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The right balance in child-rearing

Very few parents seem to be good at maintaining it, given the seemingly contradictory elements involved

By now it is well known that the late Jayalalithaa, former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, was a reluctant actor. To her credit, she proved to be an extremely versatile actor who infused her acting talent with unbridled energy and enthusiasm. Among all the Tamil movies she acted in, the one that stands out is Major Chandrakant, directed by the redoubtable K. Balachander. This is the only movie that brought KB and Jayalalithaa together. Despite the fact that she had more of a cameo appearance in the movie, her acting prowess in Major Chandrakant continues to be a moment of truth.

Comedian Nagesh played Jayalalithaa’s brother in this movie. His performance brought tears to your eyes. The picturisation of the song ‘oru naal yaro’ remains remarkable as Nagesh goes all out to prove to the audience in his neighbourhood that his sister is indeed singing on the radio. The song sung by P. Susheela was a chartbuster. Later the plot shows how the brother goes berserk when his darling sister commits suicide after being cheated by her lover . When the brother was so affectionate towards his sister, why did she not confide in him?

This is the problem in most Indian families today where open communication between parents and children has atrophied thanks to the popularity of television, social media tools and the Internet. Parents struggle to draw the fine balance between giving their children the space they need and inculcating a sense of discipline in them. Very few parents seem to be good at maintaining the balance between these seemingly contradictory steps.

This happened years ago. A relative of mine was living in Mumbai and struggling to meet ends. He had three children, two daughters and a son. I recall playing with his son as a child. We don’t know what prompted this man to leave his son with his elder sister. His wife opposed this move but she was vetoed.

The elder sister was extremely strict with the child (who was then nine years old) as she had had a painful childhood spent in an orphanage. She had lost her mother at a young age and no family member was willing to take the responsibility of her upbringing. These experiences inured her. Eventually she became a teacher and married a fellow teacher. She didn’t have any children. The woman, it appears, was so strict with the young boy that he ran away from his aunt’s home in Chennai, never to return. This incident still brings tears to my eyes as I recall the young boy who, on all counts, was smart and vivacious. The boy’s aunt punished him even for the silliest of mistakes, making life hell for him. The boy’s mother hoped for her son’s return throughout her life and sadly passed away with the desire unmet.

Parents should understand that for a child his parents mean the world. Nobody can take the place of parents in a child’s life. Even if the child has an elder brother or an elder sister, no one can take the place of parents. In the guise of disciplining a child, no child should be inflicted corporal punishment.

Their tender hearts will get bruised when elders cause physical or verbal hurt. Parents have to be circumspect with teenage children as harsh words can injure. There have been cases where teenage children have committed suicide unable to bear the harsh words of their parents. Teenage children need to be treated by parents more as friends.

At the other end of the spectrum are parents who believe that giving children the freedom they seek is in their interest. There is nothing wrong with this school of thought. However, this should not lead to a state of disconnect with their children. Even while we give our children the space they need, parents should keep their eyes and ears open. The negative influences of social media and obscene videos on YouTube notwithstanding, parents have to ensure that their children get exposed to the right things when they are in an impressionable age.

Specified rules

Working mothers have to take additional steps to ensure that their children are not doing unhealthy things behind their back. Parents have to be confident that their teenage children will do no wrong, and this must be verbally demonstrated to them at all times. The rules must be clearly specified. And if these are broken, parents should explain to children how hurting it is to them.

Vigilance is the key. Teach children the virtues of courage and to believe in themselves. And never lose an opportunity to explain to them that no matter what you as parents are always available to support them.

Better safe than sorry!

gvenkatesh69@gmail.com

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 5:24:08 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/The-right-balance-in-child-rearing/article16907501.ece

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