Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Give a man a fish to eat and you cripple him for life...

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will have food on his plate for a lifetime. A saying which we were taught in school but seem to have forgotten like all the other good and simple things we learnt. Handing them is easy. Educating someone is tough.

Just look around to see the mad rush to equip children, adults, nations etc. with things which add no value to improve their current state of affairs or growth but since "we" deem it desirable/important we still go ahead and provide it. Not stopping to think and contemplate once about its consequences ~ good or bad. The current ambitious and I would say populist "Food Security Bill" is the latest in the line. We don't work towards generating avenues and opportunities for education/job to earn a living but are willing to dole out free food for the empty plates. Once you become used to being served things without having to lift your finger, in no time you will stop making attempts too and obviously the finger becomes useless. Whatever is not used over a period of time - erodes and eventually becomes weak for any use. Death occurs without having to work for it. This is what we are also doing to our children in this generation. Preparing them to face the eventful journey called life with limited strength and know-how to survive as winners.

This point of view is most fashionable in, mostly in metro India, with our current crop of "western-style-parenting-is-THE-best" mindset parents too. Come to think of it as a nation we are obsessed with anything that is “fair or white”. Why is my question? What’s wrong with our age-old, time tested, intense but resistant, result-oriented way of bringing up our children? Since when have we become afraid of our own children? Whenever I look around I am stumped by the change that has come about in the parenting style of “cool, emancipated-parents”. At the expense of sounding rude I guess these parents are too selfish to give up on their own life style to bring up kids the tough way. You have to be a role model in order to have them follow you. The traditional Indian way of parenting requires time and effort from the parent’s side too. Lots and lots of it but time kahan hai? I too have a life and career. Should I leave that and sit at home? No but don’t take the easy way out. It’s easier said than done but it is not impossible. It’s doable, and only needs effort.

When I push my child I know he/she has the strength to reach the potential. By accepting whatever is thrown my way I am essentially endorsing the fact that ‘my child is not capable of exploiting his or her potential to the fullest’. In my view the cool way is to first accept my child cannot take pressure, stress or is incapable of hard work and then start working with them. Latter is being negative about the child not the former. I follow the tenet “innocent until proven guilty.” If medically my child is diagnosed to be weak and incompetent I would accept but not till then (get the basics right and then work towards building the foundation). If we feared pressure and stress, we would never get diamonds. When I say stress, its positive stress - not the "uski kameez meri kameez se safed kaise" types.    

Let your kids follow their passion – have you thought through of how and how much will this add to the child’s future? Don’t pressurize the children – so what is the scientifically proven age for beginning to take pressure? Let them have their way – so when will they learn to be accommodating and responsible children - eventually adults? Don’t unnecessarily force them to listen to what you as a parent feel is right – so when does one begin instilling values that make you “YOU?”  Don’t stress them or be harsh in pushing the children to excel – so how do we appreciate mediocre performance and yet come up with successful individuals in the long run? Don't force habits on children - so when should they begin - once the wrong ones are formed - double effort for the child? These are some questions that I would love to be answered by the so called 'modern mindset parents.'  However there is a disclaimer - there are exceptions to all. I am not referring to extremes or gifted.

We are doing such a big injustice to our children by appreciating each and every act or output (no matter how commonplace and below standard) so that they end up as having high ‘self-image’. The breaking news my friend is that these kids are more likely to end up seeking psychological help to correct their frequent break-downs and negative self–image in the process. Why, because in the building years we never got them to understand that mediocre is not-great. Great work is great work. Appreciation at the right age and time gives desired results. Our kids expect a “aww”, “how beautiful”, “wonderful work darling” etc. for each and every result that they produce not thinking twice that when they are actually going to meet those “wonderful and exceptional” works in reality, then how will they manage their egos and self-image? Perfect recipe for disaster. Unfortunately we as parents are preparing it.

I have a very simple query – if you don’t equip someone with the tools and the mental strength to cope with the downs of life in the growing up years, you have no right to expect the children to grow-up into an accountable social and individual person. This I guess is what is plaguing our society today. Society is made up of you and me and not residents of Mars or Jupiter.

A generation of parents has been brought up thinking that the way to being an excellent parent is to be friends with your child. No harm in it. An excellent piece of advice no doubt if you understand the true meaning and responsibilities associated with the role. Come to think of it like blindly following what is ‘in’, how many of us really understand what exactly constitutes ‘being a friend” to our children? Is it “a friend in need is a friend indeed” – which essentially means being there for everything - right or wrong? According to me that is not being a good friend. Someone who agrees to all that you say and do is the worst possible friend one can have. Parents as true friends need to be that person who is both an absorbent sounding board and a mirror to the child and his or her activities / thoughts. By being “yes-men/yes-women” we are royally shirking our responsibilities as a parent. Yes is the easy way out. No requires devoting time to make the child understand the right. But where is the time now-a-days? We seem to be perfectly content to let the children have their way as long as they are not coming in ours.      
  
Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will never go hungry in his life time. Food for thought.


Ma