Saturday, 13 October 2018

Taming of the Shrew

“One tight slap and my kids start behaving for the remaining time of the day.” I heard a mother telling her friend at the park while her bundle of joy went running around his friends. 

Instead of using a pep talk to instill discipline in the minds of the young guns, Indian parents often equate it with physical or verbal abuse. While my daughter grew up to understand the meaning of Right to freedom of expression and became aware of her rights as a child, she often tells me how I would have ended up in jail  if we were governed by the European laws of child care and protection of child rights. In India, we commonly find parents beating up their children if there are any complaints about the child’s behaviour in the schools during the PTMs too. But unfortunately what leads to this public display of anger and frustration is often the complete absence of a disciplined routine at home. 

In India, under the name of gender superiority or distinction, often the male child is never scolded by the mothers. Also, the fathers do not indulge themselves in the daily affairs of raising a girl-child. Due to this, the children, irrespective of gender, find themselves free to behave in manners which they find convenient when they enter a social peer group say at the birthday parties, parks or schools. That is when you find some children jumping all over the show-cases and drawing rooms at other’s houses. 

When the parents suddenly find their bundles of joy turning into unguided missiles causing severe damages to their vanity and the host’s purses, they resort to the fastest and easiest solution: TAMING of the SHREW.  Although the term was used to signify the taming of a unruly, bossy, dominating wife in one of the Problem Plays of William Shakespeare, I am using it to signify the similar animal-like process we use with our children. All the motherly love, fatherly compassion is replaced with a firm push/pull by the arm and the kids are taken to a corner for a tight slap on their face. All kinds of articles ranging from red chilies to ghosts to the ferocious hound next door to the policeman are used to frighten the free Willy with some success at the end. And if parents are really lucky, the child goes to sleep quietly. Or, in some other cases, the next moment everything is forgotten and the unguided missile is again set to play havoc. 

We forget that parenting and education are two life-long processes. They start the minute you become a parent and end maybe only when you breathe your last breath. The so-called Taming of the shrew is not a momentary process. The process of making your child well-mannered and disciplined is a long and continual one. It has the same principles as that of man-management. It needs daily practice. Children will need to be reminded of certain rituals such as greeting others, thanking people daily. 

Similarly, they will follow these manners only when they find you doing the same. That is, if they see you walking past familiar people on the roads without a word, you cannot expect them to wish their teachers in the school corridors. Also, the most important principle to be always remembered and practiced while teaching discipline to children is not to shout at them nor flank them in public or in front of their peers or teachers. Whatever form of advice you have to offer to misbehaving children needs to be firm, positive and not at all demeaning them in public. 

Many parents do not get into the business of teaching their children discipline as they feel it would kill their child-like curiosity and individuality. Here we need to understand the meaning and importance of discipline in ensuring a happy and healthy childhood. The first thing we as parents need to understand about discipline is that it definitely does not mean saying NO always or limiting the pure joys of childhood curiosity. It just means knowing one’s boundaries and respecting other’s existence. 

So when we deny a child to touch a precious curio in a shop, are we trying to restrict the child’s joys
of discovery and exploration? Not exactly, but we are trying to politely teach the child that we cannot possess everything that exists in the world. Some things can be seen while some others can be felt. It is similar to cautioning the child about the heat of the red hot charcoal burning in the fire-place because we know that the charcoal will burn his/her hands. Maybe this is how we teach them in a very rational way to handle rejections and denials in their future life too.
And one last word of caution for all: Do not in fact, equate the process of teaching discipline to the children with the process of taming the shrew or domesticating the pet animals, at all. The process of teaching the manners of human life to children is a process of creating wise, rational human beings who think, understand and respect the essence of being a HUMAN and not a savage as an animal.

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