Monday, July 3, 2006

Emotional torture of children

When I was a student, I detested people, mainly elders, asking probing questions about studies. How many marks did you get? How much did he get? How much did she get? O, I am sure you could have got a little more. Why, was the exam paper tough? See, she hardly studies, how she gets good marks! Very intelligent girl!!

How the hell it matters them, I always thought. I was reminded of this when I saw a parent launch into a tirade of comparison and deprecation of a child.

A couple of questions, which indicate a healthy curiosity for someone they care for, are fine. But where the discussion and the probing questions become disgusting is when they launch into a game of comparison, pitting one kid against the other. It can be torturous for children who are made to listen all these. An emotional torture, which takes place in a very subtle manner.

Unfortunately, in spite of all the education and awareness, many parents still get into this unhealthy practice. At the heart of the parent is a good intention. But that’s not the way a child perceives. Nothing is more nagging and frustrating for a child than being compared to another child, that too by his or her parent.

The damage a parent causes to the child this way is enormous and often underestimated. The child becomes cynical, defeatist and loses respect for parents. The damage becomes apparent and plays out later in life, in their ’20s and early ’30s. I wonder if some of the behavioural deformities of adults could be attributed to such flawed childhood.

I am not surprised when late teenagers or young adults commit suicide, after examinations. Imagine what they must have been subjected to if they simply had nothing to clutch on.

In the midst of all luxury and material comforts, what many children miss out nowadays is a reassuring cushion at the emotional level that home alone can provide .

Every child, every individual in fact, is unique and gifted in his or her own way. What a child needs in these days is encouragement and positive reinforcement. Let us not belittle children, and make them feel useless.


  1. From the moment a child is born he is nurtured for THE JOB. This is our mentality. And the goading starts early and is part of our psyche. Children are rarely allowed to enjoy childhood and look around..there is nothing to do in the evenings except study or watch TV. We don't have playgrounds nor parks. Till every sector becomes a viable earning alternative, the pressure to peform for that engineering/medical seat will continue from childhood.

  2. True Silverine. After I wrote that, I met a parent, who wanted advice from me on how his son could become an animation artist. The child is in eighth std! I told the father that he should just let the kid draw at home... and not worry about him becoming a great artist. There is lots and lots of time, to get into the specifics of graphics and animation as a career option.

  3. I agree with you. I am also surprised by your own comment Mr.Nair, that the father of a child so young had made up his mind for the kid to be into animation. I think it is this kind of mentality that we need to get over with.

    I see a parallel in this post and the "job satisfaction or money" posts. I think the same mentality is at work, in both these aspects.

  4. I agree. I was appalled, disgusted and horrified when recently I heard froma friend that one of her friends had told his son, who had got some 8000+ rank in CET : " You could have died instead of putting me through this shame"!!!! Can you believe this? what punishment is adequate for this parent???

  5. Wow!!! Several of the points you (and others make) are so pervedaing wherever you look.. especially in Gods own Country. What has often bemused me is the almost exclusive prevalence of these attitudes in the so called social upper crusts. You look at regions with most progressive growth indices (Kerala, Japan, Singapore et. al)and the incidences of parental harassment (of the mental kind)are horrifying. The ultimate paradox perhaps.
    The post also brings to mind last years cover story from Outlook which pointed out that while the Kerala developmental model is looked up to by many; the state also has the highest suicide rate, 4 times the national alcohol consumption level and unemployment that would bemuse many swayed by the 100% literacy fable.

  6. Usha,
    Shocking indeed. I feel so bad for such children for whom troubles in life start right at home.

    Very true about the situation in Kerala. But I guess children are a bit better off in western countries like the US and the UK, and also in Australia, New Zealand etc.

  7. Pradeep,
    I am not so sure about the west either.. but at least there are documented cases of state intervention when parents cross the line..On the distaff side you have the horrifying child abuse stories from Belgium, Austria, US etc. But at least the manic belief in conventional careers and conventional modes of student assessment is much less there. And we have "Salaam Bombay"!! bittersweet, but incredible..

  8. It is a well known fact that parents often push their own ambitions and aspirations on children.

    And this is a human nature and has happened from time immemorial and will continue to do so.

    I am dead sure that each and every one who commented here will at one time or other wish that his/her kid became this or that.

    Nothing to be ashamed of that, it is what makes us humans.
    The only thing that can be done is to avoid putting undue pressure on the children.

    But from my own experience, I must say that had my mother not been after me to do my homeworks and study for my exams I would have become an absolute zero.

    There is a fine line to it and only experts can do a balancing act.

  9. Rony,
    True, here we don't have an effective mechanism for intervention in case of abuse. Now there are a number of conselling centres, probably with time, they may get more active.

    You got it right. Some pressure is obviously necessary. But what most are ignorant of is "how far is too much". Besides this, corrective measures should never be counterproductive. Aspects like self-respect, confidence etc aren't often factored.