It’s recess in one of the Delhi’s leading schools. In one class, an argument breaks out between two six-year-olds. The next minute, one of them starts banging his head on the desk. When he looks up, he has a bump on his forehead. “We kept begging him to stop, but he was very angry,” said his classmate Arushi Kapoor.
While tantrums have long been a child’s device to get what he wants, the aggression portrayed and duration of these tantrums is increasing.
Shasha Solanki refused to eat for an entire day because her mother did not buy her her 10th Barbie. “She would throw food and violently roll on the floor,” said the five-year-old’s mother Geeta. “I had no choice.”
Teachers too see an increase in children throwing tantrums. “Children are so pampered that the moment you refuse them something, they start pushing, biting and harming themselves,” said Aarti Hinduja, a playschool teacher in Mumbai.
School counsellors and child psychologists say children today have increasingly low tolerance and are learning from the anger they see around them — on road, at home or on TV. “Even five- or six-year-olds hit others on their private parts as they know it hurts more,” said Dr Roma Kumar, child psychologist at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in Delhi.
Teachers rue that most parents are only bothered about academics. “Few think of issues that will define the child’s personality,” said Shekhar.
“Children these days also have fewer emotional outlets, such as playing with friends or reading books. TV and domestic helps have taken over the role of parents and friends,” says Dr Rajesh Sagar, department of psychiatry, AIIMS.
Echoed Yusuf Macheswalla, president of the Bombay Psychiatric Association: “A typically single child is left with no companion. Even parents have no time to tend to their child’s emotional needs.”
(Names of some children have been changed. Inputs from Aditya Ghosh & Kiran Wadhwa in Mumbai)