Boundaries and Discipline

How can parents just shrug off their responsibility of disciplining  their children?

PTM  or the Parent Teacher Meeting is the one place which satisfies my hunger for people-watching. And this is one place which forces me to judge fellow parents.

No. I am not the perfect parent. I don’t claim to be one. Nor are my girls the epitome of discipline.  But I sure don’t turn a blind eye to my child’s  misbehavior like many others.

Mom being a teacher and having raised us single-handedly during the major part of our growth years, our lessons on discipline began right at home and from the moment we stepped into this world. I have constantly blamed her for strict parenting and over disciplining. But today as I look back I thank her for the way she raised us though I still argue that she could have been a little more expressive with her love. Nevertheless, we are what we are because of our parents who instilled values and discipline in our lives. And I am grateful to them for the way they shaped us.

At the PTM this Saturday, I saw all kind of parents. Just like all kinds of children. Overall the bouquet looked beautiful. But certain parts of the garden showed signs of infestation and decay.  I am someone who believes that a child’s behavior and manners reflect the atmosphere at their home. And this has been proved again and again through many of the PTMs.

There was this mother who did not even think twice before hitting her daughter in front of the entire school because she lied about not receiving the answer sheets. Lying is not something unusual for children at this age. As a mother, I admit that I have seen this behavior in my own child. And I do have reasons which are  not at all related to how her teachers were handling her.

She scored good marks, yet she would lie to me about not getting the answer sheets till the PTM day. I would be furious but I would not talk to her till the time I cooled down. It helped me understand her better. She used to lie because she was afraid of my yelling. It’s a different matter that I never scold them or yell at them for studies related matters. I was am average student and I don’t keep high expectations from the children. My duty is to provide them with resources and help them utilize these. She used to lie also to avoid talks about studies for as long as she could. Is that abnormal for a child to do?

I took time to understand her fears and then spoke to her in detail about it. It was a heart to heart chat and the child was ensured that she will not be admonished for her grades and that I would control my yelling issue. 85% improvement in my yelling issue. Still needs improvement. But I hope you noticed that the issue was not with the child or with her teachers, but with the parent, that is me. She was lying to me because she was afraid of me. Thankfully, I caught hold of the situation in time and took control.

At the school, I felt like confronting that mother. But I did not. The teacher did. The child’s face was red with fear, pain and humiliation. I saw a glimpse of my past on her face. Mom used to get instantly notified about the mistakes I did in each paper and the questions I did not attempt in each paper. She had whipped me with the cane stick in the school corridors till I was in ninth standard. That’s what gave birth to the rebel within me. It was so humiliating to be snapped in front of an entire school.  Repeated episodes only distanced me from her and made me indifferent to her behavior. 

There was another set of parents who kept on sitting there without an iota of shame or regret as their son, a grade six student, kept on arguing with the teachers and giving excuses for each of his mistakes. I don’t say that children should not be heard. But I don’t encourage rude and disrespectful behaviour in children. As parents it was their duty to interrupt him and ask him to be polite and respectful. What I see these days is that most parents do not respect the teachers and the same attitude is picked up by the children. It pains me when I listen to children talking disrespectfully with teachers and other elders.

In the name of freedom we are sometimes going overboard with things. A teacher or ‘guru’ must be respected irrespective of whether they are perfect or not. And every parent must give at least that much respect to the teacher to ensure that their children do not misbehave with the teacher.

There was this boy in fourth grade who keeps troubling girls by pouring water inside their school bags spoiling all their books and other items. I mentioned this to the teacher and clearly told her that she only had to counsel him not to do so. But she asked me to give a written complaint as there were many other complaints against the boy and the parents could be apprised of the situation by means of all the written complaints. I did not write one. A 9-year-old making mistakes is far better than all of us making the mistake of branding a child as ‘BAD’. Later I came to know that his mother broke down in front of the teacher. I will not go into the details of this case as I did not witness it personally. But my personal experience says that children imitate the behavior or elders and they express their views and concerns through such behavior outside the home.

There were parents who kept on complaining about each and every teacher. There are problems with some teachers who are inexperienced but there can’t be a problem with all the teachers…right? How can we expect the teacher or the school alone to imbibe values and discipline in our children? Isn’t it our duty first to instill these values in our children.

