Sunday, January 04, 2009


Mr.S has been our neighbor since 1993. Their son S was in his early teens when they shifted to our complex. My son and S played together. Their daughter might've been around 10 years then. So when I was told that S was seen meddling with my scooty I felt that I was justified in asking him not to do it since I was rather out of touch and was driving a two wheeler after a gap of 6 years and did not want any problem on my way to and from the college. I went to their flat and said this the same way I'd have told Rahul.

"Tell me who has been filling your ears" the boy bellowed. "I'll teach them a lesson. Come on tell me."

I was shocked not expecting such a reaction. I flatly refused to name anyone. It was the father who pitched in on behalf of his son.

"You cannot do this Mrs.R" he said. "People keep accusing my son of things he doesn't do. You will have to give us the person's name."

"That's fine" I said, "If he hadn't meddled with my scooty he only has to say so. There is no reason for me to disbelieve him."

"That doesn't end the matter" said the mother. "You came here only after hearing from someone that my son meddled with your scooty. You can't go away without giving us the name."

Their daughter also joined the group and the whole family took turns to scream at me and my husband came out to see what was happening. He was shocked to see me involved in a controversy. He hadn't expected it and he could not make head or tail of what was being said.

"Get back home immediately." he said.

Turning to Mr. S he said "I am sorry and apologize on behalf of my wife. Had she told me this earlier I would not have let her approach you with her complaint."

Turning to the son he said "I know that you would not have done anything of the sort. You're a good boy."

When my husband gets angry he can be mercilessly sarcastic and his message to the family was very clear.

"I was only trying to tell them........" I persisted.

"Never mind what you were trying to tell them. Try telling me when you get home. May be I'd understand. Come on let's go."

I went home and for the next half an hour the boy screamed as if he had gone berserk and his parents could not control him. Neighbors intervened and finally all was quiet. I thought that the matter was over.

Actually it wasn't over but I'd rather not go into it since that was not the purpose of this post. I keep wondering how far is a parent responsible for the way his ward turns out to be. If my children have grown up to be normal human beings am I allowed to take credit? Or am I just lucky? The question of 'Nature' versus 'Nurture' keeps coming to my mind and what role do these play in shaping a person's character? And what about the company one keeps.

I truly have nothing against the boy mentioned in this post but I tend to keep away from him. Am I wrong in doing so? As a neighbor it is easy for me to do so. His parents cannot do it. I cannot bring myself to reach out to him after the incident. The parents are a troubled lot and tho' more than 8 years have lapsed, the boy's behavior, that I had put down to teen trouble and adoloscent age, has not changed. Since most of the neighbors ignore him he tends to vent his frustration on his parents. Luckily his sister has turned out to be a responsible girl and has taken up a job.

Long back I read a book that left an impact in my mind. I'm afraid I don't remember the name of the book or its author. the story was about a doctor who was leading a normal life till her teenaged son gets upset with his girl friend and in a fit of uncontollable rage smashes her head leading to her death. The boys reaction is one of withdrawal from his family and friends, refusal to open up even to his mother who wants to arrange for counselling and his being sent to a correction home. It was a touching story, very well written and I found myself thinking that this could happen to anyone. His stubborn silence is traumatic to his mother who wants to tell him that she wanted to see him through this tragic event in his life, that her love for him had not diminished even a bit and that she still had faith that he would be a wonderful human being. Finally the story ends with the son acknowledging his mother's love and the readers feel relieved that there is hope for the boy. One just does not feel judgemental but rather feels sorry that such a thing should have ever happened in the boy's life.

Parents of teenaged children please don't let your love for your child make you turn a blind eye to their faults. I've known mothers encouraging their sons to gamble and look for short cuts to earn money. I've seen parents using their connections to see to it that their child tops his/her batch. They are in fact ruining the child's future for a moment's glory. Help them build a career but more importanly help them build their character - you owe it to them as well as society.


Smitha said...

