April 21, 2010

Children and values

A lot has been talked about the demographic structure of India and the amazing dividends that we could reap owing to the fact that a large proportion of our population is in the productive age group. One dimension of the key to exploit such natural advantage is to ensure that the upcoming lot of younger generation is educated and skilled. Towards that, a lot is being done and a lot more promised to be done.

Personally, I am more concerned about another dimension. How and where is the value system of kids going to be cultivated and nurtured! Reason why I feel there is a lacuna here is two-fold.

Firstly, schools increasingly are money making machines these days. The entire process of education and teaching has now become more a business idea with the objective of creating knowledge-driven-weath creators rather than values-driven-productive-human beings. Money making at the cost of deteriorating values is an unwarranted scenario.

Secondly, families these days are increasingly becoming leaner and nuclear. A married couple where both partners are working professionals, staying nuclear away from their respective parents and trying to manage a full-time career is extremely productive for them. But when a child is born to them, the equation must change. What we are increasingly seeing is that the mother taking a maternity leave followed by a post-child birth sabbatical for few months (a year tops) to take care of the infant. Post the initial couple of years (where generally either set of grandparents are also present), the child is taken care by a nanny/baby sitter, sent to kindergarten, school, etc (with years passing). Now, when the child's mind is most fertile in the growing years, parents are not really available. They are, but not completely. In many cases, even the grand parents are not. So whom does the child learn the values of life from? He will surely be educated but will he grow up to become a man of strong values? In my generation, mothers generally were home makers and inculcated a lot of essential values to us. I can be sure in my case atleast.

And what do the children get exposed to when they come to home from school and wait for parents to come? Shocking television programmes, abundance of polluting information on the internet, social networking sites with hosts of online 'buddies'. 10-year olds are becoming memebers of networking sites these days and some of their status messages really shock me. Surely all this would make the kids cool, funky and street-smart but we should not complain if some of them later think that commiting a crime for money is fine or getting the latest electronic gadget for themselves must be the agenda in life.

I wonder about this for the coming generations. Should one of the parent completely devote himself/herself for the development of child in the formative years (between the age of 4 and 12 perhaps)?

Bringing a child to this world is a responsible decision. Does it end with sending the school to the best available school and coaching class? Isn't parenting a lot more than that?


Veekay said...

I agree with ur viewpoint that a child needs one of his parents around in his growing up years to have a strong value-backup. But as they say proverbially there is always a second side to the same coin.

1.When we say that 'a' parent has to be around all the time, more often than not that responsibility is entrusted to the mother, which in the case of a modern day woman is simply not fair, as they are not too happy letting go of their own educational capabilities & professional ambitions. So unless the guy is equally willing to contribute time to the children, this is simply not going to happen.

2. The children themselves are stuck in a educational system which places too much emphasis on 'over-all growth' &' activity-based learning' with the result that today's children have to end up devoting too much time in extra-curricular hobby classes & anyways end up paying much less time home.

3. Statistically, studies show that children with working parents end up being more self-reliant & independent & are more capable of taking coherent decisions & fending for themselves; a much necessity in the relatively much tougher world they are bound to face as grown-ups.

Anonymous said...

Six easy steps en route to the answer to that pertinent and popular question: “How should I blame the society?”:

Step 1: As an adolescent, allow people around you to enlighten you with statements such as “Yaha paisa hi sab kuch hai”, “Paisa bolta hai” and other path breaking bull crap.

Step 2: Once you’ve crossed 22 and stepped into the shoes of an adult, vow to yourself that you shall rid your parents of all problems and give them everything that they ever wished to own in their life. (read- become a hardcore workaholic, make the office your permanent abode, broaden the number of digits on your monthly paycheck even if that means shortening the number of times your parents get to look at their son/daughter’s face.)

Step 3: At 27 (or 30 depending upon how good the food served in your office canteen is) acknowledge the worldly belief that marriage is inevitable at the point where you’ve reached; then marry a girl, possibly someone like yourself, who will add to the family net wealth (although eventually you bow down to her desire of living away from your parents as a nuclear family).

Step 4: Have a kid, maybe two.

Step 5: Vow to yourself (again?) that you shall never let them face problems and that you shall give them everything that they might ever wish to own in their life. That might mean you and your wife working overtimes (as your son learns his first swear word from some spoilt brat living in your plush locality).

Step 6 (My personal favourite)
: At last, the sixth and the final step towards you beginning to loathe the society and wailing about how unprincipled it has made your “innocent” son/daughter. You don’t need to do much in this step.
Just get up one fine day;
Feel like asking your child what he’s being taught at school and approach him with parental affection;
Then, as he says “Dude. Cant you see I’m on the phone.” without even looking at your face, enjoy!

U No Hoo said...

@Veekay: Quite agree to your points. Just few thoughts:
1. It could be any of the parent. Hopefully, the man would be man enough to shoulder this responsibility if need be.
2. I guess that is the effect of schools realizing that urban high-end parents do not have time for their kids and so fill in the spot by marketing other areas of 'learning and development'.
3. True, but would be incorrect to say that kids brought up by a parent are less self-reliant and confident. So this confidence development need not be at the cost of letting the child grow up 'alone'.

@Anon: Cruel yet interesting :)

Gentle warrior said...

Very thought-provoking and relevant to today's times, Harish!

