The angry child

A few days ago I came across a news report that intrigued me. The report suggested that poor parenting and lack of appropriate role models within families were to blame for juvenile crimes. According to the report, “Child psychologists claim juvenile crimes are on the rise because of the rapidly changing social ethos, influence of the media and negative role models (in families).”

I couldn’t help but get the feeling that the analysis presented in the report was overly simplified. After all, Tom and Jerry is not a recent phenomena, I do remember watching it as a child. In-fact, the “violent” cartoon came into existence in the 1940’s, and would have been staple diet for those of our parents’ generation who had access to television and MGM productions. Gabbar Singh, the ultimate villain of Bollywood belonged to my generation that grew up watching movies starring the angry-young man. So unless Tom and Jerry has created two generations of hardened criminals and Amitabh Bachchan has been responsible for massaging the dark side of quite a few youth, I would think that there may be other factors at play here.

So, what is responsible for the violent triggers in the angry child of today?

* Is it that today’s children have too many pressures and expectations on them and are finding it hard to cope?

* Is it that, life has become too fast paced and no one really has any time, let alone to raise children and to teach them the fine distinction between right and wrong?

* Is it that we are unable to inculcate in our children a sense of self worth and they are voicing their frustrations through their misguided or rather unguided actions?

* Is it that our children today have too many options without enough guidance to make informed decisions?

I think that, while the above statements may have a lot to do with it, the erosion of societal values may have began to set in a long time ago, and the problem may be deeper rooted than it seems. I think that the biggest problem may be that the current generation of parents themselves cannot differentiate between right and wrong – and are ill-equipped to pass on these values to their children. We have become too used to and reliant on the system of “Jugad” that socially productive action has become history. We are VIP’s in our own rights and are thus exempt from regulation and a moral code of conduct.

An interesting and curious illustration to this point goes like this:

I live in an apartment complex which has at the centre of it, a beautiful lawn. For some time now, the administration of the complex has been trying to discourage residents from jumping the hedge to enter / exit the lawns with limited success (it baffles me why someone cannot walk another 50 feet to do the right thing). One day, when my family and I were playing in the lawns, my 3 year old son noticed that a girl had exited the lawns walking through the hedges. He commented on this loudly, which was heard by the girl’s 4-5 years old brother, who in-turn responded, “It’s OK, she is allowed, she is my sister”.

What struck me was the coherent and lucid argument made by the young boy that rules applied to everyone else but to him and his family. Therefore, if we break the law then it is okie, but if someone else displays that same behaviour, then it’s not okie. To tell the truth, is this not how most of us conduct ourselves? As children learn from their environment, are they not behaving in a manner consistent with the environment we have presented to them? Are we ourselves not becoming intolerant and are our children not mimicking those traits.

The news report suggests that “A lot of responsible parenting is required, value-based life skill education needs to be imparted in schools along a proper process of counselling and correctional behaviour”. I would say that we need to do better and improve ourselves before we can bring out the desired behaviour in our children.