‘Watch: Hands folded, tears rolling down, kid begs for mercy as woman reprimands, assaults’ — Doesn’t this headline from India Today (19 August 2017) sound like a scene from a war movie?
But that’s not the case.
Shockingly, it is the description of a distressing video of a child begging and pleading with someone (probably her mother or tutor) trying to teach her numbers. And, when the child struggles to learn what is being taught, the woman doesn’t restrict herself to just scolding, she goes ahead and assaults the child. In the process, the child goes through a roller-coaster of emotions, where she goes from cowering in fear to clenching her fists and teeth in anger.
This video has come in for a lot of flak from cricketers such as Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh prompting angry outbursts from them. In fact, Virat Kohli was so stunned by the video and could not prevent himself from reacting thus:
'The fact that the pain and anger of the child is ignored and one's own ego to make the child learn is so massive that compassion has totally gone out of the window. This is shocking and saddening to another dimension. A child can never learn if intimidated. This is hurtful.'
This instance should make us sit up and ponder about how we conduct ourselves as parents.
In our urge to give our children a better future, are we forgetting the fundamental rules of good parenting? Would we go to any length to ensure our children do well in academics? Don’t we ever worry about the trauma we cause our little ones by the abuse we heap on them while pushing them to perform well? Let us reflect…
Here's an expert's analysis of the instance - what went wrong and what should have been done, instead. Arundhati Swamy, Counsellor and the Head of Parent Engagement Programs at ParentCircle, Chennai shares her thoughts.
What went wrong in the approach of the woman (probably, the parent) in the video:
- Over-reacted in a harsh and punitive manner: The person had no concern or thought for the child; she did not care about how her harshness would affect the child.
- Was driven and overwhelmed by her own negative emotions: She was blind to the child's emotions; she was focussed only on her own emotions. She was giving vent to her frustration and anger, ignoring the child's fear and inability to understand what she was taught.
- Used a harsh tone: She did not know how to approach the child or the situation - how to be firm and at the same time kind.
- Physically abused the child: She was not satisfied with hurling just verbal abuse at the child; she went on to slap the little one. This shows her impatience and anger.
- Was insensitive to the child’s distress, pleading and pain: While her focus was only on teaching numbers to the child, she did not empathise with the child at all.
Probable reasons behind the harsh approach:
Adults use different approaches in handling children. Past experiences, learned behaviours, and immediate circumstances strongly impact the way they respond to a situation. In this case, it could be any of the following reasons -
- The woman teaching the child may have experienced similar handling in childhood, and either doesn’t know other ways to handle a situation, or believes that it is the right way.
- She is probably held entirely responsible by someone else for the child’s learning; therefore, the pressure of having to deliver results tends to overrule her ability to be more understanding and empathetic. The goal of teaching and guiding is determined by someone’s expectations of her. She, therefore, resorts to harsh and punitive methods with the child.
How such an approach can impact the child:
- Research shows that a child’s brain is very sensitive to stress. When a child is experiencing stress, the brain releases cortisol which, over time, affects blood pressure levels and health.
- An adult dealing with intense anger, frustration and mood swings can pass it on to the child through emotional and physical abuse. It will, in turn, disturb the child’s development both physically and emotionally.
What should have been done:
- Preparing the child for study-time; letting her know what to expect and what she will be doing during that time.
- Parent preparing herself by settling her own emotions; despite what she may be actually going through, she should have tried to at least be in a neutral emotional state.
- Using play-way methods to help the child learn (through games, songs and dance).
- Sustaining the child’s interest by offering encouragement every time she tried.
- Learning to become comfortable with mistakes and teaching the same to the child.
How it will help the child:
- An adult’s positive emotional state helps a child to relax, pay attention and concentrate well. A negative emotional state, on the other hand, inhibits thinking abilities; it leads to fear, struggle, confusion and a mental block.
- Learning happens best when a child feels safe physically and emotionally; when she knows that adults are firm and kind. A calm, relaxed and settled mind absorbs learning with enthusiasm.
- Play-way methods make learning an enjoyable experience for a young child.
Let this video be a clarion call to all parents and tutors to not resort to such unforgivable and demeaning acts. Let’s take stock of the situation and set our parenting priorities right. Let’s understand that inflicting pain will never set a child on the right path. On the contrary, it will irreparably damage a child’s self-esteem and dignity. And, bear in mind that, a daily routine, lots of hugs, empathy, encouragement, and realistic expectations help children feel settled and confident to learn new things. Above all, it will ensure that children have fun growing up. Remember, as the American author Donna Marie said, "Every happy memory created for a child is another treasure of a lifetime." Let us give them that treasure.