What you have written is so true.. I do think that the tendency to let a child get away with things also starts early - not necessarily at the teenage years.. I have seen children, my daughter's age(2.5), who are just not controlled.. I mean, a child who is allowed to bang on a laptop, from the time he was a child - will not really understand, if he is suddenly asked not to do so - when older.. You are so right when you say that 'Help them build a career but more importanly help them build their character - you owe it to them as well as society.'

Jaya said...

Thought provoking post. I agree with you in the last paragraph. When you said this can happen to anyone, it set me thinking. Shouldn't the way parents behave have some influence on kids, however stubborn or withdrawn (s)he is? Did S'a parents ever sit with him and talk to him? Maybe that could have helped him....

Anonymous said...

Quite a story that was... I think the disproportionate reaction of the parents, esp when many people have been complaining about their son, does show that something was perhaps amiss with their parenting..

Ugich Konitari said...

HHG, I have something on my blog waiting for you.....

Aathira Nair said...

I hope and pray that I shall rise my kids well, and punish them for their mistakes.

I have been punished too when I was small, and I think those memories still make me think a lot before taking any step.

Anonymous said...

i feel very sad when i see kids behaving badly and parents not doing much about it. but i feel sadder when kids are punished for being kids..
we all learn by making mistakes only.. calling ur kid shaniyan or Erumaimaadu is no way ok. i can say that coz in our family i have never heard my parents calling me or my brother any bad words..

Parenting is a topic on which i feel i can write a whole book. there are courses & training to become even a peon in an office but anyone can become a parent. people who hava no clue of how to raise kids are having full control of a child's life.. and we see the results everywhere...

hope i don't make the same mistakes.

Monika said...

lovely and thought provoking post... the last few lines say everything so well...

regarding nature and nurture i guess the result depends on both is a combination and its our duty as parents to try and get the combination right from the point we can...

i hope I am able to do that with Ojas

dipali said...

Such a tragic story. The family seemed so strangely defensive.
As parents we need to get our children used to some degree of frustration in their lives, something which teaches them that life is not just about fulfilling their desires.

hillgrandmom said...

Well HHG, nature is important more I think in terms of physical attributes and some kinds of intelligence, but where behaviour is concerned,in my experience, nurture counts for a lot. It is nurture which helps a child develop what Nature has given him, in a proper way. Sometimes it's not even the disciplining that a parent might do, but the actions of the parents, even feelings of parents, that children mirror their behaviour on.

Mampi said...

absolutely right.
Parents need to know that their support in wrong issues will actually lead their own children to punish them ( Parents) when the time comes.

Anonymous said...

You are one gutsy lady to go and confront the family!! I wouldn't have dared to approach such a wild family.
I keep visiting often.. commenting for the first time.

aMus said...

that family was quite confrontational...i agree with your last para...

as parents we pray that our kids grow up to be good human beings...sometimes it seems an uphill task, sometimes you want to take the easy way out and give in but then we know that we would be cheating if we did that...

Sairekha said...

I'm seriously shocked at how the family backed up the child in believing that everybody else is to blame and everybody else is out to get them. Its important to inculcate in youngsters a healthy balance of self criticism and self assurance. A thought provoking post, HHG:)

Hip Grandma said...

Hi all,
will reply to every comment individually.busy till the 15th.ugich,thanks for the award.will pass it on.
enchanted and sairekha welcome here.

Vishesh said...

I had enough freedom ,but when I break tube light,I do feel it is wrong and it would mean I had to clean it(sometimes so that I can avoid the scolding)...

Unknown said...

Done the tag :)

Anonymous said...

Gosh what a horrible story. I hope the boy gets some help. And I don't think you are wrong to avoid him - If you don't get along with someone, it's just good sense to keep away and avoid another confrontation.

Its a sticky subject though. Personally, I tend to think that parents take far *too* much credit for their kids achievements / good behavior. But looks like they should also take some of the blame for their bad behavior.

good Luck with the neighbors.

