This post has been published on Huffington Post India

childhood disappeared

Remember the song ‘Bachpan ke din bhi kya din the, udte phirte titli ban?’

As I hum the words, I look back nostalgically at my own childhood : those carefree days devoid of gadgets, satellite TV and computers yet filled with so much love and joy!

Who can deny that there is an immense joy in seeing the innocence of a child: a child who gets upset and then quickly forgives and gives you a hug; a child who suddenly comes and mouths, ‘I love you, ma!’ before sprinting away; a child who spins tales out of a hat? The spontaneity and happiness that a child exhibits is truly heartwarming. It is these moments that parents live for.

I sometimes fear that far from feeling carefree like butterflies and enjoying their childhood, our kids might actually be glad to leave their childhood behind them, considering how many of them are being pushed to excel by today’s parents!

Compared to the carefree times of my childhood, today’s children are living under constant stress: the stress of carrying on their slender shoulders the aspirations and lofty ambitions of their parents; the expectations of their teachers; and the incredible load of curriculum. They are living in a world where learning is always equated with competition; activities are all about winning a prize; and classes are joined not based on the kid’s skills or interests but on their snob value. Add to this the tough school schedule, loads of homework, projects and tuition, and the poor child just keeps getting pushed deeper and deeper in the vortex of stress and struggles to cope.

Welcome to the world of ‘helicopter parents’ —  those super-informed, super-involved, on-the-move parents, shuttling their kids from one class to another with the ease of a skilled acrobat! These are the parents that hover around their kids in a colony contest, desperately prompting the child, with a camera in tow elbowing out anyone who comes between them and their super achiever kid. These are the parents that worry about every germ that the child encounters and run after the poor kid with sanitizer in one hand and low-fat, high-protein smoothie in the other. They fill every second of their child’s existence with ‘constructive’ activities.

But if they really do have their child’s best interests at heart, they should stop obsessing over their kindergartener’s handwriting and micromanaging their lives in general. Else, the poor, mortified child would end up a super dependent adult, always seeking approval and unable to make even the smallest decision in life.

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I really mean it; lay off parents! Give your child some fresh air to breathe and some space to thrive. Children are so creative and intelligent, they will surprise you with what they can do. If anything is holding back your children, it is your obsessive involvement and not their limitation! Set them free!

Isn’t it a matter of concern that children as young as five are falling prey to depression? There is a very fine line between stimulation and exertion; motivation and pressure. And most parents in my generation are going overboard. What is the need to keep the child ‘occupied’ at all times? Does it truly lead to all-round development? More importantly, how many parents even care?

For, we also have a breed of parents that is the opposite of helicopter parents: the under involved parents! All they want is for the kids to be somehow taken care of by someone because they are struggling to fit in too many things in their own lives.

For these parents kids need to be kept engaged because they do not have the time or inclination to provide them the attention they need. It has nothing to do with both the parents working. I see stay-at-home moms lounging in front of television sets or engrossed in their own social activities, even staying online for hours. In effect, they are unavailable, uninterested and even irritable when the child comes home. They have no time to spare for the child. So, they push the child to go for tuition even at a very young age when they can very well teach the child at home. In addition to this, there are the sundry classes like dance, art and music.

Did the parents once find out what the child wanted? Is she happy doing this or does she have the talent or attitude to cope? Is the child too tired? Can’t she play with friends or engage in a favourite hobby like gardening that is more fun?

And, then we complain that kids are growing up brash and disrespectful and don’t bond with us. Did we spend the time to nurture the bond? Were we there to guide the child, to console her when she needed it, to hug her and tell her that it is okay to lose as long as she tried hard enough, that we love her for being her and not because she won a medal, and that we are always there for her no matter what! The question is, do parents have a couple of hours in their day that they can dedicate to their child without being distracted by their mobile or computer or TV? Do they take time out to talk and laugh together? What has happened to family interaction? Do the tired parents and tired children have time to share their lives, ask for guidance or discuss their fears and aspirations?

I hope each parent pauses for a second and thinks: What kind of parent am I? Am I taking away the ‘child’ from their childhood?

We can earn all the money we want and do other ‘important’ things, but the time and love lost are gone forever. I wish that parents would not have kids if they did not understand the magnitude of the responsibility that the task of raising them entails. The damage cannot be undone once they are older. It is not possible to rebuild the relationship in their teenage years. There is no greater joy than to raise a well-mannered, loving child, who need not necessarily be a genius.

Let us make the change while we still can!

This post was previously published on The Cyber Nag.

