Many parents might at times feel paralysed in certain interactions with their children where they are unable to understand how to deal with the conflict that arises, as most options they usually try would stop working, leaving them feeling as parental failures at a complete loss as to how to move forward. Whether one has toddlers, younger children or teenagers throwing tantrums and protesting to what parents say; it is what children do best. Especially this generation—it seems to resist anything and everything parents ask them to do.

Recently I watched an American season called ‘This is US”. So a few days and four seasons later, combined with my own experience as a parent and therapist, I came up with one factor and perhaps the most important one that can facilitate a healthy relationship between parents and children: Communication.

Our generation definitely communicates more than our parents did with us but is the communication clean and healthy, this is what needs to be explored. A healthy relationship is all that one needs to aspire for as a parent which doesn’t need to be perfect. Also treat your relationship with children like all other relationships with its highs and lows and that is a sign of a healthy and growing relationship.

Everything starts with good communication that leads to better understanding between the parents and children. Children start understanding us even during the pre-verbal phase through our facial expressions and body language.

As parents, it’s very important to assume a one-to-one stance with our children; the ‘we know better’ stance needs to be checked in. It’s an intergenerational learning, that not arguing or speaking up is a sign of obedience and good manners. As parents, we also hold very tightly to what Quran says, “maa baap ke saamne uff nahin kerna” (don’t voice any displeasure in front of your parents) which is used by most parents without understanding its context and in what circumstances it is applicable. In essence healthy communication and open conversations are discouraged. Why we do that is partly because of what we learned from our own parents and trying new ways make us feel anxious.

The first thing for good communication is that we need to listen to our children. For any situation as simple as asking them to eat lunch, we need to let them say that they don’t like what is cooked or they are not hungry before shutting them down and starting on with all the benefits of eating okra and bitter gourd. In most cases when children are not listened to, they start getting frustrated and start acting out. Also unless we listen to them, how will we teach them to listen to others and us? So give them a voice and hear them before announcing your decisions.

Start acknowledging your child as an equal with her or his own mind, feelings and subjective perception. Yes, we know better than a 5-year-old and we have more life experience and they can learn from us but remember, just giving a voice to your child from an early age will help them develop a sense of self; an “I” that will make them confident and assertive in life.

So let them express what they want so they feel heard and then give your point of view of why isn’t something good for them. Of course, many a times a protest will happen or tantrums will come but that isn’t a reason to give in.

The important thing is to stay consistent with parental decisions small or big. This way, children will learn that ‘yes’ they were heard but also learn healthy boundaries and they will feel safe and learn to trust others.

It’s easier when they know what to expect. But if a few times we make bad decisions we should also have the courage to acknowledge it to our children and apologise.

Remember that we lead by example. How parents communicate with each other and with their children is how they will learn. Perfect parenting is an illusion and more than that not required. To be honest I don’t even know what that means but what is required is a relationship between parents and children. And that entails conflict, good and less good times, frustration and it is all opportunity for growth.

So stay positive about any roadblocks that this relationship hits and rather than feeling paralysed by shame of not being a good enough parent, consider this an ongoing process that continues throughout your lifetime.