Is Parenting Failing Us
(For other articles by Dr. Swatantra Jain, please check this webpage)
In 1980s, during my PhDs years, my five year old daughter came to me with a rose in her hand in the early morning when I was busy writing my thesis. Complaining she said, ‘Mumma, aap hamesha mujhe akela chhod kar apna kaam karne lag jati ho, aapka kaam khatam hi nahi hota’. Before I could reply, she offered me a pretty rose and said very lovingly, ‘Lo! I have brought a flower for you. It has got God within it. Keep it in your papers. It will help you finish your work soon’. Overwhelmed by her loving gesture, I hugged her and made her sit in my lap. At the same time, being conscious of my duty to teach her compassion towards plants, animate & inanimate beings, I said to her lovingly, “Baby, no doubt these flowers have God within, but they also have life. When we pluck them, they feel hurt though we can’t see/hear their hurt. So, we should not hurt flowers, plants or anyone else by spoiling, plucking, destroying or doing bad things to them”. After reflecting for a while, she promised me that she won’t pluck flowers in future.
Friends, I was able to implant in my daughter the seeds of love, compassion, empathy and other good habits and positive attitudes towards all creatures right from her childhood. But parents aren’t always conscious of their duty to cultivate positivity, social virtues and noble sanskars in their kids. Parents are usually concerned about their kid’s growing disregard of the authority and elders, impulsivity, intolerance, over-possessiveness, selfishness, self-centeredness and apathetic stance towards pain of others. Insensitivity towards other’s needs, feelings and rights are pushing our youth towards aggressive and violent manifestation of emotions. Their craze for achieving everything including education, job and easy money without doing much hard work is leading them to adopt wrong and anti-social means like cheating, forgery etc. Our youth’s greed to become rich overnight is leading them towards anti-social and criminal activities including stealing, kidnapping or even killing. If our male child/adolescent is involved in a sex offence, who is at fault? How have we failed to give them right attitude towards women & girls, to sublimate their anger, jealousy, lust & greed in positive ways and teach them self-control?
Today, even if our youth are not moving towards criminality, they lack ‘deep value systems’. The loving community that waters good values is needed to bring out the most healing and nurturing from within youth. Our planet is on the verge of collapse due to climate change and other environmental catastrophes. Our genre including our youth can’t see it. Every child needs skills to see the truth of our times more clearly – otherwise our youth will keep getting attracted to whatever seems to give us shallow attention, power or money.
It should be a mind-boggling question for all of us, ‘whither our youth? What they are up to? Why are they heading towards law-breaking and cheating instead of caring and law-abiding activities? Why are they growing so frustrated, distracted, selfish and emotionally imbalanced that they are increasingly crossing all the limits of social ethics? Why this speedy decline of value-system? Who is responsible for all this’?
We may put the blame of the situation of our youth on the teachers for their lack of bonding with the students or the parents for their faulty parenting styles and poor value-systems or the global mass media forces leading to their obsession with electronic screens of TV and mobile. We may also attribute this to the disintegration of joint family system (which taught us social virtues like respect for the elders and love for the young, cooperation, patience, sacrifice tolerance, obedience) leading to nuclear families and to a culture where both the parents work leaving almost no quality time for them to bond with their kids.
As a student of psychology, a teacher and a parent, I would like to consider this issue from a holistic point of view. Child is a condensed cosmos born with all the divine as well as devil tendencies within it. According to the famous psychoanalyst Carl Jung, every child inherits a common unconscious, called collective unconscious, besides child’s personal unconscious. The entire noble and the ignoble, good and bad sanskars are stored in this collective unconscious. It’s the duty of the parents and the teachers together to help the child in bringing out the noble sanskars from that common reservoir called collective unconscious (Just as in my own example cited above, I tried to bring out and instill compassion from my daughter’s collective unconscious).
Likewise, we all can try to bring out the noble sanskars by positively reinforcing the good and discouraging the negative to come up in the child’s mind from that reservoir. Similarly, we can sublimate the ignoble into socially desirable channels and chisel the child into a full-fledged adult ready to fulfill all her individual, family and social duties in socially acceptable way.
Though, we can’t hold parents responsible for all the ills of our society, still we can’t deny that the family is the first school of a child; and the parents its first teachers. The first share of responsibility lies on the parents because the foundation of kids’ character is laid in the first seven years, which they spend almost entirely with the parents. It is the period when a strong base of their habits and attitudes, values & character, preferences & prejudices, sentiments & emotions, and fear and anxieties is laid. It is this period when parents can help their kids to learn appropriate expression of their intelligence and emotions in socially desirable manner by providing healthy family milieu and reinforcing positivity. But, the same parents can end up in reversing this process by providing an emotionally turbulent family setting and reinforcing negativity.
Dear friends, in such a rapidly changing world and global scenario, when our youth are face to face with terrific influence on their mind and brain due to the mind-boggling advertisements and daily changing market-scene around them, when they are increasingly getting aware of their rights as children, as students, as citizens, when their minds are constantly being filled with the pornographic literature/ videos; when a holistic value system has ceased to exist; the difficulties of us parents have doubled rather tripled. It is not as simple as it used to be decades back.
Moreover, our new genre kids are progressively being born with higher intellect and sensitivity than earlier times. They perceive and interpret our words, actions, gestures and treatment in their own way. We can’t even figure out as to what our kids have reacted so strongly. Our one wrong gesture, word or reaction can make him/her rebel against us or even against herself for her whole life. One of my clients suffering from high anxiety, while opening up herself, said, ‘My father hates me’. I asked, ‘How do you feel that way?’ ‘He doesn’t believe me and let me go alone anywhere, always sends my brother after me.’ It took complete two sittings to alter her perception and convince her that her father, like any other Indian parent, didn’t hate her; he was rather over-protective about her and loved her so much that he was afraid that someone might harm her. So, this single example is enough for anyone to appreciate that the parents need to be extra cautious in dealing with their kids.
Thus, giving good food & clothing, meeting all their demands and getting them admitted in prestigious schools isn’t a criterion of good parenting skills. There is so much to learn about parenting skills. What’s the best way to discipline them? What should we do so that our kids walk with us rather than oppose us?(For this refer to my article here); How best to lessen their stress, anxiety and fear (refer to my article here); how to teach them assertive skills (refer to my article here); how to help manage their anger and other negative emotions (refer to my article here); how to help them in being autonomous and take decisions independently (refer to my article here) etc?
Overall, parents need some help in their parenting skills. There are regular parenting clinics in US and other developed countries to provide parents guidance in child rearing practices. In India, it is badly needed to meet the challenge of parenting. We will be covering some of these topics in the upcoming magazine issues.