 

I wrote this post for my dear friend, Zephyr’s blog way back in 2012. Not that things have changed much in the past 4 years. As a matter of fact, I am seeing the heat of competition as my elder son went into 9th grade this year. Parents are in a hyper mode now pushing their kids for all kinds of tuitions and co-curricular activities. I am trying to keep my head above water, feeling unnerved at times yet hanging on to the views I expressed in this post.

Please share your views and comments.

Featured pic and Pinnable pic courtesy:  on Shutterstock.

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34 Thoughts on “Has The ‘Child’ in Childhood Disappeared?

  1. Superb post.
    Jyotirmoy Sarkar recently posted…Pyaar ka BatwaraMy Profile

  2. True Rachna… reminded me of a friend who’s kid would attend close to 6 classes… swimming, chess, drawing .dance, tennis and karate.

    Poor child didn’t even have his weekends free.
    Wish parents would stop hovering over kids in such fashion
    Ramya Abhinand recently posted…Weight loss with Truweight-ReviewMy Profile

  3. It’s only when parents can take a step back, pause, shut the noise of the society and reflect on their inner voice that children can really be what they were always meant to be – inspiring little bundles of joy full of unbridled enthusiasm, joy and creativity. You put forth very profound points in this post, Rachna. There is so much to learn from these wonderful souls, they teach us how to love – pure and sacred – for that is really all there is to make this life more fulfilling and joyful, no matter what our achievements, what the relation we share with one other. Great post!
    Arti recently posted…How to Plan the Perfectly Happy Road Trip in India!My Profile

  4. I love how you put it helicopter parents who make life a do or die boxing ring competition. The system pushes its way to make greed moral in this thing where ethics is ignored. Let children be. Encourage them to be creative and indulge what makes them free as human beings.

    An amazingly analysed posy.
    Vishal Bheeroo recently posted…Opinion and Analysis: Despicable Trump, Misogyny and racism in US of todayMy Profile

  5. Fear drives the lives of most parents these days. They are so anxious about everything and ruled by performance anxiety that they forget to let their children grow naturally. Those classes, oh! I’ve had friends who disapproved because we did not send our son to after-school hobby classes and coaching classes–but we did not feel the need to do that. Also, we did not over involve ourselves in his daily school work. 🙂 People love to point fingers and steer our lives, eh?

    Yes, things haven’t changed much. We just have more catch phrases now!

    Happy Children’s Day to you and your boys, Rachna.
    Vidya Sury recently posted…How to be a Kindness Ninja #WorldKindnessDay #KindnessNinjaMy Profile

    • You are right, Vidya. It is the fear of failure. What if the child gets left behind in the rat race? Me too, l am sort of detached on a daily basis. Just keeping my head above water. Thanks and wish you the same.

  6. Every child has become a special child nowadays. Parents seems to want that one child to excel in everything they feel is good for the child. Now- there are so many options to pursue in future so the child needs to know basics of anything before they can be bifurcated and channelized into a single stream. And of course there is this IIT entrance, peer pressure, uff.
    Helicopter parenting has thus become a curse children seem to have been undergoing these days.
    menaka bharathi recently posted…Mommy Moments and Me – My Bundles Of Joy-A Blog Hop For MomsMy Profile

  7. Our children need us now more than ever. With so much of social media, gadgets and other distractions, it’s necessary for us to make time to spend with them. They grow up too soon. I’m reminded of this everyday. I certainly hope that with time, people understand that there’s more joy in living in the moment, being a child and enjoying life as a carefree individual. We have enough worries awaiting us as we grow older anyway. Gy goes to tennis class because she enjoys it thoroughly. The physical activity is good for her and helps her push her limits. Similarly, she thrives on the creative camaraderie in music class. But that’s it. No stress and pressure, at least none that I know of. We do the best we can, given our circumstances. Let kids be kids, as you say. Happy Children’s Day indeed 🙂
    Shailaja Vishwanath recently posted…Parenting like an AuntMy Profile

    • You’ve said it just right. Nurture their interests but don’t push them in multiple classes and build excessive pressure even for trivial activities to make them some sort of wonder kids.

  8. Oh yes, I have seen and experienced those helicopter parents in action… tried hard not to be one myself… but a bit hard when you just love your kids soooo much… I really enjoyed this read:-)
    Eli recently posted…The sweetest nectar is withinMy Profile

  9. Can’t agree more….our childhood was fun and carefree but as i speak to my school friends who have children they say if that don’t be competitive someone else will get there….i think rather than the parents its a societal change that is required 🙂

  10. Nice one Rachna. As you said we are killing the child in the child. We have grown up carefree, very less tution classes and figured out what we like and what we dont like and we had such a great childhood and it played such an important role in shaping us .

