Do you find yourself searching your teenaged children’s rooms and cupboards to get access into their private world? Do you check your husband’s cell phone for that sizzling message to confirm your worst nightmare? Perhaps you peek into your wife’s handbag to find evidence of her failing ways? Anju Munshi delves into the prying mind
Narayani makes it a point to check her husband’s SMS’s every evening when he returns from work while he looks on helplessly. Seema Kunzru finds prying is an important aspect of parenting as checking her 16 year old son’s pockets and notebooks allows her to keep tab on her child’s world. She thinks it a parent’s duty to be vigilant and take necessary measures as and when something untoward crops up. “Otherwise they will never tell us their problems and pressures till things go out of hand,” she believes.
On the other hand, Nimi Srivastav and Anu Bothra, both eighth standard students in a leading school in Kolkata, find it humiliating if their mothers peek into their personal diaries. “We do get angry if they want to read our dairies, it is so personal,” they say.
Neelima Mushran. 44, mother of two teenaged boys, sides with the young girls and echoes their sentiments: “There’s an element of honesty and trust that underlines all relationships – whether with spouses or children and that includes respecting one’s personal freedom and privacy. We should respect each other’s space and learn not to overstep into those territories. It’s a sign of strength to recognise your limits,” she feels.
Some people find prying an innocent venture while others find that it is not an intelligent and clever way to find out about things. Prying amounts to mishandling one’s concern and curiosity by stepping on the loved one’s toes and gatecrashing into their private spaces.
“Whether it’s your spouse, children or a friend there’s always an element of curiosity that tempts you to check out on them by conducting these searches and raids without their knowledge. Curiosity overrules logic and trust and you take help of treachery and mistrust,” says Alok Kumar Banga of New Path, a counseling centre of Kolkata. “It’s hard for us to see the downside of prying because we justify by saying that the welfare of our family is the reason for all this investigation, but we could be setting ourselves up for a major disappointment, for this an unrealistic method to keep the family together,” he says.
True, concern for family members is a genuine sentiment but the problem starts when the concern collides with control. “If you are habituated in this art of peeping in, then slowly you are eroding the bond of trust and goodwill that you enjoy within your family,” warns Anuradha Basu , a child psychologist working with an NGO ‘Sameep’ of Kanpur.
Relationships have dynamics that are defined by trust and this kind of behaviour damages it. “Question yourself if it’s important to search the pockets and the wallets of people that you love the most to find out about something. Instead, if you ask frankly, you could minimise the negative impact of your curiosity,” says Bishakha Pyne, 65, a grandmother who finds that talking is more effective than prying. Also getting to know your child’s friends and try understanding your child through them can work wonders . “This may be a better way to know what’s happening in the life of your children without hurting them,” she says.
Prying may hurt your child or your husband leading to a loss of trust in you as a parent or a partner as suspicion can sow the seeds of discord and hostility. A suspicious person can surmise amazing details in everything, whether from bits of paper or bits of conversations on the telephone. A rational perspective could be a better alternative. For instance, in the older joint family system bonding was easier and everyone knew more or less about each other; people were forthcoming and shared information too. Saying that, every family also tended to have one inquisitive member who had the knack for prying or being too inquisitive and in the process spoilt the balance at home.
Today most of the relationships in nuclear families are coming under the pressure of modern living and sorting them out has some well defined ways. The most effective of them is good communication. “Prying is a symptom of lack of trust in your loved ones and also points out at you as an overpowering and a controlling family member,’’ says Jolly Laha of Samikhani , a counseling centre in Kolkata. “If we are open with our family members and communicate reasonably well , then why should they hide anything at all and why should you pry ? If there are things that fall beyond those that we need to know then that’s a private zone. Each of us deserves an un-invaded space,” says Laha