Recently I was reading an article in “The Week” about snob NRIs who wrinkle their nose in disgust at everything desi and uncouth.I have personally met and endured the whines of a few of that kind. I was wondering how perfectly sensible, apparently intelligent people suddenly change as soon as they land on foreign shores. But as I interact with children of this generation, my son’s friends, my extended family, my patients and students in schools, I have started to feel that the internet generation of kids do have an enormous propensity to end up being snoots of the first order. This alarmed me. I mean, when foreign travel was new, all things American would feel good. But, that was years ago. Now, most amenities available in the West are available to us,school trips offer foreign travel and opportunities to interact with anyone in the whole wide world were aplenty. Then why, why are we producing a generation of superficial, materialistic children??
Children when born, apparently have the ‘tabula rasa’– a ‘blank slate’of mind ,which means that there is no inbuilt mental content. Yes, we are born with certain personality traits which make us individual and unique, but on the whole, we learn through perception and experience. Hence,what we are taught in the first few years of our lives and what we imbibe from it generally forms the foundation of our personality.
And it is here that we, as parents (especially in India) may be making a big mistake. Over the past few years, young India has changed its way of living tremendously.Parents now earn double of their elders wages, at a much younger age. They also have the means to splurge what they earn to their hearts’ content—on weddings, world travel, children’s education, leisure, shopping and much more.This was unthinkable to our parent generation.
In this mega change, somewhere, our children are losing out certain things which can provide them with weapons to handle life with maturity, patience and kindness — Values. To help grow into a sensible adult. Like the proverbial ‘full vessel’ which makes no noise and contains more substance!
Here are a few things which I thought were a list of values which our kids need to imbibe urgently:
- The value of hard work: In India, for a middle class family, it is not uncommon to have a cook, a cleaning maid and a driver as a part of a routine house hold. These are even more common in families where both parents work. Hence, kids now have forgotten the art of taking care of themselves. There is a servant hand and foot to answer their every beck and call. I remember those times when we would help out in the kitchen, when kids were supposed to do the dishes, help out with cleaning and be sent out to buy chilli powder in between doing homework! My kids don’t do that, and in the process forget that there is no such thing in the world like a free lunch! No pain, no gain is just a proverb with no meaning. It is now no pain, all gain time. Demands increase and have to be met. New toys have to land in the house as soon as they enter the market. If they do not qualify for a certain course through hard work and good marks, there’s always a capitation seat!This kills a child’s resilience, resolve to work hard and lowers their frustration threshold in adulthood. They are basically unable to handle stress.
- The value of giving: “What do I give my friend for his birthday? He has everything!”A strange dilemma if one!The irony here being that our kids are now used to giving things to people who do not need much. And the needy, where are they?Parents of children in a certain school that I know, were upset with the authorities for having taken their kids to an orphanage and an old home. They felt that their kids would be traumatized by the problems they saw. Giving in ways other than monetary, is alien to this generation of kids. As a part of our schooling, I remember going to prison to distribute sweets for raksha bandhan(weird, I know to tie rakhis to prisoners, but, well, it was the spirit that mattered!), singing songs for mentally challenged children on gandhi jayanti and reading out for blind kids when we got the time. And, hand me downs were normal. It would be exciting to wear things that a big sister whom I idolized wore. In this, we learnt sharing, caring and including others in our circle,who were less fortunate. By not teaching our kids this, we are probably making them selfish, self centered and obnoxious adults.
- Compassion: I see its lack commonly at the hospital I work. Parents do not want to bring their kids for counseling, because they get scared of seeing mentally ill people! Strange, as I felt that when you see someone in trouble, the first emotion that you should be generating is compassion, not fear. I can see children passing by the ill, the old and frail and maimed beggars without a second glance. Its almost as if they were wearing blinkers.Less sympathy and even lesser acknowledgement! And unless, as parents we teach them to develop compassion and a willingness to help, we are cultivating a generation of potential psychopaths.
- The value of cleanliness: What with ‘Swach Bharat’ and all, cleanliness has finally come to the forefront. Though the state of our roads and neighborhood are cleaner than before, we still have a long way in imbibing the clean culture ourselves and hence teaching it to our kids. We wax eloquent about the cleanliness in Singapore and the US of A, all the while chucking paper and plastic waste out of the car window! Peeing on the road is our birth right (exclusively, the men!). And, we do not allow our children to pick up others’ garbage to chuck in the bin because we worry that they will get dirty! Unless we realize the inclusiveness of being clean, and help keep our selves, homes, neighborhood, roads and cities clean, we teach our children bad manners and narrow mindedness about caring for only what is ours and neglecting the rest.
- Dignity of labor: I am sure anyone who has whatsapp on their smartphone has seen a video of Japanese children and teachers cleaning toilets of the school as part of their curriculum. The basic idea behind this was to teach them that there was no job too low and demeaning. Each job required hard work,sincerity and integrity and was equally important! Unfortunately, our children lack this concept. We, as parents believe that our child’s social status rises based on the paypacket and acceptability of the job. Hence, we teach them look down upon others whose social profile does not match theirs. We want them to score high, so that they can get socially acceptable jobs. In the process, we are giving the world two groups of adults- the first group, who are too full of themselves and have a superiority complex and the second who have an inferiority complex,lose their self esteem and suffer in silence! Both in their own ways, unhealthy.
Parents are important in molding a child’s personality. Unless we imbibe the right values and cultivate it in our children, we may be homegrowing the future snob NRIs who reside in India!