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Where are we going as a society when we have kids committing crimes against other kids? Is there something parents and teachers can do differently?
A child sexually assaulted at school. A student slapped by batch mates at school leading to his hearing getting affected. A 7 year old killed in the washroom upon reaching school. A young girl molested by the peon. 11th graders stabbing a 23 year old for a phone. A 4 year old raped by her classmate!
This is the news we are waking up to these days. 2 words that chilled me to the bone in the last few days. Students and School.
I close my eyes and think back to my school days. Happy and carefree. School was a second home – my other safe haven. Teachers took care of us and staff ensured discipline. Classmates were a hoot and support staff were didis and bhaiyas who never got too close. Thankfully that’s the time I experienced and am lucky enough to revisit as this in my mind.
But from the Talwar case to the Gurugram school case, we read of young children losing their life or being abused. What befalls those students who lost a classmate or friend? Who saw blood splattered walls in the corridor or washroom? Who witness a peer’s lifeless body? What has the world come to! Are these the memories we wish our children to have? As much as I may feel rage followed by sadness, what has the world come to when we are no longer talking of atrocities committed by adults against children – rather its children against children!
Parents today, more so than ever, need to think beyond providing for their children with a home, school and basic necessities. We need to think about the people our children are and the adult they will soon become.
How often have we heard statements like ‘He/she is just a kid’, ‘how cute/adorable’ (when they throw tantrums), ‘they don’t understand anything.’ Nothing can be farther from the truth. Children have the ability to perceive even what is unsaid. They can pick up on our body language, facial expressions, tone of voice and posture. What they feel during communication is what affects them, not just the words we say. How many of us remember instances from when we felt bad due to the harsh words of a parent / teacher? Why do we remember that exact incident 20-30 years later? This is exactly why.
When we speak to children as being individuals and having a mind of their own, we respect them as people and not ‘kids’ who have their own way of looking at the world, and may even be quite adept at putting these into words.
Children speak, and rightly so. But as parents we feel compelled to not really listen. Yes we hear them but do we truly pay attention to what they say and pick up on cues about their feelings?
Kids see and hear so much about the world today and have access to information from all over the world thanks to technology. Everything is a click away – a video, an article, you name it. It is imperative to ask them about their day – every single day – to know what they are exposed to. We think that as parents and caregivers we know exactly what the children are up to. However the truth is – we don’t. Unless you ask them about their day you would not know.
Ask them how they feel, ask them why they felt a certain action was right or wrong. Understand their perspective. Get an insight into how they think and what they feel is correct or not. You would surely be surprised to learn about your child and their views on everything. Talk to them about everything from the day at school, to an episode in a market, to a movie! Learn about the person they are.
Over all my years as an educator and psychologist I have constantly dealt with parents concerned about their child’s grades. Which is fair. Every parent would want their child to do well and succeed. But what about teaching them emotional maturity? Safety for self?
‘Don’t talk to strangers’ is not the life skill needed in present times for our kids. We need to teach kids that it is okay to fail as long as you try again. It’s okay to have a bad day and not be concerned all the time about social media appearances. It’s not okay to hit someone or resort to violence. It’s okay to ask for help not just for physical issues but mental and emotional too. Children today at 3-4 may know how to work a gadget but not respect a peer. Advanced kids or regressive perhaps?
Talking of being sensitive and empathetic vs interacting with those who need it the most – there is a huge difference. We cannot teach our children values and emotions unless we not only talk to them about things happening in society and the world but have them witness the same and contribute to making it better.
Sex education does not happen in schools as it should. We have sessions called ‘good touch vs bad touch’ and for these too the boys and girls are separated. How are we building sensitivity and gender awareness unless both sexes understand the changes and challenges faced by the other? Social understanding increases and makes children relate to others at a high level when they engage in service to others or volunteer. Working with orphanages, old age homes, teen support groups, etc. is a great way to generate this. Something as simple as donating book / clothes not in a box but actually handing them over to the new owners opens the heart to the human race at an altogether different level.
Social awareness can only come about when we talk to our children about the privileges they are blessed with / born into which are sadly not enjoyed by most. Social and cultural attitudes need to be inculcated in our kids such that they are exposed to information beyond where they come from. Choice of movies, books, knowledge etc. should come from all walks of life and corners of the world so that they know that life exists beyond their reality. That there are various realities that coexist.
It is only when we collectively raise children in this manner would atrocities against children begin to decline. We need children standing together to create a future not only for themselves but for all those yet to arrive in this world.
Till then I will continue poring over the newspapers daily in the hope of reading stories of acts of courage and inspiration by children and not crimes against them, by them.
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