A few thoughts (strictly personal):
1. Quality time is as imnportant as quantity time. Both parents (in a nulcear family) returning home at 8 p.m. and offering an hour or two to the child - just doesn't work.
2. Values are imbibed till the age of 7. Hence the crucial need for a consistently steady adult care-giver. Number one choice - the mother.
3. Nurturing the child doesn't negate the mother's other roles / identities. It is a myth to believe that boardroom presentations are necessarily more meaningful than holding a toddler's fingers while he or she walks the first steps. More glamourous, yes. But then, is the woman's identity so fragile that it necessarily needs a corporate designation to bolster it?
4. In the age of flexi-hours, tele-commuting, entrepreneurship and self-employment, it is perfectly possible (for educated urban women) to use their creativity and do justice to their personal as well as professional roles.
5. Are there sacrifices? Huge ones. Do they make sense? The conscience knows that "This feels right" :) And, in a not-so-paradoxical way, the universe usually throws up fantastic opportunities to those who risk the bungee-jump of doing what feels morally correct!

Insearch Ofdivinity said...

Dear Anonymous,

Jesus Christ! Those are some bitter grapes. Have you seen the movie "Ek Ruka Hua Faisla'? What you said reminds me so much of the angst-ridden father played by Pankaj Kapur. I come from a similar background too. Both my parents were working & I am nothing like what you have written. So I desperately hope my son won't be either. Although I am mentally prepared for all eventualities & I harbour no illusions for I know that eventually after a certain age, the son-father relation always develops a friction that lasts for a certain time. Unfortunately, we are losing our 'Indianess' in our personal relations & are becoming more shall I say 'American' & there lies the problem. It is basically confusion caused between generations, adhering different sets of values & each right in its own way or they seem to think atleast. I think it was Rudyard Kipling who said - "Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet." Heaven knows where it will end.

sheril said...

completely in agreement with the both the comments!! and who can guarantee that even after all the attention given by the parents the kid might not end up saying "Dude, Can't you see I’m on the phone?". I've seen many examples myself of women giving up their career for the children but of no use! this definitely doesn't mean that parents expect something in return for their sacrifice but doesn't the child have a moral duty to understand that! I've also seen many orphans doing well in their life now definitely they don't have anyone guiding them!

hariharan said...

How can parents imbibe values when we ourselves become part of unethical practices in the name of requirement for survival?

In variably the parents have realised that value based system is good to talk but difficult to follow.

sheril said...

i agree with the comments above thats cos i've seen many women sacrificing their career for their children but still the kids end up saying “Dude, Can't you see I’m on the phone.” though the parents don't expect something in return of their sacrifice isn't it a moral responsibility of the children to give them something in return if not all they wish! even the children can be as understandnig as their parents can be!from what i've seen the kids at the orphanages are much better than these! no one spends time in lookking after them during the growth period or later!

Shakti said...


very true... touched my heart always had the same view, Will definitely follow when i go for a child. As the Gandhian saying goes in this context
"Be the change you want to see"

joamoo said...

so what is ur 'realistic' solution?

joamoo said...

so whats ur 'realistic n implementable;)' solution?

Viren Shah said...

Very well written sir, some time I do question my self that values which my parents gave to me will i be able to pass it on to my child? We keep on crazily running after things which really dont matter and forget basic....

Viren Shah said...

Ha forgot to write... We were also fortunate to get sir like You, Divyang sir and Maha prabhu.. Nk sir who further added values in us. Hope our child are lucky to have such teacher in their fields..

Anonymous said...

Disclaimer: a) The aforesaid steps have been concocted taken into consideration only the "examples" and not the "exceptions". So even if I am told about how one among the latter has led a life that has been nothing like what I've written, my heart doesn't allow me to alter my statements.
b) I think Harish Sir's post at its core was aimed at the weird-goatee-looks-damn-cool-generation that the Indian population is being inflated with these days. My comment is dedicated merely to the parents who are responsible for this redundant revolution and to no one else.
c) I'm already aware that this isn't the only possible outcome of children staying alone at home nor have I spoken anywhere about this not being the outcome if you stay at home and watch over your kid 24x7. I simply wrote what occurred to me as something very true and very very wrong.
There shall always be a scope for debate. But I won’t believe it if someone totally disagrees with me, when I say that somewhere, deep down, in that cobweb ridden corner of our heart wherein lies our conscience, it feels disappointing to see the way most of the children immediately succeeding my generation behave and speak. At least I feel so.
Hence the cruelness in my comment.
For what we achieve in life, even before the journey begins, we owe him who has sketched the plot and placed us at its start.
Hence the bitter grapes.
One final word on this topic, after which my focus will shift back to passive academics (where it should have been in the first place).

"Lend me two ounces of the clay that doesn't need a mould to become a vase and I shall pay thee my life's earnings."

(Mind you, the offer does seem enticing, but only as long as you are unaware of what articled assistants get paid these days!!)

Anonymous said...

Definitely a child needs the presence of one parent at home during his or her growing years and no one else in the world can match the love and guidance given by a parent.But what if both the male and female partner has to support their parents financially?They cannot even think of leaving their respective jobs.Even if the parent provides guidance it is always upto the child as to how he applies it in his life.If the child goes the wrong way we cannot blame the parenting because it it completely his/her choice.'

Deepika Menon said...

I agree to some extent that child do feel the need of their parents when they come home from schools. But as far as child's behaviour is concerned, parents quitting their jobs in order to inculcate good values in children need not necessarily serve the purpose. It is the child who is responsible for their own actions. As there is a saying "Jaisi Sangath Vaisi Rangath" , so it depends upon whom the child choose as his friends and to some extent role model also does influence child's behaviour.