Attributes like respect, discipline, truthfulness, finesse and an endless list of moral values are expected from well-groomed children. Parents and Schools are supposed to train the new generation.
‘Respect your elders’, we chant like a mantra. Thus ‘Age’ is implied as the only cognizable criterion for deserving respect. As per this paradox, the child in turn does not deserve to be respected! Can we really expect them to learn real respect without respecting them for being their individual selves? The fact is, all we make them learn in the garb of discipline and respecting elders is ‘Fear’.
Incidentally, the paradox works in all areas of morality. Discipline becomes an insane guarding of material possessions with endless negatives: ‘No!’, ‘don’t touch it!’, ‘You spoilt everything!’… We appear to love our materialistic perfection world more than children. Let the child feel valued and loved with her / his ideas, fantasies and material possessions. Let these be guarded and respected like those of adults and children are self-regulated enough to give the same back to us. Values are imbibed. They cannot be taught like factual details. Education cannot serve its true purpose until parents and educationists start seeing children as individuals free to decide, learn and emulate, free to be…
Most of us fail to tell ourselves the truth about us. A highly positive self-image is one of the most basic needs of human psychological existence. Having lived amidst the logic of competition, we have created unachievable standards of morality and ego-satisfaction for ourselves. These are best met while boasting about our fantasy achievements to our children, or worse still by wanting to live on the elevated pedestal through children. While children are often crushed under the burden of unachievable milestones, the adult heroism myth is bound to be broken. No wonder, teenage rebellion grows with each new generation questioning the lies more vehemently than earlier.
Progressive parents and schools clearly need to understand the importance of respecting each child as an individual. Amidst an environment of mutual respect and collaboration, rather than the thwarting ambience of fear and the rat race for unachievable goals, can childhood imbibe the coveted morality. Progressive schools are a free space where the child learns to accept the ‘Other’. The dividing lines of gender, caste, class and age must be erased in an ambience of acceptance, trust and respect in school. Adults, teachers and parents alike, need to give a listening ear and understanding to children, rather than the regular judgemental statements and comparisons.
Let us be clear and truthful about ourselves. Let us not burden our little angels with our dreams and let our little explorers create their own perceptions and ideals as they grow. We simply need to believe in the innate goodness of humanity to let it prevail.