Kids are special to every parent. In recent time, they have taken the centre stage of life, especially family life. Parents are ready to do anything for their kids. From buying clothes, gadgets, getting them into best schools, best clubs and so on. This starts even before kids are born. People start to think about special beds, special clothes, equipment, food and other things even before they think of a kid in their life. Some, even plan to move to a different location in a city, a different house or some even a different city or in some cases even a new country.
I remember, my grandfather telling a story from his life. He had kids as well, but his kids did not become his life, rather they were a part of his life. He said, that when he went to enrol his daughter into elementary school, the principal asked for her name. He didn’t know her official name, as for all this time, they have called her with her nick name. He had to check his papers to recall, how her name was written. Today, parents start to apply for their kids in best schools, even before they conceive it. What has changed?
I surely don’t know how it all started. As most things, it probably did not have single cause to change human behavior across the world. I can think of theories that led to the state as we are today. One is very simple; the concept of rarity. At earlier times, people had more kids in the family. It does not necessarily mean for a single couple. Usually a family had brothers and sisters living together in a joint family. So even if each had 2 kids, the house may have 4-6 kids. The all grew up together helped by the whole family in one or the other way. On the contrary, today in the modern world, family is a nuclear unit with usually just 1 kid or max 2. Let’s leave exceptions and special communities aside for the moment. In the market it is a rare metal that sells at higher price and grabs greater attention rather than an ordinary stone that is available in abundance. As the number of kids per family reduced, the same concept was applied to children as well. You can hear people using “my precious jewel” when talking about their kids. Had you ever heard some say, “my special brick or a stone”? Now, why we do have nuclear families, that in itself is a big topic.
Another theory is about the propaganda. Coca cola managed to convince the whole world how special Santa is on Christmas. So much, so that even kids growing in families with no religious or social connections with Christmas, care for Santa more than anyone from their own festival personality. Coca cola used the image of Santa to make a story popular, while selling their products in the background. This provided an opportunity to all other producers to sell their products in volume. The same way some propaganda was started at some point in the industry about kids and their specialty. While earlier, it was just an ordinary birth of a child and then family would raise the kid as just another person. But, slowly things changed. People wanted to know the gender of their kids before they are born. For a big part so that they can buy things for the right gender upfront! The infant does not care, if you put a blue cloth on it or pink, but people were and are convinced that it matters. Even for babies there are gender specific dresses and many times, they cost more than an adult dress. But the propaganda has convinced the audience to buy their products as the most important product for their babies. The baby is going to poop and pee in any dress you put on. They just don’t care!
Another theory is related to the 1st one that I mentioned, but I believe that different psychological processes are involved in that. We moved away from treating kids as a kid. They became “the kid” or “my kid”. When a child was part of a big family, it was just another member in the family and would be taken care by family together. But now, it is just one kid with one or max 2 parents and they grab the whole attention of that person. This possessive view of “my kid” made them special and people got conditioned to treat them and do things around them. This of course, did not happen all at once across the world. It took time with usual spread through friends and communities causing peer pressure. The technological advancements to spread news and adverts made it easy to spread it faster. E.g. all it needs is one research paper to say, “research study has found that if babies are spanked at their buttocks within 1st hour of the birth they turn out to be an intelligent and healthier people”. Half of the modern world would start to do it. Even, if hospitals won’t like to do it, the social pressure will make them adopt this practice as they won’t like to loose patients to another hospitals who has adopted it last month.
This special treatment continues with food, celebrations, toys, parties, restaurants and the list goes on. Parents rather than teaching the kid to learn and adapt to various situations, food and people are adapting to kids behavior. One friend once told me how she finds it irritating that today kids can break an adult conversation, just because they seek immediate attention from their parent to tell a story about a fallen candy! And parent will easily leave the guest to sit alone and follow the kid for trivial. Kid rather than learning how to behave in certain circumstances learns that it always rule, no matter what!. Parents would be ok to throw away a good food because their kid did not have the mood to eat it today. Later in the evening they may engage in long discussions among their friends about food scarcity, wastage and hungry people. They would easily blame it on corporates or “others” totally forgetting their own actions at lunch. Those can of course can be excused in the cover of “parent’s love for their kids”.
Without any direct fault of its own, now the kid has grown up used to certain behavior and expectations. This has consequences for which parents cannot or do not want to accept themselves being responsible for. The love for their kids, leaves the kid also out of equation. So, naturally the blame and responsibility goes to someone else. Even the corrective actions are expected from others. Expectations from teachers or trainers, family members and relatives, doctors and psychologist. If kid has a low motor capabilities then doctors or physiotherapist are responsible. If the kid does not listen, make scenes, fights or shows no respect then teachers and psychologists are the ones who are responsible. In a lot of cases, they are ready to take it. But the love for kids has many indirect ways to inhibit them or their work as well. Teachers are not allowed to use any kind of enforcing, disciplinary method. The only tool they are left with is polite requests as even a raised voice can be a complaint and can get the teacher fired.
I recently attended a coaching course where the instructor mentioned about the difference between the kids entering the training halls 20-30 years ago and now. As per him, earlier they did not have to think of movement fundamentals for 6 years olds who came for sports training. One could very easily assume that they know how to run, jump, throw, catch, twist and turn and so on. He said that today a coach must plan these fundamentals as integral part of the training. This also means that percentage pool of physically capable kids is less than before. It is not just about physical changes but cognitive changes as well. Kids with constant protection and attention from the parents along with early training of quick rewards with mobile games and applications has different expectations. Children used to fast click and reward training with mobiles, expect the same from other parts of the life including physical, social and mental activities. Parents with their love cannot see their child crying if they take their gadgets away. I am not sure who do they expect to teach them those behaviors.
I am not saying we need to hate our kids. We definitely cannot expect them to behave as adults. Even other animals and primates have different level of acceptance for kids and adults behaviors. However, they, as and when needed, put their foot down to teach their kids appropriate social behavior and life skills. They don’t expect that their young will learn how to catch the prey or run away from a danger by themselves. The bird knows that in order for the baby to survive, it needs to be kicked out of the nest. The parent cannot feed the baby whole life and without learning how to fly, life will be short, if not long and painful.
If we want the next generation to learn, then we need to teach them certain things. We cannot be soft all the time or expect someone else to take the “bad guy” role. Otherwise, when they grow up and blame the previous generation for their lacking, it won’t be something that we can smile and walk away.
“My wife used to play the piano,” a friend told Mulla Nasrudin, “but since the children came, she has not had time to touch it.” “CHILDREN SOMETIMES ARE A COMFORT, ARE THEY NOT?” said Nasrudin.