis, it was my wife and children who were supporting me. But my parents are the ones who inculcated the strength and ability in me to stay positive, convert the setbacks into successes and then to relentlessly pursue a lofty goal of touching a million lives positively, and at the same time enjoy every minute of my life. Throughout the journey, my parents were there for us stepping in every time we needed them.
You mention a positive, can-do attitude in your book. How can parents instill that in kids?
There are several strategies and numerous techniques I have outlined in the book. Two of them are role-modelling and story-telling. Parents have to role-model qualities such as responsibility, drive, compassion, gratitude, respect, sense of humour, authenticity, civic sense, creativity, critical thinking, and so on to their children at every opportunity. A sense of purpose, gratitude, compassion, respect, creativity and humour can be instilled through telling of appropriate stories: both fictitious and real life, including stories from the parents’ own lives.
What are some of the current challenges that most parents face, especially in this post-pandemic world?
In the dozens of parenting webinars that I have conducted, the biggest issues that parents find in their children are screen addiction and lack of physical socialising. Apart from this, lack of concentration and focus are two of the problems usually highlighted by parents. These are partly due to screen addiction.
During the course of researching and writing this book, what were your broad observations about parenting setbacks in today’s world?
The availability of unlimited information to children, thanks to the ubiquitous internet, has changed the power equation with their parents. Knowledge no longer flows from parents to children alone. Rather than fight this, parents should embrace this, and spend time learning from children and learning about their world-view.
This way, they can establish stronger bonds with kids and use it to influence them. Unfortunately, many parents try to bring up their children the exact same way they were brought up and end up failing spectacularly.
Which age group of kids does this book broadly cover?
Active parenting is a journey that starts at infancy and goes on till they are adults. Parents need to start building appropriate qualities early on and keep on strengthening them. The approaches to build these qualities remain the same across age groups. However, the techniques vary from infancy to early childhood to twins to teens.
The book outlines these age-appropriate techniques and shares examples for all age-groups. Hence, any parent can benefit from reading the book, whether they are parents of infants, toddlers, young children, twins or teens.
As much as we have progressed, there are still families that decide for children — their career paths, lifestyle choices, etc. Do you see it as problematic?
Every individual is different and their motives, talents, skills, strengths and weaknesses are unique. So it is best that each individual owns their life journeys and decides the direction they want it to take.
What parents — and to a smaller extent families — can do is to help them with varied life experiences so they can be exposed to a large number of options early on. Parents can then strongly support the child in achieving success in their chosen path by systematically building the qualities required for success.
While parenting as a topic evidently excites you, what other genres of books do you like to read?
As far as fiction is concerned, I love adventure, fantasy and mythology. I also love science fiction and books with a lot of humour. In the non-fiction category, I like to read up on positive psychology, history, and biological sciences.
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