Tuesday, 26 June 2012
Can we make our youngsters more resilient for their own good?
A recent incidence shocked the entire nation, where a fifteen year old school boy stabbed his teacher to death in Chennai. The teaching community was hurt the most. It was a well thought out action and the boy stabbed the lady a number of times in the class room till she dropped dead. The reason for this ghastly action was, that his teacher had sent out a written complain to his parents, pointing out the boy’s recurring failure in her subject.
Whenever any such incidence occurs, there is an immediate uproar in the society and after a while there is an absolute silence. Suddenly Socialites, psychiatrists, journalists, educationists, bureaucrats, social workers and even NGOs jump into the fray. Each one of them coming up with their own version of , “Why it happens and what can be done to prevent it in the future”. Most of the ‘debaters’ suggest quick fix solutions which may never work or come up with ideas which can never get implemented. Unfortunately- as if to avoid the situation- many of us even manage to point a finger at our education system, which indirectly means the teaching community. Instead of simplifying the problem we try to complicate it or circumvent it every time. As they say history repeats itself and we never learn from history.
We seem to be gradually falling into the ‘western trap’. As we progress on the materialistic front we are losing big time on the human behavior of our people – especially the younger generation. The worst is that we look for solutions from the western society which itself is struggling to keep their children in control. Let us face the fact that every need of a child belonging to even the so called ‘middle class’ in our country today is being easily met and most of the children therefore cannot take no for an answer. Parents who were earlier struggling to tame their kids , gradually gave it up or may be gave in to the pressures of neo modern society. In recent years, on the contrary many of them have joined the bandwagon and have started encouraging their children to indulge – if you can’t beat them join them! Perhaps that is the easiest way out. ‘Parental pampering’ is the order of the day and parents feel that they own the schools and the teachers just because they pay the fee. Schooling and bringing up your children is much more than ‘Pay and Park’ and realizing this is the basic start point to address this problem. How much of counseling in the schools can we afford to carry out in terms of time and money? Even if we manage to do it across all schools the question is, will it work without the involvement and understanding of the parents?
Solution to this problem lies in looking at it the Emotional Intelligence way. In his book, Danial Goleman beautifully states that Emotional Intelligence is nothing more than those old fashioned things like will power, resilience, delayed gratification and ability to bounce back after failure or even coping up with an insult for example. Today we all over react to the word ‘punishment’, especially in the context of schools . Let us understand that life is a journey full of rewards and punishments. You do something good in life and you are rewarded, you do something wrong you are punished for that, it is as simple as that. If a child puts his hand into a fire he gets hurt ( punishment) so that he learns not to repeat it. That is how nature works and that is how the law of the land is also formulated. Penance is a punishment given by a priest for committing a sin and that has been an accepted norm. Is this not important to teach all this to children to prepare them for life which is no bed of roses?
Today self esteem is the most delicate entity. An individual’s self esteem is as fragile as a piece of porcelain and is most easily shattered at the drop of the hat. Good missionary schools used to give “Good conduct” and “ Bad conduct “ badges to students which were to be worn by the students for the whole week. Students took it in the right spirit and that is what is important to understand. Nobody called it humiliating or demeaning then; Neither the parents nor the society .It prepared you to face insults , ups and downs and realities of life. For how long we need to protect a child from the realities like failures, pressures, disappointments and dismay? Getting bad report cards from a teacher cannot and should not trigger a murderous knife attack as it happened in Chennai.In the larger context it well may be the reason for road rage, street brawls and even divorces.
Let us examine the age factor as well. Can we keep treating a school student like a ‘child’ from 3 years to 17 years and 11 months of age and then hand him over voting rights one fine morning when he is 18? Here after he is responsible for everything he does, whether it is violating a traffic rule or committing forgery for which he can be jailed. How in the heaven can we expect a sudden transformation from him when you have kept him in the cotton wool for so long. It is like a domesticated tiger being left out in the jungle. He will not be able to face even the wolves!
We need to treat children differently at different age groups and try to build in the resilience component and patience as they gradually mature. It has to done collectively by all the stake holders – parents, schools and most importantly the society. We need to relook at this problem and an old fashioned approach may be in order. People are moving back to ancient techniques of Yoga, meditation, Pranayam and Ayurveda for physical well being and with great success. Building resilience with a bit of reward and deterrence can show us the way.