Bus stop is the best place to understand a parent’s mind. Someone who has woken up at 6 in the morning to prepare meals, get ready the children and drop them off at the stop where he/she is actually catching a breath to carry on with the routine which awaits for him/her at home and office. If the child is little rowdy – a silent scolding away from the glare of the other companions, if he is running too much – warning to stay on the side and if they all are ganging up and howling too much – all mothers form a team too picking up their players and asking them to mellow down.
In those five to ten minutes, you find streaks of patience, aggression and sometimes over the top reactions. And you wonder what proportions they escalate to in the secure confines of the home when no one is watching. I heard a mother mentioning that the moment she landed on the Indian airport, she gave a five finger present to her son on his face. The son is about 6 years of age and apparently they lived in US for those initial six years. On prodding further she said, “Our children (she meant Indian) can’t be tamed without beating. There (in US), parents use all those time-outs and fancy stuff. And their children understand that. I won’t think twice before hitting him again at least when I am in India.”
That is what Indian soil does to Indian parents.
It doesn’t mean that I have never touched my child. After all, I have also been brought up with the thinking that hitting your blood and bone is fine. I think deep down we all believe that it is ok to give one slap on and off when the child is not listening or behaving not in line with our thoughts.
This is the scenario that we see on regular basis. Teachers don’t refrain from pulling ears and go ahead with occasional taps with the ruler, parents find their patience fly out of the window and they calm themselves with a quick slap on the tiny face of the child. A mechanism to calm down and sometimes to satisfy the ego? And then there are extremes when a child is hit, scolded and reprimanded daily for one thing or the other and then it turns into deep cuts, bruises and mysterious falls from the stairs. How often as witnesses we stand up and tell the parents to back off? We usually don’t.
And how often we tell ourselves to back off?
If we have stringent rules like in US and Norway where hitting a child is crime and they are taken away by social services department to give them a better future, can they work?
A law is already in place where teachers cannot hit the child but as far as I know even the high end schools have routine of ruler bashing and ear pulling. And they get away with it. One- the vigilance is not strict enough, two – parents despite knowing that this is happening keep mum.
It stems from a common problem – general disregard for other’s rights and law. And children as always have been considered the property of parents.
The recent cases in Norway about Indian couples threatening and abusing children have highlighted it even more. The parents pleaded ‘cultural differences and Indian values’ which made me even more enraged. Do Indian values teach hitting the child with belt and giving him burns on the body? Does Indian culture teach to neglect the behavioral issues that the child might be facing (apparent in both cases)? How long will we keep pushing things under the carpet in the name of values?
I wonder what will happen if such a law is brought under the gambit of Indian judicial system. First there will be uproar because there are many people who tenaciously want to protect their right to hit children and will never understand what is wrong with it. More than law, its stricter implementation is the key. There is no way to monitor what happens with the child behind the brick and mortar and the neighbors usually don’t care. It will require perfect co-ordination between school, child care authorities, police and neighbors. And it can’t happen without a little dose of humanity and respect for individuality.
Wishful thinking, isn’t it!
For now, how about tying our hands with our tongues, shall we?