There’s a Doctor in the House for this week’s podcast episode and it’s none other than Rangan Chatterjee. Author, presenter, host of the podcast Feel Better, Live More and dad to two children, Rangan joins Gi to talk all things parenting. They discuss the behaviours we learn from our parents, helping our children feel heard, applying his five Minute strategy to parenting and battling perfection. It’s a chat filled with insight, wisdom and tonnes of insightful takeaways.
As a doctor, Rangan Chatterjee’s philosophy about health is that it’s become overcomplicated and he’s striving to simplify it. As a parent, his approach doesn’t seem to be much different. His focus is on listening to and communicating with his children, using everything he’s learned in his work to make sure he’s raising curious and compassionate children.
It’s not just a kid’s opinion. It’s absolutely real
“I very much grew up in a family, I don’t know if it was cultural or generational, that had the ‘kids should be seen and not heard’ kind of vibe. I don’t think my view on things was really listened to or taken seriously because I was just a kid. One thing I think I’ve learned from my wife is that she has always listened to the children. Her parents, like even when the children were, like, four they really pay attention to what they’re saying and actually make them feel ‘yes, you have been heard. Your opinion is valid. It’s not just a kid’s opinion. It’s absolutely real.'”
He added: “A big thing for me is saying sorry to my kids, if for whatever reason I’ve been distracted or short. Actually saying ‘hey, you know what that was not about you, that was about daddy. Daddy was feeling stressed with work and actually I’m really sorry I could have said that differently and next time I’ll try my best to.'”
“It feels really good because I think for me as someone who who has tried to achieve perfection in anything I’ve ever done my entire life, it’s been very toxic. It’s come at a huge cost to my inner happiness and wellbeing. If you’re not careful you can actually put that onto the kids as well.”
A catalyst for his work
For Rangan, having kids has helped him unpick which of his least favourable behaviours he needs to address in himself. It made him confront these head on. He’s seen his kids as a catalyst for a lot of his work too.
He explains: “I guess the biggest thing I’ve learned as a parent is that kids don’t do what you tell them to do. They do what they see you doing. One of my biggest drives to become a better person has been my children. When you see them start to pick things up or you see certain behaviours in them that you possibly don’t like about yourself, it’s like well, wait a minute. I can either tell them not to do that but they’re going to keep seeing me do that or I can go to another room and kind of figure this stuff out and try and change it in me.”
“A lot of the learnings I’ve had to help all of us feel happier, feel calmer and have an improved sense of mental wellbeing have been taught to me by my children. Having kids has helped me put a mirror up to myself.”
Imagine a world if we all create compassionate children
It’s no doubt that Rangan’s passion for kindness is something he wants to pass onto his kids. Whether it’s through listening better or teaching them that their worth isn’t defined by things like grades or achievements, he’s keen to prioritise passing on important life skills – but with a caveat.
“I love being a dad. It’s not who I am but it’s a very important part. The most important role I consider myself to have in life is bringing up these children well. I’ve been thinking about this idea of shaping your children and what does that mean. I think there’s something potentially problematic about even that phrase ‘shaping your children’. Why should we shape them? One thing i’m really conscious of as a dad is how can I be there for them? How can I help them when they need help? How can I teach them skills but without trying to imprint my view of the world on them? It has been a big realisation that I don’t know what’s right for them. I feel I can teach them things, I feel I can teach them important values.”
“But the things I really want to showcase to them are compassion, curiosity. How you treat someone else is one of the most important things to me. Treating every person you meet and interact with with real compassion. If we all create compassionate children, well, imagine the world in 10 years or 15 years. What a kind, compassionate world it’s going to be for all of us.”
There’s no such thing
But it was Rangan’s thoughts on parenting perfection that most resonated with us: “You don’t have to be a perfect parent. There’s no such thing as a perfect parent. Do the best that you can. If you get it wrong, it’s okay. You don’t need to be perfect. Your parenting doesn’t need to be perfect and your kids don’t need to be perfect. We’re all perfectly imperfect. Take the pressure off, do your best and it’ll all work out in the end.”
Listen to the whole chat on the Happy Mum Happy Baby Podcast wherever you find your podcasts or watch the whole conversation below.