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Children’s challenges

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Parents need to be educated about the many complexities children need to deal with in their daily routine today

The more controlling the parent, the more likely the child is to experience boredom.

- Caldwell

Just sitting beside grandma, talking to her, reading to her and playing pagade or carrom with her on a rainy Sunday was entertainment enough for the children of the 1940s and 1950s. Present-day kids would smirk and think it is plain stupid.

There is no point blaming them. It is not difficult to understand what has changed the attitudes of the present-day kids. Partly TV and computer, and also in a major way cell phones and the Internet, have taken over the recreation part. They have YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and what not. We hardly see anymore girls playing hop-scotch or skipping outdoors. Boys are of course still interested in cricket, tennis and football but have shelved kabaddi, goli (marbles), seven-stones, and ghilli-dandu. Most of them are busy with social networking sites, online games, and messaging on their cell phones. Many of the teenagers have their own cell phones: they are no more a luxury but a necessity.

Children going to schools that are 10 km away from home has become common. Further, their evening programme of tuitions, sports, birthday parties, watching movies and so on need personal conveyance. So it has become essential to keep in touch with parents to arrange pick-up and so on.

Their language

Having been in the field of education for a long time, I have watched the younger generation closely. They are surely delightful! But of late when I listen to their conversations among peers there are so many offensive words heard. Sometimes I wince.

There may not be anything intrinsically wrong with that, I say to myself in consolation. Just as small children take delight in learning new words; teenagers like to keep their tongue on a roll, linguistically. If they hear certain words spoken often by others, they cannot resist trying it out themselves. They need to be like their peers, you see! We adults may fly up in the air and turn all shades of red, green and blue each time we hear these words, but there is nothing much we can do about it. Being authoritarian in such matters will never work. They may not use these words in front of those who think it is ‘blasphemy’ but will not hesitate to use them when they are on their own. It has become a part of normal teenage communication.

Generation gap

It is not right to say that the present teenagers do not get involved with the family. They very much do. The tornado of school work and extra-curricular activities come crashing down on them on a daily basis and they hardly get enough time to spend with their families. I have been witness to youngsters doing three times more school work that we did as students years ago. They would rather stay at home and complete their assignments than attend weddings of relatives and other functions.

If they relax with their cell-phones and computers for a while, we adults feel that they are wasting their time. Frankly, they face more challenges today than we did and they are typically more concerned about their education and careers than we ever were. The world around us has become smarter than it was from the 1950s to the 2000s. We better be smart enough to cope with the modern generation, which is more exposed to cutting-edge technology and are more open to new and unfamiliar things. Though they will find mastering new skills relatively easier, the older generation can at least try to match them, at a slower pace.

Frankly, girls today have more confidence in themselves than the girls of yesterday. Academically they have always been better than boys.

Over-parenting

What is over-parenting? It is known as ‘snowplow’ in the West. Excessive anxiety about their daughters had caused them to withdraw themselves from many competitive skills that they were capable of. They were not allowed to develop the psychological resilience required to overcome the ‘pitfalls’ and ‘logjams’ of life.

Over-parenting never helps. It is true that present-day parents get a bit worried about what would happen to their son or daughter when they go out and stay out late. I remember the one cautionary curb that our parents would place on us when we were in our teens. Whenever we ventured out for recreation or play, they would say, ‘Come home before dark.’ In fact, that was all that our parents told us.

But today parents are scared about so many things. They are worried about the personal safety of their children, about traffic, about road rage, stalkers, molesters, rapists and what not. Why? It is because the recreational and entertainment activities of present-day teenagers are not restricted to playing cricket or football in the neighbourhood playground or just going for a walk or a jog with friends. They now go for movies in malls, eat out, attend birthday parties in swanky places... All this happens in the evenings and children can reach home only after dark. No wonder then that parents get rather over-protective. But, for the teenager this would seem like a pain. As it is, being a teenager is filled with enough anxieties.

We as children wandered aimlessly during our summer vacations, watching the buffaloes and cows being milked in the vicinity of our homes, collecting leaves and flowers that were shed by the trees, climbing trees, swinging on a rope swing and so on. But today children have schedules to conform to even during their free time. They are required to spend most of their holidays completing their home assignments and project work, which involves spending a chunk of their time in front of computers, printers and cell phones.

Pareto’s Principle

The Pareto’s Principle states that "80% of effects come from 20% cause". It means that unscheduled time when one spends it the way one likes brings the greatest creative insights. How many of us adults understand its implications for youngsters? On a given day youngsters should be allowed to spend 20% of their time doing what they like. If they do this, they will be able to become 80% successful in the other mundane necessities of life.

Let us come to brass tacks. They spend about eight hours in school where at least six hours are devoted to serious work. Back home by about 4 p.m., they have just about four or five hours to spend with the family, play outdoors and indoors, read something to their liking and finish their school work. If they have about 12 hours in a day from the time they wake up till they go to bed, some 10 hours get occupied with school and school work. In the remaining two hours they need to fill in home work-time, family-time, eating-time, friends-time, computer-time, cell phone-time, play-time.

What happens then to creative time? They hardly get enough time to fantasise or imagine. Creative energy requires significant mental resources. If a youngster is always worried about his school-work, projects and deadlines, his/her creativity will go for a toss. The process of producing something that is original and worthwhile will take a back seat. This is what has happened to us in our country. There is no point in blaming all and sundry for our poor performance in the research area. We do not give enough time for the present generation ‘a grist for the mill of creativity’. There should be some ‘me-time’ for everyone to disrupt the routine and do things for a change.

Personally I have a feeling that we were able to produce people like C.V. Raman, Jagadish Chandra Bose and Rabindranath Tagore only because their "mind was without fear and the head was held high where the clear stream of reason had not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit."

Can we conclude that we as youngsters had more time as children, students and teenagers to fantasise and imagine? 

srijaya68@gmail.com

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 2:20:18 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/childrens-challenges/article22333884.ece

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