On a recent trip to my local leisure centre, I overheard two unconnected women speak to their children on separate occasions that hit me harder than my first ever dive into the pool. One told her son, “if you don’t get in the big pool, you’re gonna be black and blue” following his refusal to leave the children’s pool because he wasn’t feeling ready and was too scared. The second mother dropped the standard “watch when I get you home” line as her kid wasn’t brushing their hair fast enough in the foyer area. I had gone to the pool to relax, but was left assessing how to avoid child violence, and instead encourage growth and freedom.

I’ve often found myself chatting with friends about their thoughts on raising children and sometimes we get into whether or not it’s ever right to hit your kids. As a bloke I feel that we’re socially expected to ‘lay down the law’ when things get super tricky with the kids. For the typically testosterone-fuelled jocks, this is probably another part of a day full of kicking arse and shouting. I have a close friend who is one such jock, and he once told me that if I didn’t hit my kids when they misbehaved, he would hit them for me. I looked him straight in the eyes and told him, “there’s not many things which will force me to never speak to you again, but that’s definitely one of them“. I found myself giving my friend a bizarre ultimatum to ensure the safety of my hypothetical, as-yet-unborn child! I suppose that’s the type of conclusions we come to during such strange discussions, but they do at least help us to get to the crux of how we feel about something and conclude what our true style of living is.

The idea of raising children is all still alien to me. It was only very recently that I got over my fear of pregnant women! Even though I could totally see the beauty of the unborn life, I still got a creepy feeling around them thinking about how they’re carrying a being with a massive head upside down in front of them!

I remember the famous director Stanley Kurbrick once state in an interview that “children experience total joy at something as simple as the greenness of a leaf“. This, coupled with a chat with a wacky gent from Cornwall, inspired me to do something that I always wanted to do as a kid. I invited three of my cousins, aged 10, 13 and 14 to go with me on a nature walk wearing old clothes. When we arrived at the start of our walk in nature I told them all that the game of the day was to get as dirty as possible and that the dirtiest person wins! Within a few minutes we were stamping in puddles in the rain and throwing mud-balls at each other. The youngest of our group got so stuck in that she managed to convince the rest of us to jump in to a lake, fully clothed! The children’s willingness to let go and do exactly what felt right in the moment was extremely enlightening to witness. They were no longer afraid of anything or anyone. It was a moment from which they could snowball and use as a catalyst to live out of love, not out of fear or suppression by abuse by parents. Activities like this and also helping them perform at the recent Saffron Mic event take a lot more effort than a quick slap after a long day of work. If you’re in it for the long haul, mud balls and art are definitely an answer to building self-esteem and raising a person you’d be proud to know.

If people are comfortable to verbally threaten and physically abuse children in public leisure centres, it’s terrifying to think what is happening behind closed doors (shout out to ‘A Child Called It’). If we Sikhs really believe in justice and safe-guarding the weak, let’s start with ensuring the rights of children in our own homes and communities. Let’s encourage moments of freedom, whether it’s through public settings to share a talent or art, or perhaps in private spaces through mud-slinging in woods. Whatever it might be, let’s create environments of sovereignty and watch them harness it. My pops goes even further telling me that “a man who can’t be childish is already dead“. Kids know how to be true and live in the moment – and they can help us to do the same. When I decide to have children or adopt, I refuse to ever threaten or abuse them for any reason, they won’t even get a slap. It always does more damage than good and quickly escalates from mild slaps to beat-downs. I think that is the right way to raise children. And deep down, you know too.