The hapless little fingers curled besides her tiny little body lying on the hospital bed. Her eyes closed peacefully… Whenever I get any news about another child abuse, this scene always resurfaces in front of my eyes. I too heard the news about ‘Baby Falak’ on that fateful day and her tragic story that shocked the entire nation sometimes back. The same evening, Baby Falak was in‘breaking news’ on all news channels. Till date, I am not able to forget those painful images. At that moment, I had hugged my two little kids while tears rolled down- how cruel and gruesome people can be! How, when and where do we develop these emotions to hit, spank and thrash tiny little bodies?
There is a vast cultural divide in parenting styles across the globe. In the west, even laws prohibit ‘physical disciplinary action’ on kids by their own parents. On the other hand, Indian parenting style can be associated to – slapping, verbal humiliations, comparisons and setting high expectations from the kids. All with good intention – to make the child disciplined, well-mannered and competitive! But is that the right approach?
As a mother, I would like to express my view points on our parenting style. We apply more of Douglas Mc Gregor’s ‘X Theory’ with our children. I remember an incident when my daughter, then five years old was getting up on the sofa, jumping and running all over in front of a guest. I felt embarrassed seeing her so ‘unruly’. . I lightly slapped her ears and rebuked her. The guest, an aged grandmother, asked me, “Pubali, is she harming you, me or anyone else? She is just playing, running and laughing!” This comment embarrassed me even more.
Disciplining kids, to many of us as parents also includes controlling several acceptable natural acts besides misconducts. Controlling wrongdoings is justified. But a stop at every moment ultimately holds back their development. I have two children. The elder one is quite soft and timid and the younger one is the naughtier and more aggressive. I am always worried about my elder child on how she will cope up in this world. She is so gentle! But I leave my younger one to himself as he seems to know to manage everything on his own. Why this difference in their personalities?
Experts say each individual is different and hence are unique. But from my experience, I realised that I tried to be a better mom with my elder one giving her more attention in terms of everything- including instructions on ‘do this’, ‘not this baby’, ‘na-na’ , ‘oh my god, Why?’, ‘Be good, be polite’, ‘Don’t talk loudly!’. It seems she has heeded to all my advice and now is a good girl by all standards yet she has become shy, introvert and somewhat scared of people. And, now I am trying to make her more aggressive and self-dependent! I am infact undoing my earlier doings! This experience has changed my outlook on bringing up children and I find my younger one pretty smart!
Sometimes, I wonder, did I abuse her unknowingly? I never hit or scolded her hard- yet was stubborn and stern at times and definitely, though unintentional, did make comparisons and set expectations. Maybe, I curbed down many of her positive personality traits. With conscious parenting efforts now, she is ready to face the world. Thank God! :) This probably is a story of many parents. We face lot of dilemmas every now and then. Child Psychologists ask us not to be hard on kids and understand their changing requirements with patience for their proper growth, improved child-parent relations and to avoid fatal consequences. On the other hand, kid’s illogical behaviour demands stubbornness and at times stern action from parents. Which way do we go? Softer versions of mistreatment towards the child and its consequences later is seen and heard very often. Methods to make the child obedient and disciplined are also passed upon from generations to generations as parenting tips.
With time, society is gradually changing its approach, which is more prominent in urban regions. But the fact remains even today that hardly any family have escaped such soft child abuse in some form or the other. I always associate child abuse with extreme physical, sexual or emotional offences against a child. But Experts say that such offence also includes the regular slapping and beating, verbal humiliations, comparisons between two kids, and definitely gender discrimination.
Negligence to a child’s basic requirements (physical, emotional and educational) by their guardians is also an abuse as it creates great confusion and hence disturbance in a child’s mind. This has many adverse effects on the growth and health of the child, physically and emotionally. There has been an abrupt rise of child abuse cases. At least it seems like that with the amount of related news being flashed across the news channels and also on social media. Since ages, the habit of “bullying the weak” persists in civilised society. A child, being the most reliant member, is no doubt physically weak and mentally more vulnerable. Hence, they become easy targets for those who fail to display supremacy over their equals. Exerting power and supremacy over small kids is easy for grown-ups. And thus, their helplessness and innocence is exposed routinely toadult brutality to release frustration and anger. Whatever the reasons may be, no excuse can justify such violent expressions of hatred on little bodies that are so dependent on others!
It is difficult to understand the psychology of a person who resorts to such aggressive uncontrolled behaviour that makes them torment children which at times even lead to fatal consequences. Understanding the gravity of the situation and grim consequences of such dastardly behaviour towards children, the Indian Constitution has definitely taken few steps in the form of framing different legislation, policies, schemes and programs. However, the effectiveness of any measure becomes evident only when successfully implemented. And successful implementation can happen only when the entire society realise the importance to stand against each act of violence against children, for a better world tomorrow. Such a stand starts at home!
Being a mother to one daughter, I have all my attention for her. Though I have expectations from her that she should excel at whatever she does, she is free to follow her dreams. All I expect is that she works hard for her dreams and does her best and becomes a good human being - responsible, empathetic, strong (not aggressive) and aware (that can help her stay safe). I feel parents should not impose their own thoughts, dreams and expectations on the child. The child should be free to think, observe and analyse and not just be the listener. Having said that, it is indeed difficult to get a perfect balance and to find out where exactly to draw the line. All we can do as parents is to stay informed and aware, be loving and caring for the child, have an open mind and learn from our mistakes as we go.