Parents are responsible for a child’s bad behavior as well as his/her discipline. Forcefully making them accept a certain behavior or rule is wrong. Give logical explanation for everything you tell them and they will understand it better. We are the role models for our children. I am sure you would have seen your children imitating you and your spouse. Mine sure imitate me a lot. They do so even with the yelling and that’s what forced me to take control of the situation by improving my behavior.

Children copy the behavior they see at home, and this can affect their discipline in schools and at other occasions. Adults have to model behavior that they want, because otherwise how does the child learn? What’s your take on this? Do you think that discipline is something that’s the responsibility of the school? Or do you take active interest in disciplining your child at home by modeling responsible behavior and setting the necessary boundaries?

By the way, I forgot to share the expansion for PTM that the girls use at home.

“Pitwayegi Teacher Mummy Se…” 😀

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Why the increase in Juvenile Delinquency?

I am sure that each one of you is equally perplexed as I am reading and listening about the multiple incidents of juvenile delinquency including the 2012 Nirbhaya rape case and the very recent Ryan School murder case.

I understand that one minor is held for rape every four hours on an average in India. There were 6,039 arrests between January 1, 2014 and December 31, 2016 (that’s one arrest every 4.3 hours). One minor is apprehended every two hours for assault on women with intent to outrage their modesty. 23,25,575 cases were registered against juveniles under IPC crimes in 2011. The number steadily rose to 29,49,400 in 2015.

These statistics are from National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB)‘s annual data compilation for 2015 and 2016.

One in every two children is a victim of sexual abuse and yet we don’t want sex education to be a part of the education system.

Another headline that shocked me on Children’s Day is Offences against children increased fourfold in last two years.

“A total of 89,423 crimes against children were reported in 2014. The number went up to 94,172 in 2015 and 1,05,785 the next year, according to a report by India Today.

Between 2014 and 2016, the number of crimes recorded under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) went up from 8,904 to 35,980 – a fourfold jump, the report says.”

Last year, two juveniles shot dead an Uber driver and dumped his body. This morning I read about an 18-month-old raped by a 21-year-old.

Sociologists and Psychologists across the nation have been pointing out that this issue is not just a sociological one but a psychological one too. Some of the most common causes associated with juvenile crimes are: Poverty; Drug Abuse; Anti-social Peer Group; Easy availability of firearms; Abusive parents; Single-parent child; Nuclear Family; Family Violence; Child sexual abuse and Role of Media.

During the Nirbhaya trial the juvenile who was said to have been the most brutal of the lot had months left to be 18-years-old, yet he was tried as a juvenile and I understand that he is now reformed, rehabilitated and is walking free. While I have no mercy for this man and the many others like him, I do really want to look at why these children are behaving the way they are and if there are ways we can correct them.

Deteriorating of emotional connect due to lack of time – However much we deny children are deprived of their childhood and their time with their family members in this fast-paced world. There is usually no time left for social gatherings or family outings which help strengthen the one-to-one bond between family members. We ought to manage our time to include daily family time wherein everyone has the freedom and excitement to share their achievements, insecurities, fears and problems. The best possible way is to have breakfast or dinner together. If not, an evening snack.

Easy access to media and gadgets – I wish people in India took the PG (Parental Guidance) ratings seriously and control what the child has access to. The next big culprit being the easy access to internet and unmonitored Apps and videos. Children are sensible enough to understand that there are certain things that one can have access to depending on the age. If dealt with maturity this can be instilled in the child conveniently and without having to lie about anything. The more you lie or hide from them, the more anxious and curious they are. Remember, forbidden fruit is the sweetest.

Cinema and Television – All that a media house or television company now cares for is TRP. The concept of Prime Time has gone for a toss. As young children (mostly latch-key kids) browse through the hundreds of channels that are now available, all they witness is the glamorization and of sex and glorification of violence. While I do not justify the extreme censorship of movies by the censor board, I do urge parents to set controls on what your child watches in your absence. Getting children interested in reading or engaged in a creative activity of their choice will be a much better option.

