The other day we had gone to visit a friend, where we were witnesses to the following scenario: The seven-year-old granddaughter of the friend interrupted him by shaking his shoulder vigorously while he was talking to me.
“I want Papa to order pizza as it is Wednesday; so we get one plus one. Papa is busy on phone. Daadu, tell him to get me one,” she announced in a loud, firm voice, full of authority. Her father overheard the conversation, ended the call abruptly and came running to her, stooped down and asked in a soothing voice, “Do you want cake as well?” When the girl nodded her head in the affirmative, he said, “Don’t worry, sweetie, it will be here in half an hour.”
I reckon the kind of situation described here is a common occurrence in most households. Also, it is a common observation that when an adolescent boy is accused of shouting at a teacher at school, the parents get upset; unfortunately, not at their son but at the teacher. In the past decade, family life — what to talk of the West — even in a country like ours, where respect for parents and elders is considered a great virtue, has changed dramatically. In good old days, parents were in charge and the children followed their lead. Now, in most of the households it seems to be the other way round. And you are mistaken if you think this is the case only with affluent families, it is so even in middle-class families.
A real problem exists where the parents tolerate the rude and even arrogant behaviour of their children. They give in when the child throws tantrums, the usual ploy of the young children. Parents feel they should not damage the fragile emotions of their children, fearing they would grow up to become parent-haters. They also do not want to waste their energy and effort in making the children understand that they cannot get everything they want — for many reasons, one of them being their own good.
It seems parents think it is OK to relinquish authority to the young children and rescue themselves from the consequences of their bad conduct. They do not realise that by succumbing to the unreasonable pressure of children, they are doing a tremendous disservice to them. There was a time, when children knew who the boss in the house was and it definitely was not them. Now, they know they are the bosses as parents purchase mobile phones, refrigerators, air conditioners and even cars after taking their approval. Why has the parental authority weakened and what harm can it bring to the family system as also the children themselves? It seems the weakening of parental authority started when the modern education system began urging the parents to go easy on the children.
I am not advocating that parents should not listen to the demands of their children, but they must ensure that they understand the meaning of the word “no”, which they will hear so often when they move out of home and school.
The present situation ill prepares them for the inevitable criticism and failure that they will face in real life. Rather than teaching wrong lesson by yielding to their every demand, parents should become friends as the children grow and help them feel good about themselves.
Perhaps, this will lead parents to a stage where there will be no need for them to correct the bad behaviour of their children, but catch them in the act of doing some good.