“The worst mistake you can make with children is to talk to them in a condescending, patronising way and think that you can teach them something. You have to understand that it is you who will be learning from them. You have to get into their world and see things from their perspective.”
The issue, on which I want to reflect upon today, is the increasing violence and intolerance among children below the age of 10. Educators and parents around the world are concerned about the alarming rate at which the incidents of intolerance, violence and use of abusive language are increasing among preadolescents or preteens and even among kids younger than this. This turns out to be a serious concern because this is the stage where a child’s personality is shaped and influenced a lot by the surroundings. This is the time to prepare them to deal with the challenges (physical, mental & emotional) they would face during adolescence. It becomes crucial for the parents and teachers to make sure to mould them with care so that they become better citizens and an asset to their family and society.
Talking about this issue with the educators and parents, what I realised was that they all agreed to the fact that some young kids are showing patterns of intolerance and impatience and unfortunately this number is mounting. Before taking up the matter in detail I would discuss the kinds of behavioural problems observed by parents and teachers among the preteens:
Ø Children do not listen to adults and react to every statement/situation
Ø They are possessive about things which they consider as their own and do not want to share
Ø They are adamant and show bossy behaviour
Ø They bully the kids younger to them and hit them when not followed
Ø They use abusive language and most of the times they don’t know the meaning of these words
Ø They become argumentative with elders
Ø They show impatience and desperation frequently
Ø They want parents to be at their beck and call and take their efforts for granted (lack gratitude)
Ø They fail to apologize for their mistakes and blame others
During this discussion what came forth as a common observation was that most of these children fell into the category of hyperactivity. Although, all hyperactive children are not violent but yes, if their energy is not channelized properly then they tend to tilt towards impatient temperament. I firmly believe (so do other educators and parents) that children are born without the above mentioned traits. So, if they develop such temperament, it must be because of the fact that they were exposed to such traits. Let’s find out how they get exposed to such behaviour and the reasons behind it:
§ The Familial Environment: If the relation between the mother and the father are not conducive and the child witnesses frequent verbal and physical conflicts or is dragged into it, then the child gets negatively affected.
§ Relationship between the Grandmother and Mother of the Child: If the grandmother and the mother of the child do not share a cordial relationship the child is negatively influenced. The aggression shown by the grandmother towards the mother and vice versa will create unnecessary stress on the child. Unfortunately, sometimes the kids are involved in these petty issues.
§ Disputes between the Father and Uncle of the kid (two brothers): Negative interaction between them might also encourage the child to be pushed towards violence and intolerance he is thus exposed to.
§ Unnecessary and Limitless exposure to Television, Video Games and Internet: They are causing more negative impact on kids than ever before. I myself came across a case where the parents had provided mobile phone to their one year old at a public place because they didn’t want to be disturbed while they were doing some work. And that child continued playing with and exploring the mobile phone without any supervision for about an hour. The kind of language and violence shown on the television and in some movies also affect the child negatively.
§ Communication Gap between Children and Parents: No doubt parents put their heart and soul in raising kids but in the race of providing them with everything best and perfect they fail in giving them ample time which is a necessity in the growing age of every child. Healthy and constant communication with parents makes a child expressive which helps in controlling aggression.
§ The Impact of Peer Groups: The impact of friends and classmates is also substantial and the children of this age group get easily influenced by the violent friends and neighbourhood.
§ The impatient and intolerant behaviour of the family members also contribute in a negative manner in shaping the temperament of the child.
§ Unfortunately, some teachers also contribute in increasing the aggression and impatience in children through their actions. There have been cases where some harsh statement of the teacher had pushed a child towards such negativeness. This might happen because the child, in such cases, sees the teacher in a powerful position and thus conclude that anyone in a powerful position can ridicule someone who is at a junior level. Thus, they start bullying and mistreating their juniors.
§ Sometimes they get appreciation by their parents on such bossy behaviour thereby the parents unknowingly condition the child to continue with such behaviour for appreciation.
§ Lack of physical activity can also channelise the energy of a child in negative direction. Outdoor activities do not let the stress to develop.
§ Deficiency of Iron, Calcium and Vitamin C: Discussing with the student counsellor, I found out that deficiency of these elements in the body might lead to fatigue and irritation which can cause stress and impatience.
§ Also, if kids are exposed to bullying in school then they might inculcate this negativity and not being able to combat with it successfully, might try to do it to their juniors.
There are large numbers of examples which can substantiate the causes/reasons of intolerance as mentioned above but it might not be appropriate to mention them here as they are. So I will not refer to them directly but would discuss them here as a passing reference, as they cannot be overlooked and need to be talked about.