Hip Grandma said...

smitha:Yes it is sad that parents don't differentiate between childhood behavior and deliberate disobedience/destructiveness.very often they feel happy when their children say things that are beyond their age and keep repeating it for all to hear.

joy:I think part of the problem were his parents who'd become defensive in situations that the child had to learn to deal on his own.But then it is also true that relatives and friend keep criticizing the child instead of being helpful and parents do feel hurt.

apu:Initially parents took up for the boy thinking that he was at the receiving end for no fault of his.Later they had to take up for him to cope with his tantrums.

ugich:Thanks.I'm honored.

Aathira:welcome here.Children certainly don't have it against parents if they are fair and punish them for their bad behavior or some such justified cause.But they also understand if they are punished/criticized for no reason.

oorjas:'calling ur kid shaniyan or Erumaimaadu is no way ok'
Totally agree.It is this very child that is confused about parenting rules when his turn comes and he/she becomes a parent

monika:you are right.The permutation/combination is tricky and it requires a balanced mind to get it right.don't worry.You'll be are quite a grounded person I feel.

dipali:"As parents we need to get our children used to some degree of frustration in their lives,"
very true.Our generation was better off.We could not afford certain things and frankly said so.It is more difficult these days with TV and I'net doing its bit.

Hillg'mom:children tend to pick up good/bad behavior from their parents and nurture is partly responsible.But how come two children from one family are so very different?

mampi:I've seen this happen but parents often don't think that much.

Hip Grandma said...

enchanted:welcome here.Till the time I approached them I had no idea that they'd react the way they did.I thought that the parents would ask the boy not tomeddle with other people's vehicles.

suma:'sometimes it seems an uphill task'.Very true.I think luck also plays a part in these things.Sometimes children of mild mannered parents become aggressive and vice versa.

sairekha:'Its important to inculcate in youngsters a healthy balance of self criticism and self assurance.'
This is exactly what parents fail to do.I've seen sisters drifting apart on account of their children.They cannot stand it if their own family criticizes their child.

Hip Grandma said...

Vishesh:Freedom does not mean that one has the permission to be destructive.My son once got caned by the Principal for deflating cycle tyres along with a few friends.He was just 11 years old and cane marks across his behind brought tears to my eyes.i felt like confronting the principal but refrained from doing so.An occasional caning for being mischievous cannot harm him I told myself.I told him to be careful and explained that his act must have made the owner of the bicycle walk to the nearest repair shop which must have been difficult for him and it worked.He never did it again.

eve's lung:Went through the tag.Thanks.

priya:welcome here.

'I tend to think that parents take far *too* much credit for their kids achievements / good behavior. But looks like they should also take some of the blame for their bad behavior. '
How many parents do so?Very often even in a normal household achievements are credited to the dad and flaws to the mom.

Unknown said...

Many a time being firm with the children helps. I don't understand what parents today want to prove. If we don't tell our kids right from wrong i'm sure we'll be failing in our duty.

Wonderful post.


Anonymous said...

Hmm...very true...I am just outta univ...and really cant tell you from a parents point of view, but as a child this is what I feel --

There were numerous times, when I thought, how did my mother teach us to be like this...i even think, that i shud let my children when i get be with my mom so that they also become good humans...

I feel, for whatever I am now - be it career wise or personal wise its because of my parents! for the way they brought us up!

I do agree that there is a lot of influence and role played by friends, company and environment around you! But I give all the credit to parents coz, they were my first teachers....they taught me what to see in world around and what to learn from each thing I come across! They taught me simply to be myself even amidst a crowd!!

Its definitely parents who nurture the nature of kids! They are the first GURUs !!

whether it is OBAMA or OSAMA its in the nuturing saying this, I dont want to say good or bad people who achieve are not given the credit! OBAMA has def his own hardwork and talent to his credit, so does Osama for his history!

Ohh I dont know if I am clear enough but hope u got me!

Came here via Smitha's blog, adding to reader..would def come back soon :)

Hip Grandma said...

random thoughts;you are so right.Being firm when required cannot harm a child.

shahaja:welcome here.Nurture does play an important role in shaping one's nature.

Artnavy said...

I am sure many parents err this way - refuse to see/ accept that something may be wrong with their darling child

But it need not be teh parents' fault - there is so much more influencing a child in its environ