Editorial: May 2009
A 14-year old girl in a Mumbai suburb killed herself recently because she was asked by her grandmother to switch off the loud music. An eight-year old Class 2 student in Delhi murdered his six year old neighbour for mistakenly throwing down a ball from his second-floor residence. Another teenager in Delhi committed suicide on being scolded by his parents! A seven year old boy in Mumbai left his parents dumbfounded when he used crude Hindi slang for female genitalia, in the middle of a conversation. More children are using bad language with abandon. Their blushing parents do not know what to do. In one school, when a kid utters a bad word, he/she is asked to 'go and wash your mouth.'
These reports made me wonder about the helplessness of today's parents. The parents have been stripped of their rights and responsibility to stop their children from doing wrong. It seems parents have to give in constantly to the whims and fancies of the children.
The new generation is very assertive. But, does this mean that they can challenge the intentions, experience and ability of the parents to see the big picture?
Undoubtedly, today's generation is more confident, more technology savvy and more informed. But, are they experienced and mature enough to understand the intricacies of life? Can they discern what is good or bad for them? The rise in drug abuse, loss of compassion and teen age pregnancies indicate that the answers to the above questions are not positive.
A boy told an old man: "We have computers, mobile phones, fast cars and the internet. What did you guys have when you were young? Nothing!" The old man smiled and replied: "You are right, son; we had nothing. So, we made all this happen for you. What are you doing for the next generation?" The boy was speechless.
The children have failed to appreciate the contribution of the older generation to their lives. This is tragic since the new generation has such immense energy, talent and strength. They should realise that they have been given all this to be creative, and not merely to be consumers.
Thank God, the situation is not that dismal in all cases. There are many parents who are good examples, give sound advice to their children and bring them up as responsible citizens.
Christabel Lee in Hong Kong saved $90 for a new bicycle when she was 12 years of age. But her purse disappeared with all the cash in it. She asked her parents if they would buy the bike for her. Her father was the vice chairman of a major organisation in Hong Kong and was rich. The parents could have bought the bike for Lee, if they wanted to. But the parents refused to buy the bike for Lee. Lee is now 36 and has become the Managing Director of a printing company. She now recognises the valuable lesson she learned 24 years ago: money does not grow on family trees. She says, "My father instilled strict financial discipline on us when we were young. He taught me that it is good to plan and save, and that no one is going to save you if you screw up."
Lee's family answered a common question facing wealthy parents: when children grow up amid plenty, how can they be taught to be sensible about money? Family wealth, once accumulated, is typically dissipated by the third generation; "trust fund babies," having little regard for the money that has come to them without toil, lack the motivation to strive.
In an interview, the steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal said flatly that "money is a curse." He was concerned that extreme wealth might be spoiling his young kids. Microsoft founder Bill Gates has announced that he would donate most of his $58 billion to charity, rather than give it to his three children. However, it is true that "many wealthy families do not know anything about raising kids in a healthy environment."
Being born into wealth often means having a nanny, maid, driver, to solve all the problems. Sometimes, wealthy parents use money to fill the potholes in the paths of their kids so that the kids do not have to deal with the problems. But, it is necessary for the parents to realise that dealing with the potholes is how you learn about life.
Money alone is not the problem. Kids are given too much freedom and this leads to a sense of entitlement and lack of accountability. Cases involving rich kids in a drunken state, driving fast cars and running over people on the streets, are steadily on the increase in our cities.
In order to help their kids become responsible adults, it is not necessary that the parents should be child psychologists. The challenge is to create limits so that children can learn that money is to be earned and husbanded-it is not something they are free to squander at will. Provision of an allowance will help them to learn to budget and plan purchases-to postpone gratification.
Children learn a lot by observing the behaviour of their parents. Parents should set a good example-down-to-earth spending habits, eschewing luxury brand clothing, and expensive cars. The children should realise that family wealth is not their personal piggy bank. The parents should impart personal values and work ethic that help ensure success in life from an early age. A child unconsciously patterns his life after the models of the people around him. "A child tells in the street what its father and mother say at home."
James Dobson said, "As a parent, you have to establish yourself as a leader early on and then work yourself out of a job thereafter." "Every word and deed of a parent is a fibre woven into the character of a child that ultimately determines how that child fits into the fabric of society." Billy Graham has pointed out that now "parents have little time for children and a great vacuum has developed, and into that vacuum is going to move some kind of ideology." Many Christian parents who have neglected their spiritual responsibilities to their children have reaped the sad consequences.
"Slow down, parents! What's your rush anyway? Your children will be gone so quickly and you will have nothing but blurred memories of those years when they needed you."
"The parent who does not teach his child to obey is being cruel to him. The habit of implicit obedience to parental authority is the foundation of good citizenship. More than that, it is the foundation of subjection to God's authority." The Duke of Windsor once remarked: "The thing that impresses me most about America is the way parents obey their children."
In this context, an incident which happened recently in Mumbai is of interest. On New Year's Eve, Shahban decided to take the family's motorcycle out for a ride with his friends. Despite knowing that he did not have a driving licence, his mother let him use the vehicle. The joyride was, however, cut short when the police stopped the boy and confiscated the vehicle after collecting a deposit of Rs.1000/- from him. The boy was let off by the court the next day, after paying a fine of Rs.100/-. But the vehicle remained in police custody. The police insisted that the mother also must face court proceedings since the Motor Vehicles Act stipulates that the owner of the vehicle and the traffic offender are equally guilty. The court found the mother guilty of being careless about her vehicle and had to deposit Rs.5000/- to the police. It is hoped that this will send a strong message to the parents who let their children drive vehicles without a licence.
Children need a secure family relationship in order to be free to grow toward maturity. Young persons will be insecure if they come out of homes where relationships were insecure. If they belong to a family where parental and family relationships are stable, they are free to develop as individuals. Try to develop at home a maximum of relationships and a minimum of rules. Let love pervade. A child tends to accept the ideals and philosophy of the parents because he accepts them; he tends to reject their ideals and philosophy because he rejects them. Parents should feel free to explain the reasons why they believe what they believe. Nobody is without mistakes, but everybody can live consistently and honestly. Christian convictions always rest firmly upon the Word of God. In Deuteronomy 6:20-25, God told the people to give a personal testimony of what God had done in their lives if the children ask-even the failures. Children can identify with parents who have had failures and have learned from them.
Allowing your children to make mistakes teaches them much more than they would if you were to lecture them. Every parent has a set of expectations for their children; unfortunately, sometimes they press the children so hard that they make them feel like a wheel-barrow. Help the children to stand on their own feet, truly independently. Take your hand off your child's life and encourage him/her to have the hand of God upon his/her life.
Remember, "Those who control what young people are taught and what they experience, what they see, hear, think and believe…will determine the future course of the nation."