Monday, September 05, 2005

Finally, I have taken the plunge and created a blog for myself. As the name suggests, I plan to put my random thoughts here, on whatever I happen to be thinking about. It could be about science, literature, cinema, music, people, development issues, or something out of this world.

Having said that, let me say something that has always been close to my heart -- the way children are being brought up, the atmosphere they get in their own homes, and the mental or physical torture that parents often inflict upon these helpless individuals, knowingly or unknowingly. (This is particularly about the middle class families in Kerala, and possibly some other states in India. I do not have sufficient information about other countries to say anything about the situation there.) The simplest of these is the pressure modern parents, especially from the middle class, put on their children to earn high marks. This could sometimes become so powerful a pressure that the child eventually breaks down. The parents forget that scoring marks is not the most important thing in a person's life, and that even a talented child may not have the skills required to score high marks. The numerous suicides by students expecting their examination results that the media report every year is itself evidence for this. Thankfully, the change in the education system in Kerala, with grades replacing marks and ranks, can be hoped to reduce this burden to some extent.

Parents are capable of torturing their own children in many other ways. One example is the means adoopted to "discipline" them. This could mean a hundred things, including getting up, having their food and going to sleep at specified times, respecting elders, going out to play, watching television, whatever. Unlike in the case of scoring marks, many of these may actually be desirable, but the manner in which it is enforced often leads to the opposite effect. Adults often teach children undesirable behaviour patterns unknowingly. An example is the use of the stick to get the child to do something the adult wants. This effectively is equivalent to teaching the child that the use of physical threat is fully justified. And in today's nuclear families, the child often does not have recourse to consolation from any elder. In joint families, an uncle or aunt could act as a sink for the child's anguish.

I believe, a certain amount of serious counselling is essential before marriage. This should cover not only problems that may arise between husband and wife, but also child care and child psychology, including how to tackle problems that the parents may face as the child grows up. We often see an adult ignoring an accompanying child's questions or cries. This should never happen. The child's apprehensions or doubts may appear trivial to an adult, but they are very real to the child. The child should be given as much importance as any other individual -- after all, it is also an individual. Communication between parent and child should start right from the time the child is a baby. Parent should be willing to listen to what the child has to say, and to talk to it on equal terms and encourage it to communicate. Most of the problems between parents and children that we see today can be traced to a lack of communication between them.


Ayesha said...

I completely agree with your thoughts. I also feel that when we discipline a child we sometimes (more often than not) do not explain to the child the reason they are not supposed to do something. We just shout at them for what they have done. This can be mis interpreted as anger towards the child. Also the child only gets scared of the punishment that they'll recieve if they repeat the act. They do not understand what is wrong with the act.This confusion persists eve in adult age and we find most adults unable to make decisions as they are used to doing what someone tells them to.

Kalpana Sadasivan said...

Parenting is something one must enjoy in order to give one's children the best one can. More often than not, at least in India, people have children more out of social and family pressures, than out of love or a natural desire to have them. It's some kind of a corollary to marriage. Something like 'You are married and now let the kids come'...kind of scenario....

Parenting is then more a ritual, a burden, where you follow the well trodden path, than let the children be themselves, grow and you grow with them too. Then there is the common desire to be one up on the compete and create a vicious atmosphere of unhealthy competition...of constant victory, whatever be the means to get it...the desire also to make children vehicles of one's unfulfilled desires and general a whole unhealthy, unhappy, undesirable world for the child.

Reminds me of Kahlil Gibran's thoughts on children.........

'Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their sould dwell in the house of tomorrow which you cannot visit,
Not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backwards nor tarries with yesterday'.

How profound, how true. I wish more people would read and understand these thoughts and try and follow them a wee little bit.

As a mother of two grown up children, or young hapening kids as they choose to be known, I often find myself playing agony aunt to their friends.
The stories are always the same...hazar pressures on them in all that they do, too many restrictions, too many dos and don'ts...Not being able to follow a career of their choice, being forced to get married when they are not prepared for it...and their tearful tales go on and on...and their parents constant refrain is that everything is done for their good.
These are all very difficult decisions to be made. Where does one draw the line? How does one solve a crisis? How does one help them arrive at sensible decisions? An honest love for them, the desire to see them happy and not merely successful in the eyes of the world, will help one here. There are no standards, no perfect decsions, no right , no wrong.... Each child is unique, most beautiful and perfect in its own way...If we remember that , the rest becomes easy...
Being a happy parent, I can go on and on...but guess this will suffice for now.

Sunitha Shankar said...

Before we talk about children and the problems in upbringing… let’s just pay a little attention to the clues given to us by Mother Nature. A child is always born to a couple (Yin/Yang), and not to an individual. So, the nurturing of a child needs both the hands of Yang - the strong, active, bright upward-seeking man and Yin … the soft, receptive, passive, downward-seeking woman. The child - a product of Yin and Yang, could breathe in these qualities in a balanced way only if both the parents adjust between themselves and provide the child the right amount of love, freedom and emotional consolation. If one among them fails, the other naturally tend to fail. Some children exploit these situations - the differences between their parents, some try to find ‘the agony aunt’ amongst their peer, some turn to drugs, some others reflect their longings in certain behavioral problems, and only a few comes up successfully in life by winning applause in expressing themselves though some forms of arts.

As I browse through my childhood days, I thank my parents who offered their life as a practical platform for us - the children, to grew up and learn all the ‘dos and don’t’ in life, which otherwise we could only get to read in books.

So let’s turn back to Nature for solutions! From student suicides to tsunami, she has some thing or other to tell us.

Anonymous said...

My most difficult years were right when I was in my teens!! It just seemed to me that my parents were my biggest enimies. I have an elder sistet, my only sibbling who happens to be a very obidient and studious person. As I was the mischeveous of the two I was generally subjected to all the "Discipline" action. As a result I grew up with the feeling that my parents were more affectionate towards her... a feeling that probabaly every kid goes through. However, things changed after I crossed my adolscence, when my parents became more patient with me and allowed me to be myself instead of a replica of my sister.

From my experience, I can say that parenttal love, affcetion and guidance not only has an impact on our upbringing, it also determines the kind of realtionship we form and maintain with others, especially our own siblings...

Sir, you have also given a brilliant insight on communication gap between parents and children. I do agree that communication gap is the core of all mishaps in every realtionship.