The big eyes, the angry voice and then came the threat: “You better learn your tables or I will thrash you” or the classic, “if you ever fail your exams, you will be sent to work in the fields.”
These remained mere threats for I never did learn the multiplication tables and often forgot to do my homework. I managed to clear my examinations though, even with all the mischief I used to be up to. Like in Bollywood cinema, at the end of the day my parents would always be happy, not because that was expected of them but because they knew I had given it my best. It is natural to expect your child to excel in academics and in sports, but the idea of producing super-kids seems bewildering to me. Is your child a genie from a lamp out to fulfill your wishes?
And then there is this reprehensible practice by some parents of comparing their child with another’s kid. Comparing your child to another is simply wicked in my opinion. If they don’t approve of something they would say things like: “Look at your cousin, he is so studious.” If one happens to fail in school examinations, the family is grief-stricken. The scenes at home is reminiscent of a funeral.
Why do we seek to highlight failure? Even the most successful person on this planet would have tasted failure in life–as someone once said, “failure teaches you more than success does.” Creating a hue and cry would only serve to make the child afraid of failure. Nobody cares to find out what he/ she really wants for himself/herself. These things affect the child’s self-esteem and might have negative repercussions later on in his/her life.
Kids these days tend to be rather tech-savvy thanks to all the latest gadgets at their disposal. They tend to develop their own little world playing video games and chatting on the internet and talking over their mobile phones. Naturally, they see the world differently from their parents and grandparents. Parents need to strike a balance between being moral guides and good friends to their children. Mischief and misbehavior are two different things. I believe, misbehaviour should be discouraged, mistakes corrected and mischief forgiven. People should understand, kids will never be carbon copies of their parents. Not every child is given the gift of childhood. Imagine someone born in war-torn Afghanistan or in the slums of Dharavi. The mere thought is scary.
Giving them a good beating may seem necessary at times but more often than not, that’s the result of tempers flaring or stress on the part of the parent. Merely expressing your disappointment or giving them the silent treatment will produce better results; and moreover, it will give them time realize their mistake. After all, we all make mistakes.
[The author was inspired to write this piece after reading reports of the Indian couple in Norway currently imprisoned for violation of child rights and “maltreatment” of their seven-year-old son.]