The best parenting advice from Sudha Murty, Bill Gates, Serena Williams and more
Parenting is no child’s play
From figuring out what to do with all the mithai you have left over from Diwali to which plants to get as a newbie – Google is the new-age mummy you turn to. But the world wide web can’t compete when it comes to parenting advice for the most difficult thing most of us will ever have to do – raise an actual human being.
What do you do when work-life balance presents itself as fiction? Or when your little one asks you a question you don’t have an answer to? Or when you want to raise an independent and confident adult and but can’t even get them to look for their socks without calling out to you 100 times?
Well, first you stop, breathe, and hit the brakes on a full blown breakdown.
Once you’ve relaxed, lit a scented candle that sparks joy, and got your caffeine fix for the day, scroll down for tonnes of parenting advice and lessons that these famous parents – a former first lady, an entrepreneur who is also a children’s book author, working mommies, a billionaire, and basically, all round super-parents – have learnt along the way.
Parenting advice that you didn’t know you needed
Teach children to be sensitive of others’ needs
Sudha Murty’s wondrous tales have a special ability to engage children, and transport them to an alternate universe. An ability that most parents are thankful for, because well, that’s the only time their tiny tornadoes shift their attention from wrecking havoc.
And that’s exactly why we snuck a peek at the entrepreneur-author’s best parenting advice.
Murty recalls that when her son Rohan was quite young, he attended a birthday party at a five-star hotel, and later demanded to have his birthday party at a similar venue. That’s when Murty sat down and did the math with him. “I told him that for about 50 of his friends, the expenses would come to approximately 50,000 rupees, which was a lot of money. I also reminded him about our driver’s two children, and how even a fraction of the expenses could help them get a better education,” says Murty.
Murty eventually told him that she would get each of his friends a samosa and Frooti, and that additionally, he could give 20,000 rupees to their driver’s children. Her son wasn’t pleased, but Murty gave him three days to think this over. On the third day, he agreed, on the condition that Murty gave his friends a gulaab jamun too.
Many years later, her son went overseas to study. On his birthday, he sent home his scholarship money, and asked his mother to use it to help the families of soldiers who had lost their lives in the 2001 Parliament attacks in India.
“Introduce your children to the idea of sharing wealth, and being sensitive towards someone who is poor, and recognising their right to live. It’s a parent’s responsibility to initiate such thought processes,” says Murty.
Teaching your kids the right lessons at the right time can shape the people they grow up to become.
Let the little ones take a call
It’s great to protect your children from harm, shower them with affection, but let them fight their own battles and problem-solve.
Michelle Obama says, “My parents taught us at an early age to figure it out. They let us know, that as children, our opinions mattered. But they encouraged us to contribute to the solution. You could air it out, but you had to be the one to solve whatever it was.”
This parenting advice is like a multivitamin. Feeling heard is going to add to their self-esteem, while being able to solve their own problems is going to build confidence and independence, arming them to face the world.
Stop fussing about the small stuff
Chiki Sarkar, the co-founder of Juggernaut Books, has super simple yet effective parenting advice to share, especially for working moms – “I have learnt to stop fussing about the small stuff that used to annoy me. So the fridge is a mess, but who cares? Everyone is being fed, and that’s what matters.”
Pick your stressors as carefully as you pick toys for your kids. It’s always good to have one less thing to worry about. “Having one less thing to stress about means, when I’m done with work, I only need to concentrate on spending time with the kids instead of worrying about the mismatched cushions or the dining table being flooded with toys,” says Sarkar.
Build a support system to help you sail through rough patches
Being a parent takes a toll on you physically, and emotionally. And it’s no different for tennis legend Serena Williams. But she recommends that you surround yourself with a community of people (online or offline), who will help you feel better on gloomy days.
“When I missed Olympia’s walking, I posted about it and so many parents wrote in and said, ‘Don’t worry about it, I missed it too.’ I didn’t realise that it’s almost more normal to miss it than it is to make it. So I really kind of rely on everyone’s help out there. It’s been so, so amazing,” she recalls.
Be honest when you don’t have the answers
Earlier this year, former American basketball player Dwyane Wade and his wife Gabrielle Union spoke about how their twelve-year-old, born Zion, came out as transgender. Her name is now Zaya.
Union says – “Lead with humility. You can legit say, ‘Okay, I don’t have all the answers, but what I do know is that I love you, and I’m going to be on this journey with you, and we’re going to learn together’.”
Parenting is anything but a smooth road. There will be obstacles to overcome, and potholes that you have to manoeuvre around, and as much as you’d want to portray yourself as Super Parent, there will be times when you find yourself scrambling for answers. And in those times, the most reassuring thing you can do for your child is be honest.
This also shows them it’s okay to not know what to do, but get past it while trying to figure out how to move forward.
Follow the ‘Love and Logic’ formula
Bill Gates is honest about how his wife Melinda needs to be credited for 80% of the heavy-lifting. But they both follow the Love and Logic formula of parenting.
Anger, lectures, and threats are a no-no, instead, parents are encouraged to be empathetic, delay consequences whenever possible, and allow children to own up to mistakes, and then work with parents towards solving them.
This makes your child feel in control, and also helps them learn from their mistakes in a constructive way.
It wasn’t the only way he set boundaries for his children while they were growing up. None of his kids owned a cell phone until they were 14 years old. The children also attended Catholic church regularly with their parents. And they will each get about $10 million of their parents’ fortune as inheritance, a mere fraction of the mogul’s roughly $90 billion net worth.
“We want to strike a balance where they have the freedom to do anything, but not a lot of money showered on them so they could go out and do nothing,”
Have a partner who understands your career goals
As a film producer and entrepreneur, Ashi Dua is constantly running between her children – a two-year-old son and her businesses. She believes that the only way to reach a satisfactory work-life balance is by having a partner who takes on equal responsibilities. Not all parenting advice is just about interacting with kids, sometimes Mom and Dad need to sit down and have a chat too.
“My partner is a feminist and he’s been very important in my journey of being a mother. Fifty-five days after my son was born, I was out for a five-day shoot in Gujarat. He took care of our son and the household. Last year when we were nominated for the Emmys, my son was only a year and I was in New York for a week, and he has stepped up and taken care of everything,” explains Dua. “It is very important when you’re a working mother to have a partner who understands your career goals and who realises that household duties and parenting are equal responsibilities,” she adds.