The times have changed. The way children are being raised, has also changed. The children are not only being protected but cocooned, more than ever before, in the name of the safety and this is up to great some extent important also. The safety of children is an issue which is so often discussed and given a lot of emphasis, at home and in the schools as well. This is not a new thing but is more in focus now than before. But sometimes it seems to be going beyond limit. This has been mentioned by me in my articles that a line should be drawn for any kind of restriction or freedom. Even in our constitution, the freedom of speech comes with certain riders. I think some of you might be wondering, what I am talking about? So I must come to the point. As mentioned earlier, children are the most important assets and resource of a family, society, nation and the world and this is the reason they should be treated and raised with utmost care. The environment provided to them should be such that they grow and develop a holistic personality and should be able to fit in all situations. There are some questions to be answered. Should the children not be given an opportunity to learn by trying on their own? Should it always be the parents, teachers and other external force directing them to do and not to do certain things, in a certain way? When I talk about safety of the children, it does not just mean physical safety but psychological and emotional safety too. The children nowadays are told right from their childhood, what they should avoid and what they should eat. Let me take up a few examples. If I ask the parents not to stop children from using a knife then many of them would not agree with me because they are worried about the safety of their children and it’s a genuine concern. But the problem is that we are making the children scared of the knife and when they are supposed to use it in the future; they might have the same fear which would hinder their learning as to, how a knife should be used safely.
Hellen Keller once said that avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. In the light of this statement, let us look at another situation, where the parents gift a bicycle to their ten year old child. They want him to ride it but before he could they warn him of all the dangers that are involved in riding a bicycle that the child would never be comfortable in doing that and in turn might even give up on it. I once again emphasise that the safety of our children is important but we should not deprive them of the importance of learning things by doing. Are we not encouraging them to take no risks? The children in today’s era seem to be having less physical and mental strength than before and there are many reasons for that but one of the most important reason is that we have stopped allowing our children to take risks, by being over protective. Do we allow our children to go out with some money and purchase some household items or anything wanted by them? Do we allow children to sharpen a pencil with the help of the sharpener scared that they might cut their finger? How many of us allow our children to be alone in the room and create some beautiful painting on the wall or papers lying around, scared that the colours might be toxic for them? How many of us allow our children to break a cell and observe themselves, what it is made up of? Too much of safety and concern is depriving our children from wonderful opportunities of learning and we should try to be balanced and limit the interference from our side. Children are born curious but we as adults try to kill that curiosity, most of the times. Darell Hammond rightly pointed out this concern and I quote, “We are raising today’s children in sterile, risk-averse and highly structured environments. In doing so, we are failing to cultivate artists, pioneers and entrepreneurs, and instead cultivating a generation of children who can follow the rules in organized sports and games, sit for hours in front of screens and mark bubbles on standardized tests.”
I have come across a number of cases where the children were not comfortable in the company of the male adults, at times. When enquired, it was found that they were told so many stories about the adults doing wrong with the children that they perceived that every adult is like that. I think this is an appropriate example of overreaction and overprotection. With warnings and precautions children should be taught the skills to be safe. They should be taught to be assertive in order to protect themselves against uncomfortable situations. Listen to them whole heartedly and train them in better communication of their feelings. The children must be allowed to play games and sports without too much of concern about some inherent danger. We cannot ask children not to walk because they might fall and get hurt. This is a fact that they will learn standing up, once they fall. I remember a case in which a child was trying to kick start the scooter of his father and got severely hurt because of the jerk. He got up and went to the clinic (this was a boarding school and the staff would stay on campus) without crying and taking no help. When the parents saw they were frightened and said certain thing that made the child realise that he was badly hurt and it might be painful (as the parents were saying that). He started crying and after this he never rode a scooter or motorbike in future. If the parents would have been balanced that time the child would have learnt how to be careful in future. The children should be exposed to all those situations which they will face in future. They should be made to learn with all kinds of people but not to change their own agenda of learning by doing and experiencing. When children are given freedom to act on the stage they usually perform better than what they would have done while practicing because on stage there is no fear of doing as guided or being interrupted and instructed by the teachers or the director.
One of the greatest teachers (Acharya Chanakya) of our land not only let his student Ashok take risks but at times deliberately pushed him to very difficult situations and the result was the legendary ‘Samrat Ashok’. There have been many coaches of different games who shared the stories how their students achieved the proficiency and this was always because they were not deprived of the dangerous situations. Take the example of the Bollywood film ‘Dangal’ by Amir Khan (a film inspired by the real lives of Mahaveer Singh Phogat and his daughters Geeta and Babita Phogat). The father forced the daughters into extremely difficult situations knowing it so well, what he was doing and what was the result? The girls from a small village of a state in India brought laurels to the country. The girls had to work very hard and this was because of them only that they became what they are. Of course the role of the father was very important but if the mother or some other family members would have stopped him then this country would have been deprived these great wrestlers who are role models to many young children as on today. So this is a proven fact that without risks, great heights are not achieved.
What I would like to suggest and advise is that the children should not be overprotected and should be allowed to try things themselves, to learn better. There are people who live in the temperature below 20 degree Celsius and still survive and serve the family and the nation. Let our children grow strong without fear and be competent enough to face all the tough situations in future. They are born fighters otherwise a newborn child, who sees the world first time, would not have survived after remaining in protection for nine months. We should play our part in making them aware not scared. To conclude, I would quote Taiki Matsuura, “Our obligation... is not to make our children happy- it’s to teach them how to be happy; it’s not to make our children comfortable- it’s to teach them how to tolerate discomfort. For these lessons, upsetting to them as they may be now, will better equip them for survival later when it matters the most.”