This post has been published on Huffington Post India.
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.
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.