There are times when I feel glad that my role as a parent has taken a back seat and I no longer have to worry about my children’s education or career. I’ve done my bit and can afford to play computer games while listening to carnatic music. Parenting rules seem to have changed drastically and what applies to one set of parents need not work in the case of others. Was it so earlier, I wonder? The Hindustan Times devoted a full page on parenting techniques and has my head reeling. Are my daughters who are currently raising kids having it tough or is this the scenario in Asian countries I wonder. Somehow the pressure in India seems endemic and self-imposed.
When I was growing up our mothers were there to see to it that we sat with our books for an hour or two before dinner and once dinner was ready we packed up and no one bothered if our home - work was half done or undone. Teaching us was the teacher’s job and they really put their heart and soul into it and drilled and filled our minds with the basics of each subject so much so even the average and below average students had a fair grasp of the subject. The school did not interview parents or bothered if the parents were qualified enough to teach their children. Teachers praised or punished the children according to their performance and it was usually taken as part of school life.
These day teachers are scared to say anything to an errant student. For all you know the child may run away or jump into the nearest water body and the teacher would be blamed. Are parents in a better position? I am afraid not. They fall flat at the child’s feet and give in to every whim. The explanation is that their parents lacked the means and could not afford to indulge them. But by God’s grace they are better placed and of what use was money if the child’s demands could not be fulfilled? The child grows up believing that he/she has a right to make atrocious demands and cannot take ‘no’ for an answer. Psychologists say that suicide rates among teenagers are on the rise. Like teachers, parents too are scared to impose rules on their children. The slightest rebuke or an occasional corrective measure cannot be handled by children and they feel depressed over issues that those of my generation would have ignored or accepted as idiosyncrasies of the previous generation. We would have had mimicry sessions and laughed our lungs out in private but certainly did not contemplate drastic measures like running away from home or committing suicide. We faced stiff competition even at home and grew up to be a tough lot.
Having said this do I have any solutions to offer? I do.
Parents should be able to draw a line and not try to fulfill every demand of the child even if they have the means. This leads to unhealthy competition in society that is detrimental to its progress.
Every household should have certain rules that have to be obeyed however distasteful it may be to growing children. They may sulk and pout but will understand in the long run.
Parents and teachers should interact and communicate regularly since both have a role in shaping a child’s life. Their role should be complementary and positive.
Children should be allowed to grow at their own pace and to indulge in hobbies of their own interest and choice. Appreciation of the child’s sincere effort even if it does not translate into top ranking levels would go a long way in boosting a child’s confidence.
However much one loves his/her child it should be made clear to the child that there can be no compromise on responsible behavior and basic etiquette. Regular and open communication helps and the child should be allowed to give his/her side of the story in case of unacceptable behavior.
Lastly, the child should be made to understand that there are several other children who are less privileged but they do not give up easily. Rather they work harder to reach the goal that those better off achieve easily. When I say less privileged I mean financial, physical as well as mental setbacks.
However, as I mentioned in my last post, each situation is unique and every parent/child equation different. Becoming a parent is easy but being one is not. You may ask if I practised what I now preach. I had it easy because I lacked the means. It is tough on the current generation of parents who have to make hard decisions. Good luck to each one of you and God bless your families.