A few years ago, Amy Chua, the author of The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, raised enough eyebrows and set many a tongue wagging across the world with her candid opinions on parenting. Yet, it is a universal fact that parents across the globe see children as an extension of their lives and hence, tend to thrust their unfulfilled dreams on their little ones.
The struggle to have perfect, tailor-made children has been going on since time immemorial, across economic and social classes. In most cases, the exercise begins almost immediately after the baby has been conceived. The best of food, doctors, toys, education, opportunities and environment are but a few things that are prioritised while bringing up a child. Many parents are known to take the adage “spare the rod and spoil the child” rather seriously in order to see to it that their best laid plans materialise into reality.
Our current urban educational system, too, seems to cater to these ambitious parents. The co-curricular and extra-curricular activities, cushioned by culture and technology, are incorporated into the agenda at a very early age for most kids. They are herded into a whole lot of hobby classes and tuition classes to add value to their education. There seems to be an endless effort to achieve the best possible results in just about every field under the sun. They forego their half yearly and even annual vacation in pursuit of perfection, preparing to excel in the unknown future that lies ahead of them. Parents also give up on their creature comforts and sometimes, even on their necessities to see this agenda fulfilled.
The increasingly merciless and the all-consuming rat race of our contemporary times have set the stage to measure the caliber of young children in unique ways. There’s no dearth of competitions and reality shows, all with very high stakes. Parents pitch in their earnest efforts to help their wards, and they often seem to relish the physical and mental exhaustion that is involved in shaping the winner. The need for the achiever to become indomitable is rather overwhelming. The winners are forced to spend the rest of their lives defending their high places – of course, with the support of their parents. Over a period of time, unfortunately, hard work and dedication gets supplemented with a little dose of cunning and meanness, under parental guidance – never mind, the detrimental long-term effects.
On the other hand, the kids who fail to succeed are pushed into a state of depression or are made to feel self-righteous victims of prejudice. And it is interesting to note that parents share this feeling. Vindictiveness or vulnerability switch places with healthy competition and self-confidence.
Leading by example
Good manners, human values, general attitudes are usually learnt by children from parents and other influential adults in their lives. These virtues are not taught as lessons and are not punctuated with evaluations like a test or an examination. Yet if the child does fare well or ill in the long run of life, it is because they have imbibed the qualities by merely observing their parents.
In other words, the ways parents conduct themselves stand out as abstract lessons to their children. The psychological impact on the child cannot be underestimated. So, it is important that the parents consciously conduct themselves as fair, reliable, respectable and loving people. Unconditional love sustained with disciplinary measures and well-meaning detours in the ways of the child can set the foundation to his/her life.
The tribe of parents who allow their kids to enjoy their childhood and accept them for who they are has become an endangered species. True, we are living in changing times. Parents today are willing to go several extra miles to see their kids do well at any cost. But if parents tarry a while and ruminate over the verse of Kahlil Gibran, On Children, it might help them see the truth.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong notto 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 souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.