In one case the child had done something wrong to another child in the school and when the matter was brought to the teacher, she inquired the child of the same and he admitted. The teacher thus counselled the child and sorted out the situation and the child seemed satisfied with the solution. However, when the child reached home he narrated the entire incident to his parents in quite a different light. The father being possessive towards the child showed complete faith in him and without knowing the other side of the matter called the school and quite harshly demanded for an explanation from the receiver. In this case, it is appreciable that the parents communicated with the child on daily basis but this act of impatience of the father would have given freedom to the child and he might have been encouraged to tell tales as per his convenience and put the blame on others as the father showed blind faith in him. Sadly, this is a sorry state of affair as what could we expect from a child who is exposed to such impatience and rudeness.
In another incidence, there was some issue in the school bus and when the parents were informed about it by the child (who conveniently avoided telling his fault). The mother got so aggressive that without probing beneath the matter she slapped the other child, who was accused by her son regarding the issue. Instead of this the mother should have counselled both the children and have solved the issue with patience and maturity, thereby setting an example in front of the kids.
There are many such cases that prove that children of this age group tend to easily emulate what is presented before them as an example.
Media and television put a huge impact on the kids and the parents need to filter what reaches their kids in the form of news and information. Most of the films use such language which is not appropriate for a child’s ears and this asks for the parents to use their wisdom as try to avoid watching such things for the sake of and in the name of entertainment. I don’t have any issues with the right to speech but this does not mean that innocent minds of this age group are exposed to this inappropriate scenes/languages. In the name of modernity we give the examples of European countries but there the society is so well educated and aware that the law doesn’t allow a child below 18 to watch a film not meant for that age group. On the contrary in our country, kids aged 5, 7, 10 can be seen accompanying their parents to watch such films which are inappropriate for them. So, in this case the parents should become aware of the negative impact, such an exposure can have on the kids.
Now, let’s seek for the solutions which can cater to the needs of such kids and help them avoid falling into such negativeness:
· Teachers should be provided with adequate training to deal with such behavioural problems at an initial stage so that they do not hamper the personality development of the child and pose as a challenge during adolescence.
· Parents must spend quality time with their children and make sure that they do not get exposed to such negativeness and help them deal with patience in trying situations. They should present themselves as a role model in such conditions, dealing with things with tolerance and patience.
· Parents and teachers must behave with calm and composed manner in such situations to set an example of ideal conduct.
· Parents must inculcate in their kids the habit of sharing and caring.
· Movies, news or dramas showing violence must not be watched in front of them.
· Any difference of opinion between the parents must be dealt with maturity and patience if discussed in front of the child.
· Any family dispute or differences should not be discussed in front of the kids.
· The grandparents are a divine figure for kids therefore they should we very careful about their conduct in front of the kids.
· The parents should definitely believe in their kids but should not have blind faith on them and should show to their kids that they are vigilant enough and cannot be fooled and would be supporting and helpful to the child when needed.
· If the parents find any fault on the part of the school then they must report it to the school authorities immediately but in a dignified manner. Sometimes the parents become aggressive and use inappropriate words and behaviour which affects the child negatively.
· The child should be given freedom but a close watch should be kept (without the knowledge of the child) on their activities.
· Many parents and teachers mentioned that video games are a serious threat as they take the children to a virtual world. Parents must make sure that children must play only those video games which are not violent. Also the networks showing cartoons should be handled effectively as children are quite impressed by these characters.
· Another important thing which I would ask parents to avoid is the exposure of those songs to the children which have double meaning and abusive words which impact the children negatively (like chaar bottle). I have seen family members dancing on such numbers which objectify women and even innocent kids are thereby exposed to such songs such as munni… jalebi…. and many more. When the parents appreciate and encourage these kinds of songs then the children tend to think that they are worth appreciating.
· Children should be encouraged to participate in physical activities and sports zealously.
· Their food habits must be kept in check and ample calcium, iron and vitamins should be included in their diet. Regular medical checkups should a monthly affair.
I would like to put a lot of responsibility on school and teachers as they are considered to be the role model of the children of this age group. The parents of the day have maximum one or two children so they might not be able to understand or take care of the problem alone. “Parents are usually more careful to bestow knowledge on their children rather than virtue, the art of speaking well rather than doing well; but their manners should be of the greatest concern.” So, the teachers must help and guide the parents so that our children do not suffer on account of any inadequacy. Therefore, teachers and parents will have to work as a team. Teachers will have to play a greater and more effective role in helping the kids who unfortunately fall into this category, which is a matter of great concern. At the same time a family should keep in mind that mother is the source of all basic values which a child learns. The way the family treats the mother affects a lot in shaping a child. So, it is important for the family to treat the mother with all the respect and honour she deserves.
There could be a lot more issues and probable solutions which could be proposed in this case and I would be grateful if you can share the same so that these solutions are exposed to a larger group of society in the best interest of our children and our in turn our society.
“…Parents must take responsibility for their children and show them love and guidance from an early age so they learn to respect the rights of others.”