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Neha Dhupia on raising strong-willed kids and empowering them to be individualistic

In an exclusive chat with Cosmopolitan India, the actor talks about qualities that she loves the most in her kids, establishing boundaries, and much more. 

We have loved watching Neha Dhupia on screen. She is cool and confident. She has played parts in movies, walked ramps, and hosted reality shows. Now, she is also a mother to two adorable kids. She is unconventional in her career and personal choices and easily manages the two aspects of her life. Soon, we will see her as part of Nickelodeon’s 'Together For Good' campaign #OneOfAKind, which urges kids to embrace their individuality. 

The actor, in an exclusive chat with Cosmopolitan India, speaks about the need for letting children be themselves and discovering their individuality, how she’s realising that her kids are becoming their own person, the qualities in her and her husband that she wants the kids to have, and much more. 

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Cosmopolitan India: How do you feel to be a part of this association, and how is Nickelodeon bridging the gap towards making children discover their own individuality? 

Neha Dhupia: I think 'Together For Good' is a great ongoing campaign that Nickelodeon has initiated. It’s true to the word it’s standing for—every child is an individual, who needs to break out of the box, and not be compared to anyone else. Each one has a magic inside them that’s waiting to be discovered and tapped into. 

CI: What are the stereotypes that parents can do away with when it comes to believing that their kids will grow up a certain way?

ND: It could either be a successful parent thinking, ‘I’ve been good at this, so my child will be equally adept at the same’ or parents trying to live their unfinished dream(s) through their kids. I do not think either of these is fair. Agreed, you have given birth to this little human, but they will make you immensely proud if you let them use their mind. 

CI: How can a parent be their kid’s biggest fan?

ND: They all are. There’s no process for that. We (parents) all are our kid’s biggest fans. My daughter can do half a cartwheel and that I think is the cutest thing in the world. 

CI: What part of Mehr’s and Guriq’s individuality do you love the most?

ND: My daughter (Mehr) is very self-assured and confident, and I love that about her. And my son is forever giving, as he sees love in everything and the potential to play at all times. He’s 17-month old, and hugs every human he sees. 

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CI: How can we empower our children to be true to themselves when they’re often told to do otherwise?

ND: I feel that when you’re in class and if you have a ‘show and share’ you can go as a hulk, be their own mother, a unicorn—they’re all becoming their individual selves. If they go to a library, they’re going to read. But what book they read, defines them. I feel that’s where the demarcation comes. I’m not going to tell my daughter to read a particular book just because her friend or someone who’s excelling in class is reading the same. There is no excelling, as you’re excelling in life. One way or the other, you are.  

CI: What are the new things that they do that tells you that they’re constantly changing with time? 

ND: My daughter is expressing herself through art—she makes dream catchers and little building blocks for her younger brother. That makes her cool. My son is discovering life every day. He’s just learnt how to walk and now he’s running. I feel, that’s a discovery as well. 

CI: How important is it to be adamant, draw the line, and say no? Isn't it important to teach them right from wrong?

ND: Yes, absolutely. When something jeopardises their safety or hurts them or someone else, that’s where you draw the line. In our house, there are no rewards for a great behaviour and there are no negative reinforcements for not clearing up after playing. There’s a reason, a season, or an occasion for everything. I was always raised with the idea and belief that money is not meant to be thrown away. I practice the same with my kids and strangely, their demands aren’t very much. 

CI: What have been the special instances in their lives where you’ve realised that they’ve started to be their own person?

ND: Guriq is always dancing to Punjabi music, playing football, and absolutely loves going on car rides. That’s who he is. Mehr asks me many relevant questions and is very independent. You can leave her in a room and she’ll make herself busy with one thing or the other. She’s also very sensitive, and I can’t take that away from her. 

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CI: As a parent, how curious do you get when it comes to knowing how your kid will shape out to be?

ND: Each day as it comes. It’s an adventure. 

CI: What’s your way of showing control, yet letting them be?

ND: Defining boundaries with them and ensuring they don’t cross them. As parents, we will tell them right from wrong. That’s when, where, and how we exercise control.  

CI: How does a parent, strike the right balance here?

ND: Clear communication and trust are key to striking the perfect balance with kids. 

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CI: What part of your and Angad’s personality do you want your kids to have? 

ND: I feel like, if my children have his ease, humour, and athleticism, and my grit, confidence, and honesty, it would really help. 

CI: Did you ever experience this while growing up? Did your parents allow you to grow into the person you are today?

ND: Absolutely. I was an army kid and was raised to believe that you’ll be okay as long as you have your head in between your shoulders, respect yourself and everyone around you and not hurt anybody.