  11. Posts like this one need to be read and re-read to keep reminding ourselves of what is important for our kids. Somedays I truly feel sorry for them – they have so much on their plate. As a mum too it is tough to keep your head when everyone around you seems to be going crazy – pushing and prodding the children.
    Obsessivemom recently posted…Notes from a happy momMy Profile

  12. I’m worried already and M has not even begun going to school. The other mommies of the baby section have been asking me why she hasn’t started walking yet because she will be moving to the 1-year-old section now. They advised me to make her exercise. I don’t know what the rush is. She’ll walk in her own time. This is just when things haven’t even started yet. Parents are not only taking the child out of childhood but also making it a competition. It’s too soon to say but I’ll try not to let that happen to M. I know there will be a time crunch but I have decided to leave from work with her every day. And I try not to look into my phone or be distracted when she is with me. Yes, sometimes I fail but I try. I know how important it is going to be to spend more time with her as she grows up because we’ll both be away at work. I hope we are able to balance it and help her. If not, I hope we have the good sense to take decisions with her in mind. Parenting isn’t easy , is it?
    Nabanita Dhar recently posted…#MommyTalks – The Flower In My GardenMy Profile

    • Gosh! It is getting worse with passing years. I can’t believe that they are giving you advice about how to make her walk faster. Sometimes, you feel like throwing things at such people. Parenting is the toughest job in the world. Just never lets up.

  13. Its amazing; the way you presented both the sides of a coin. Balance is good. Though I am away from my Toddler for 8 hours of a day but when I am with him, I do not look at my phone until its urgent. I wait for him to sleep or when he is engaged in self-play. I do not want him to compete with anyone else. I am looking for a suitable playschool- not the one which put emphasis on learning but to have fun and engage in physical play.

  14. I appreciate your thoughts.

  15. Couldn’t agree more, Rachna. Its crazy the kind of pressure seen around our kids. But I think the pressure was always there, Rachna. Even when we were kids. The pressure to perform. I have seen so many from my gen falling prey to those crushing expectations of their parents while growing up. And the pressure is there even now. Its crazy no doubt. Guess we feel it all the more because now we are parents, so there’s two kinds of peer pressure at play here. One from the parenting end and the other from the kids’.

    As long as we manage to strike a balance where we as parents engage our kids in the right manner while giving them enough space to grow, it’s all good 🙂

  16. I feel that now the pressure is dual. Perform well academically and also ace your dance, drama, sports etc. Thus the excess of classes and more pressure. Yep, trying to maintain a balance. It’s not easy though. Thanks for reading.
    Rachna recently posted…Coffee: From Seed to Cup – A Commitment to Excellence #NescafePlanMy Profile

  17. Very true Rachna. The way the parents are involved these days is scary! We have a parents group and I see parents ticking off questions and exercises, exchanging notes. It reaches a crescendo during exam time. And pushing kids to do what everybody else’s doing is also a norm. It builds a great pressure on the parents too, if you think differently.
    Asha recently posted…A day in the TharMy Profile

    • I have opted out of a couple of parents’ groups on WA for this reason. Makes me feel nervous just seeing how ‘involved’ they are. I know, tough times for parents like us and kids in general. Thanks for reading, Asha.
      Rachna recently posted…Grateful This NovemberMy Profile

  18. Indeed the child in ‘childhood’ has disappeared Rachna. Just as I sit reading this thoughtful, ever so pertinent post, there’s a school nearby celebrating Children’s Day, and all I hear are students cheering lustily to dance performances on raunchy Bollywood songs. Some Children’s Day!

  19. I’m so much in love with every sentence that you wrote about how parenting is going wrong lately. I blame it on the parents who envision their children as some kind of trophy or merchandise of pride. I don’t know if you’ll agree to this. But, this has been on since the days I were a child.

    Parents who who cannot stop living by comparison, are such a psychological threat to a child’s personality development. My parents, we’re though supportive; nevertheless, I always had several aunts & uncles around the vacations who had nothing better to do other than boasting about the number of classes they’ve enrolled their kids into. That often resulted in them calling out their kid’s ‘multi-faceted’ abilities.

    All the more, these nauseating reality shows that promote such a disgusting parenting trend, where a parent is shown to treat his child’s win as a matter of life & death, crying tears over ridiculous things, all to catapult their kids into a few months of fame! Grounding these tiny & innocent children to overact, cry fake tears, face unworthy judges to insult the
    them for life, & yet perform.

    WOW!

    I hope this ends with millennial parents as us. And hopefully, our children don’t turn out to be social recluse & frustrated individuals who’d later blame some ‘Sharma Ji Ka beta’ for the fate they didn’t want to choose.

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