If the headlines must be eye-catching, then it sure got all the eyeballs it wanted. China proposes to punish parents for the bad behaviour of their children. Now that’s something. I let the other news items be as I devoured this bit. As a parent and an educator, this news surely was of a lot of interest to me. The headlines at least gave some hope of some magic tricks to get the kids back on track.
To say that the pandemic has created an upheaval in our lives is an understatement. It was affected each one of us in so many unimaginable ways. Sometimes the effect was direct, as in one has lost someone dear to the virus, or sometimes one was a mute, helpless spectator as the virus danced to its macabre tunes. Either way, no one was spared. It brought us all down to a level playing ground where even the rich couldn’t buy their way through.
But if one were to choose the category of people who were, and are, the most hit then it would be the children. Yes, the children, irrespective of their age. From being locked up indoors during the early days of the pandemic to losing out on regular studies or playtime, it has deprived them of many things which one tends to take for granted. And one can’t even imagine what those kids are going through who have been orphaned!
Today when I see the children around me, it is just not the same. They seem to be living in a make-believe bubble, a world of their convenience, which is far from reality. Studies have taken a back seat. Online classes are going on, but formal education has lost its essence. The relationship between the students and the teachers which were already very fragile and balancing precariously on the tip of decorum is now tilting dangerously towards impunity and insouciance.
What China is trying to address is not specific to that country but a global issue – the lack of discipline among the children due to the pandemic. Or rather, the pandemic is being used as an excuse for the excesses. A large part of the day is spent on playing online or binge-watching or getting addicted to social media. Even my 7-years old students are better at typing than writing with pen and paper. I guess it is because of the availability of the gadget to them, which would have otherwise been not-so-easily accessible.
It can be argued both ways. There are multiple advantages of having access to the internet – easy access to more information, more resources, more ideas; but on the other hand, easy access to all forms of mischief if not checked or regulated. But is holding the parents accountable right?
I completely and fully agree with this thought process. When we say children, it means they are our responsibility, our charge. So, if they are making a mistake, however small, then it is directly reflective of our attitude or beliefs. Many parents believe in treating their kids as young adults, giving them unchecked access, justifying it as it is needed for their studies or that they are responsible kids and know the limits. But honestly, ask yourself – when adults cannot survive the blinding lure of the idiot box or social media, can the young impressionable minds be expected to exhibit self-restraint? This argument fails hands down.
Forget this headline, if one has been reading about the ordeal teachers are going through during the online classes, it is nothing short of horror stories. Hiding behind the camera, with the mics turned off, students don’t even attend classes while the teacher is doing all that she can to teach with the limited resources. Answer scripts from every student are near perfect. And the sad part is the kids wouldn’t have dared to be so indifferent, secure in the comfort of their homes, had their parents not encouraged this behaviour.
Also, the lack of social interaction is creating a lacuna in the personal growth of the children. They are not sure how to interact with one another. Their real-life friends are their online classmates. Time spent chatting with them is the extent of their social interactions. This is shown in how the young ones conduct themselves when outside their homes. Having their way at home, getting spoilt with all their demands being met, they don’t seem to understand the need to get along with others, to adjust and to accommodate. It’s all about me and myself. This self-centred behaviour is causing social adjustment issues and leading to bad behaviour. The fall out of this boorish behaviour is the unrefined body language, lack of empathy and non-existent manners.
With everyone working from home, privacy has gone for a toss. Whether you live in a large house or in a small one, personal space has shrunk like never before. I guess it’s only natural that to keep the kids engaged it’s best to hand them that smartphone or allow them to watch some mind-numbing repeats on the telly. Seriously, is that the only solution? For the smart, chic, techno-savvy generation of parents, who are so happening on social media, is this the easy way out of their responsibilities of being a parent? what happened to some quality family time with board games or books or travels? too cliched and old-fashioned?
Discipline is an ugly word. It is so retro and exhibits a regressive mindset. Hard work is for parents. Our children are growing up with all these beliefs. Stuck in the homes, with schedules arranged as per their convenience, everything available at their fingertips, life has never been better for them, for those who haven’t experienced the vagaries of life. What are they learning? How will they cope with the real world once they get their heads out of the screen? So yes, whether you like it or not, but the parents are largely responsible for the state the kids are in now. The home is the first place of learning; the children learn by watching their parents. So, are we setting the correct example for them? Are we teaching them to cut corners or do it the right way?
Discipline doesn’t mean hitting or shouting or giving corporal punishments. It means setting boundaries, and believing in those boundaries, and more importantly, speaking to the children about them. Kids will not accept diktats; they want it to be justified – so do it. Explain why you are asking them to do what you are asking them to do. Set some limits – like number of hours they can spend online or watch TV, or chat with online friends, etc. Insist on some form of physical activity. If they can hang out with their friends at the neighbourhood cafes, visit malls, eat out, then I’m pretty sure it’s also safe for them to go out and play or exercise or even attend regular school.
Discipline is all about being conscious of what is right for us and following it with honesty. Wake up on time, wash up and dress up for the classes, do your schoolwork for the day, go out and play, have a good night’s rest. All these are part of a disciplined lifestyle. Did it really sound so scary or undoable or impossible? I don’t think so. If anything, it appears simple and normal. But yes, it needs commitment and a will to follow through, and that is what is lacking in most of us. Parents don’t want to enforce what they know they can’t follow so they are letting things slide. But life lesson numero uno is ‘what goes up, comes back down’. Are you ready to face the consequences in the years to come?
When China said it proposed to limit the online time for children and hold the parents responsible for the bad behaviour of the children, I couldn’t help thinking – is it a bad idea? I don’t think so. If society has to bear the brunt of someone else’s bad parenting, then better to nip it in the bud. Discipline is all about realising our responsibilities. Period. Once that’s sorted, everything else falls into place.
So, till the time no such rules are applied here, let us suffer the deplorable behaviour of our young ones.