The morning after Zinedine Zidane’s now legendary head butt, the French sports daily L’Equipe had a troubling question for the great footballer: “This morning, Zinedine, what do we tell our children, and all those for whom you were the living role model?” And Zinedine apologised: “I want to ask for forgiveness from all the children who watched that. I want to be open and honest about it because … millions of children were watching.”
Child and adolescent psychiatrist at Sitaram Bhartia Institute of Science & Research Dr Amit Sen, who supported France in the final, thought it was prudent of Zidane to have directed his apology to the kids watching, given that more and more children are today facing anger management problems. Incidents of role models losing their cool do not set a great example. Whatever the trigger, most children would not be able to comprehend the politics of what was going on, says Dr Sen.
Setting an example
But clinical psychologist at Max Health Care, Dr Megha Hazuria Gore, feels it’s not just one incident that makes or breaks a child’s impressionability. “Celebrities aren’t a child’s only role models. They learn anger management from adults closer home,” says Dr Gore.
A therapist recalls the case of a boy in his early teens who had recently moved to Delhi with his parents. Not only was he fiercely bullied by his peers at school, his mother too was deeply critical of everything he did. In the last two weeks, the boy has not only turned into a bully himself but has also physically assaulted his parents. A heart-to-heart talk revealed that his parents themselves were indulging in bouts of domestic violence and the impressionable adolescent was emulating what he saw transpire in the domestic space.
Then there is the city which wastes no time in blowing its lid. “Research proves if the expression of anger is commonplace in society, children will become more aggressive,” says Dr Sen.
Show what you feel
“With children being taught to be more expressive these days, their expression of anger has also become more evident,” says Dr Gore, “And they can’t be told to express only some emotions and not others. As a result, their tolerance levels are lower.”
In one instance, a nine-year-old from an upper middle class family assaulted his teenaged sister and threatened his mother with a knife because he felt it was unfair that his sister was allowed out for late night parties and got more pocket money.
Dr Jitendra Nagpal of VIMHANS blames it on lax parenting. It’s necessary for parents and teachers to engage in polite but firm disapproval of a child’s unhealthy anger, he says. “Consistent positive disciplining is essential. The situation, quantity and target of anger have to be taken into account,” he adds.
“Anger is not wholly negative, but parents have to help channelise it into positive creativity. They can only do so when they have rationalised the situation well enough in their minds,” says Dr Sen.
Schools too are getting into the act. Today, emotional intelligence has become a mantra for some. Manika Sharma, principal, The Shri Ram School, Vasant Vihar, says the key is communication. “It’s all about staying in constant touch with the child.”