Children should not be unnecessarily shouted at, punished, beaten, starved, locked up or sent out of the house

A recent programme on fathers and daughters on TV brought to mind many stored memories. The participants were forthcoming, egged on by the anchor and many truths were expressed on national TV. The irony of it is that the very same people would never have shared these feelings with one other, if not for the gentle confrontation with home truths in a public arena.

Psychology tells us that we share easily a lot of our objective facts like name, address, qualifications, job, nationality, etc., and hide our subjective qualities, of feelings, emotions, beliefs and dreams, even from our own thoughts. Why is this so? It's because, we do not know ourselves and sometimes we are afraid of facing ourselves. For instance, a daughter said that she loved her father, but disliked the punishment he gave her by constantly pointing out her faults. The father replied that he reminded her of her faults, as she did not correct herself, but if this was troubling her immensely, he would stop doing it in future. The revelation must have affected them both to result in a positive change in their behaviour.

The major point of contention was that daughters are not given much freedom to make their decisions regarding time, activity, friends (more so of the opposite gender), studies, phone conversations, TV viewing and, most important, choice of marriage partners. A recent TV ad also stresses this point with questions being raised with girls and not with boys.

At this juncture, my thoughts go back to my relationship with my father. As the youngest of seven children in the family, perhaps I was given more freedom than my elder sisters. Father had a habit of saying that he had only six children when he was remonstrating any one of us for any misbehaviour. I had the cheek to tell him once, “It's ok “Appa”, I will be one of six when you are scolding the others”! The response from him was, “Adhikaprasangi” (too much talker—literal translation) !

Another incident was, when I was arguing with my father that I wished to go on a date even when I had no boyfriend in sight. Mind you, this was in the late 1950s! I was 16 and an ardent reader of teenage books from the USIS library. My father's answer of an emphatic “no” made me ask, “Why, don't you trust me?” He said, “ Of course, I trust you, you are my daughter, but I don't trust the other fellow, whoever, he is”! Actually, I never went on a date, for all that dare-devilry.

Something I thank my father for the independence he gave me for decision making which helped me to be a leader from my school days. He told me when I was 16 years old, “You are 16 and you have been taught our family values. You are now old enough to make your own decisions.” I have passed on this legacy to my children and both of them are independent, value-oriented leaders in their own lives.

What is important in our family relationships is: love, trust and respect, whatever the age or gender of the children. Even toddlers have to be taught to respect and they should be given respect. Children should not be unnecessarily shouted at, punished, beaten, starved, locked up or sent out of the house. Many children run away when they don't feel secure at home. I feel sad to read about corporal punishment being given in schools and homes, even today. The only punishment I ever received was to be sent to a corner of the room, twice or thrice in my childhood, like Dennis the Menace! ‘Appa' never raised his voice or hand at any one of us seven siblings. Not that we were angels, one severe look from him was enough to quell us.

Let me come back to the present and request the dads of today to love their children, sons and daughters, and treat everyone in the family as equals. Let LOVE be the ruling emotion.

(email: Malathimohan00@