The only thing wrong with today’s kids is their parents

  • Seema Goswami
  • Updated: Jan 23, 2016 21:41 IST
Wail alert-Maximum: I’ve seen kids having complete meltdowns in stores because they didn’t get what they wanted. In the end, of course, they always do. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Question: Do you know what’s wrong with kids today? Answer: Their parents. I can’t quite remember where I read this, but I remembered it afresh last week.

I was checking out the sales at the local mall when an urgent mail landed in my inbox. I stepped outside on the balcony and had just begun typing out a reply when a little cannonball came hurtling out of the store, headed straight for me, wrapped his chocolate-smeared hands around my legs, nearly toppling me over in the process.

I tried to disengage myself gently but he held on with all the strength in his five-year-old arms, crying lustily all the while. I tried to comfort him even as I looked around anxiously for his parents/caregivers. But no one in the store seemed the slightest bit interested in him.

And then, just as I was about to approach the shop manager, a young woman who had been intently examining the 70 per cent off rack, looked around, saw the child, marched up, dragged him away by the arm, and then, calmly resumed shopping. I assume she was his mother, given that he went without demur, even though she didn’t quite fit the description of a parent as I understand it.

I must admit that I was very tempted to have a few sharp words with her. First, for being completely oblivious of her child in a public place. Two, for just rushing off without even a word of apology. And three, for neglecting to upbraid her child for his behaviour, which wasn’t just a nuisance for everyone else but an active danger to himself.

But I counted slowly to ten in my head, took a few deep breaths and then walked away. Because, seriously, what would be the point? And, more importantly, where would it end? I see dozens of examples of this kind of indifferent parenting every single day, extending all the way from benign neglect to senseless spoiling to criminal negligence.

Just over the last week, I have seen children riding the baggage carousel at the airport while their parents tap away distractedly on their mobile phones; kids running around crowded restaurants without the slightest attempt by their parents to control them; and of course, kids having complete meltdowns in stores because they didn’t get what they wanted (in the end, of course, they always do).

Parent trap: What is up with parenting these days? Why are they loath to draw boundaries between what is acceptable behaviour and what is not? (Photo: Shutterstock)

I accept that children can be a handful, especially if you have two under five, and I have every sympathy with harried parents who are having a hard time of it. What I cannot understand is why parents feel it is ever acceptable to abdicate all responsibility for their kids in public. It is not the waiter’s job to keep your children safe from knives and forks in restaurants any more than it is the air hostess’s job to tackle your kid as she runs up and down the aisle.

Honestly, what is up with parenting these days? Why are mums and dads so afraid to lay down the law for their children? Why are they loath to draw boundaries between what is acceptable behaviour and what is not? Why do they live in thrall to the demands of their children? And why are they so terrified of their temper tantrums?

It is almost as if power has shifted in the family structure from the parents to the children. It is the kids who are in charge not the adults. Not quite the lunatics taking over the asylum, but close.

One reason for this is, of course, that parents have less time to devote to their children. Both mother and father usually work, seeing their kids only in the evenings and on the weekends. In the circumstances, it is perhaps understandable that they want to spend that time doing fun things, and are more willing to overlook bad behaviour or even bad manners.

But more than that, it is also that these days, parents have become devotees of the Cult of the Deified Child. In this cult, the child is the object of worship, the whole world revolves around him, his every wish is treated as a command, and he can simply do no wrong. (I use the pronoun ‘his’ advisedly because it is usually the male child who is worshipped that way; though pampered daughters are fast catching up.)

This leads directly to the propensity of modern parents to treat their children as minor miracles. They flood their Instagram accounts with cute pictures of their kids; they tweet all day about the absolutely adorable things they say; they Facebook their birthday parties and school concerts; and so on and on and on.

Small wonder then, that these children grow up believing that they are the centre of the universe, that rules of good behaviour or social niceties don’t apply to them, that they can do just as they please because even if they screw up there will never be any consequences. Because that is exactly what their parents have taught them.

So yes, the only thing wrong with kids today is their parents. It really is time that they grew up.

From HT Brunch, January 24, 2016

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