Parenting is a wonderful experience. In India, particularly, each day is a learning episode in life. This is a gift we transfer from generation to generation to keep alive our values that is so intrinsic about India. In the bargain injustices too are meted out to children.
Education is one of the major area where special pressure is placed on our children. Teachers and counselors give us a grim picture about ambitious parents who want their children to be driven hard in school demanding more home work for them, advanced classes in all the subjects. There are still others who place a lot of emphasis on marks their children should score even though they are in kindergarten.
Some parents cannot wait to get their children started in school. They would like to see them perform many things and draw their pleasure and happiness in seeing them do things that they themselves were unable to do when they were kids. By Waiting, a parent can give his young people the chance to make a habit of success rather than failure. Children become infected with the parental anxiety.
Childhood is traditionally supposed to be a time when one guiltlessly can and should go out and do nothing. Yet in today’s world the young and the older children are often busy from morning till night with club meetings, athletic practice, tutoring, trips to theaters, museums and similar places where he can absorb adult culture, and a multitude of lessons of various kinds tennis, swimming, bowling, art, horseback riding.
Thus childhood’s special sense of time, in which minutes often seem like hours, is forced to yield to the clockwork of pseudo-adult life. Yet, according to psychotherapist Dr. Victor Balaban: “Most of the activities children are involved in lack a sense of need or reason. Many a youngster has real interests that he cannot follow because he is too busy with things he doesn’t care about.”
Children are under equal pressure to “succeed” on a social level. Parties, dancing and dating begin early in some neighbourhoods. Sometimes little girls of ten and eleven cry themselves to sleep because they are wallflowers at class dances. For boys, popularity is linked to the number of activities they are in, or to athletic ability.
This substitution of forced growth for natural growth in school, social life and other activities is not a phenomenon limited to middle-class families in suburban areas. It is not surprising that children who live miniature replicas of grown-up lives also undergo grown-up stresses. Counseling services report increasing numbers of emotionally pset children, and that the incidence of physical “stress ailments” among youngsters ulcers, for example is on the rise. Specialists in asthma have long known that the illness is psychosomatic for most youngsters the result of emotional tension.
It is true to some extent, say the experts, that children have to learn to live under pressure. But it is important to differentiate between what is necessary and what is not. There are certain normal, inherent pressures that every child must meet,” says Sanford Sherman, associate executive director of New York’s Jewish Family Service. “He must learn to get to school on time, to develop decent table manners, to get along with others. These are all within a child’s capacity at one stage of growth or another. But it is when we place him under abnormal pressures to be brilliant beyond his capabilities, to be a leader when he is not ready for leadership that he is going to have difficulties.”
Some parents ask a child to compete with an impossible ideal. Find out, during this summer holidays, exactly how many demands are being made on your child’s time, and if he is overburdened help him cut down or cut free.
Think in terms of long-range goals for children, rather than being over concerned with the here-and-now achievements. A parent should be aware of the potential within his child of what he can accomplish in the future in his own way, in his own good time. Children are not emotionally mature enough to plan for a distant future. You cannot expect little child to set his sights on college, on a career or on marriage.
Most important, a child must know that he is loved for himself, even if he fails or does not compete at all. The paradox is that the youngster pressured to achieve a form of maturity in childhood may end as an adult failure, but the youngster who is given love and understanding without this pressure gains the kind of emotional security that will help to make him a successful adult.
In short, a child will grow up in inverse ratio to the amount of undue pressure exerted upon him to do so. Instead of rushing him into a synthetic adulthood long before he is ready, we must give him time and freedom to develop according to his own pace and abilities. We must get used to seeing him as a person in his own right, rather than as an appendage of ourselves to be used for our own satisfactions. We must give him back his childhood particularly during this summer holidays.