It’s a common theme at most gatherings these days, especially ones where people of “a certain age” are present. Psychiatrists and pop psychologists, agony aunts and parental advice columns, the next-door aunty and the maid servant, everyone is losing sleep over how badly the “aaj kal ke bacche” are turning out. It’s an incessant refrain wherever I turn. Kids today just don’t measure up! They are too selfish, too aggressive, too materialistic, too brand oriented, too rude, too mercenary, too something or the other.
While I do see the signs of all this in most kids, it would be wrong to say ALL kids are this way, because many are not. And as for the ones that are, I think it is important to look at the why, what, and how. If the kids, and by kids these discussions mean anyone between 2 and 32 these days, are the way we think they are, the way we hoped they wouldn’t be, the question is haven’t WE made them this way? As parents, teachers, role models, and general authority figures, haven’t we set all the wrong examples that have created this generation of self centered materialistic human beings? After all, no matter what big WISDOM we cram in their books and how much we lecture them on right and wrong and values, monkey see monkey do.
When a parent at my daughter’s school, the guardian of one of her classmates, complains for 40 minutes at a time about how her kid keeps watching this particularly disturbing cartoon, which the parent disapproves of, and doesn’t listen to directives to change the channel or turn the TV off, I wonder which is the parent in their house, and who makes the rules. How does a barely-six-year-old have the temerity to ignore parental directives so easily? Obviously it has never learnt that no means NO. and that’s hardly surprising given how I see most parents handling discipline (and no discipline DOES NOT mean hitting your child). At home, in malls, in cinemas, the scene is almost identical. The kid asks for something, parent says no. kid throws a grandmother of a tantrum, screaming, crying, kicking, falling on the floor and in general making a scene, parent gives in.
What the child has learnt – all it takes to turn a no into a yes is a little waterworks and public embarrassment. A valuable lesson that the child is NOT likely to forget in a hurry. I really don’t get it. If I can get the child whatever it is, and if I think my child should have it, I wouldn’t say no in the first place. If I can’t, or won’t get it for the child, then I simply WON’T. initially my monkey tried the tantrum routine, until she realized that mommie has an exceptionally thick skin, does not get embarrassed at all, and the no never changes to a yes. In restaurants, especially in India, kids are a menace! They run around, getting under the feet of the serving staff, running into chairs and tables, disturbing other diners and making a godawful racket. The parents seem to be blind and deaf! Assuming the kid has never been taught to behave itself and keep its seat in a restaurant or other public spaces, I don’t find it surprising that these kids grow up to be obnoxiously loud in restaurants and plexes, and NEVER turn their phones off in a movie or a play.
Increasingly, the ONLY focus of the parents seems to be the GRADES of the child. With all consuming obsessiveness about grades, parents ignore all transgressions as long as the RESULT is good. The child need not socialize (in fact socializing is often actively discouraged), and need not have any hobbies or extra curricular interests. In addition, relatives and friends are discouraged from coming over, or coming to stay, especially around exam season, and every whim of the child, healthy and legitimate or otherwise, is indulged in order that the child is in the RIGHT frame of mind for the EXAMS (even if they are the mid term evaluations of a 5-year old). Then, when they grow up, we suddenly expect them to care about relatives? Having taught them that nothing matters except their academic records, and that people are unnecessary, we suddenly complain when they behave as we have taught them to.
We complain ad nauseum of how materialistic these kids are, and how they talk brands all the time. We compare them to how simple, down to earth, and innocent we were at their age, when all we cared about was climbing trees and playing kho-kho. How accurate that self-portrait is, is anyone’s guess, but what we don’t examine is how we are making them that way. I know of mothers who throw away dadi ma’s home made roti and bhindi ki sabzi (in front of the kid) to replace it with salami and pizza for his packed lunch. I know parents who don’t buy any electronics, not even their own phones, without the advice and permission of their pre teen kids! I see kids in school, and not even high school at that, who sport the latest brands in everything, who carry expensive and high tech phones, tabs and what have you. They obviously didn’t buy all this for themselves, so who taught them the BRAND thing?
We don’t socialize anymore, not really. At best our CIRCLE is a small set of people of similar social and economic background. We have done away with the gift giving and family gatherings, because they cost too much time and money, both of which can be better used elsewhere. Time….in making more money, and money … in buying the next dress, bag, pair of shoes, phone, etc. so the kids don’t learn to share or give. They don’t learn to tolerate nosy or irritating relatives, just because it is something that is done, and they don’t learn that some friends may have a LOT less stuff than others. They only learn the importance of having the PS2, and of going to shop in DUBAI. We don’t give to charity, and would rather buy more clothes we don’t need than sponsor a child. We would rather throw away discarded clothes than bother to cart them to an orphanage.
And we still expect our kids to grow up to be amazing human beings with all the right values? That’s a little childish isn’t it?