PARENTING IS A TOPIC ON which advice is always forthcoming, whether one asks for it or not. There are many American (and other) parenting sites on which parents pose problems and other parents suggest solutions.
A lengthy message I received recently said bringing up children in a too protected environment giving them whatever they ask for makes them unprepared to face disappointments and hardships in adult like.
It brought back of memories of my son who had learnt cycling before he was seven telling his older cousins not to complain of minor injuries when they fall as
their mother would not then allow them to learn, for they cannot learn without falling and getting hurt. It is a part of the learning process.
The message said a few weeks ago the writer had attended a birthday party of his daughter’s friend, where he saw a modified version of the old ‘Passing the parcel’. The child holding the parcel when the music stopped was asked to leave the circle, but with that parcel as the gift. Then a new parcel is introduced.
The game went on till every child got a gift. The mother explained that in the earlier version, with which we had all grown up, the eliminated child was disappointed. “Not here. Here every child is happy as he or she gets to take a gift home,” she said.
In another instance, I was in the park with my grand-daughter when one of her friends fell down. The child’s mother came running from the other side of the park, all upset. She scooped her son in her lap and started inquiring – “Are you hurt? Let me see! Do not cry! Shush, mama is here.”
The child, who just had a scraped knee and would have ignored it, started crying earnestly.
In another instance, a friend’s five-year old daughter refused to eat what was cooked for invitees at a lunch. The parents felt so guilty and upset that her daughter may go hungry. So her favourite, pasta, was cooked immediately. The guests were told it was not the first time this had happened.
Kids today have a room full of toys and games. Some they liked and asked for, many they did not, but, were still bought for them.
Everything in excess is the new mantra of life.
“Our parents taught us self-reliance, but we hover around our children protectively. They grow up in a cozy nest. We go out of our way and rustle up something if they don’t eat what is cooked at home for all. We don’t want them to sleep hungry. We organize indoor activities for them instead of letting them play outside. We do their homework and assignments. We even resolve their conflicts,” the message said
What will happen to these kids when they grow up? Will they get a gift every time they fail? Will they be able to handle disappointment? How will a child who has never been denied anything cope with rejections?
There are many cases of kids running away from home or committing suicide because they are not able to deal with academic setbacks or when they fail to secure admission in an institution of their choice.
Our mothers never ran after us when we scraped knees. Just wash it and, if there was blood, apply some antiseptic and forget about it, we were told. No drama. To fall and get hurt was a part of daily life. We cycled, climbed up trees and jumped from the stairs. Kids today, travel in elevators and escalators so they may not fall down the stairs and get hurt.
Earlier, kids walked and cycled. Kids are hardly seen walking nowadays, unless it is for a kids’ marathon and they are required to pose for selfies with their cool mommies. Do you ever see kids climbing up trees these days?
Will such kids shy away from competition or be able to survive it? How will kids feel if were escorted to college gate and if we sit in the waiting area while they appear for a job interview? In one-child China, parents have been known to put up tents outside their college kids’ dorms. This is an invisible umbilical cord we are just not ready to cut. And, what happens after that?
A child never used to losing may find it hard to survive in the big bad world. Kids are not to be raised to become adult babies.
So what should we do?
Stop pampering kids and reserve the praises for the times when they really deserve. Happy childhood is good, but they must learn that life is a mix of joys and sorrows. Let the kids have their fair share of disappointments at an early age.
It’s better to fall at 10, than at 40.