Neighborhood Watch – I am an old school girl. We (my younger sister and myself) were raised single-handedly by our mother who was a school teacher. We were left alone at home all by ourselves on many days since the tender age of five. But, there were neighbours who would keep checking on us every now and then. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration if I say that I am more comfortable and close with many of my neighbourhood aunts and uncles than many of my family members. This is something that is lacking these days. Most families are nuclear and live in flat accommodations where nobody is interested in anybody else’s life. There needs to be a sense of community, a sense of familiarity and emotional connect between people. This is what children these days lack. We hear so many cases of death or depression due to loneliness. These are easily preventable if proper community recreation and gatherings are organised from time to time.

Lack of Physical Touch or Care – You read that right. Often times we tend to ignore the power of touch or of speech. A loving hug, a goodnight kiss or an encouraging compliment can do wonders to your child’s emotional requirements. It instills a sense of security in them and makes them feel loved and cared for. A sense of moral and social values should be instilled in them since the very beginning. Most importantly, we must lead by example as parents and elders.

Undoubtedly, every delinquent child is a victim of his/her circumstance. No one is a born criminal. Circumstances make him/her so. Socio-cultural environment, both inside and outside of home, plays significant role in shaping one’s life and overall personality. So it is our duty, as parents, teachers, relatives, guardians, friends, to guide these vulnerable children onto the right path. It is important to remove the bad from the individual and not the individual. Children should be allowed and provided opportunity to grow up in a healthy socio-cultural environment so that they could become responsible citizens, physically fit, mentally alert and morally healthy.

I would love to know if there’s anything to add to the above list to help/correct our children well in time. I am sure we do not want to see another child accused of raping, murdering or abusing anyone. Do we?

Raise Kids as Independent and Logical Thinkers

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“Mamma, are Muslims bad?”

“Why? Why are you asking me this question? Who told you all this nonsense?”

“So-and-so told me that her mother has told her not to talk to this particular boy in our class because he is a Muslim and they are not good. She has also asked him not to share food that the boy offers.”

“What do you think? Is that boy in your class bad? Does he harm you or anyone else in the class?”

“No. He is a good boy. Ma’am also likes him. He is a polite boy. He like to play with everyone.”

“What does that tell you? Is he good or bad?”

“He is a good boy.”

“Exactly. You already know what is right and wrong. I have also told you that your right may not be right for others. So don’t judge anyone by what you have heard from someone else. Try and learn to answer that question yourself based on your interaction with the person and what you know about that person. Nobody is perfect. We all have flaws. We all make mistakes. That does not mean that we are all perfectly right or perfectly wrong. Do you get this?”

“Yes. I understood.”

“Will you play with him? Will you share your things with him if he needs them?”

“Yes. I will.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This was a conversation I had with my EIGHT-YEAR-OLD a few days ago. Ever since I have been thinking about it and feeling extremely annoyed about how a parent was misleading their child against another innocent child.

Why the hell do we have to drag young and innocent minds into this dirty mess of religion, region, politics, racism, caste and gender?

Why can’t we let them be themselves?

Why can’t we let them develop their own perceptions on different aspects of life?

Why do we have to brainwash them?

As a mother I do understand the fears and worries of another mother. I myself do warn the girls about impending dangers from strangers. I warn them to be careful with people they know as well as people they do not know. But I have never told them to boycott another child because he was a bully, or because she was dark, or because he was from a certain community, or because she was from a family that supported a certain political party. What are we doing? Is there an end to this?

I know it was a personal decision of that mother and may be of their family but it left me fuming because I don’t like children being involved in these petty matters. We complain of young minds being radicalized or being brainwashed. What was this? If we continue to drag them into these, why should we complain about others?

I don’t support any such nonsense. If we really want to protect our children, we must teach them love, kindness, sharing, compassion and being sensitive towards others. We must teach them not to hurt others. We must teach them to respect another’s feelings and their properties. We must teach them to not bully others. We must equip them with wisdom to make out good from bad and right from wrong. Encourage them to use their logic to reach conclusions based on their experiences instead of forcing your own experiences on them. How can you proudly tell your child that a certain boy in the class is not good because he is a Muslim while you encourage your child when he tells you how he managed to knock down another child in the school?

What are your views on this?

Do you think children should be taught to judge others in this manner?