Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Parenting Ethics and its impact on children

The recent story appearing in the English dailies of India about Norway’s child Welfare Services intervening and taking away two children from Indian parents and placing them in foster care is a grim reminder of the issue of parental ethics and its impact on children. Incidentally this incident was brought to light after teachers at the little boy’s school noticed that his behaviour had become quite erratic, and the authorities were subsequently informed. At first everything was blamed on cultural ignorance. The parents force fed the children using their hands, one of the children slept with the father, all this is considered normal according to the Indian culture. In a country where housing space comes at a premium, it is not surprising if children sleep with their parents. In a country where most of the people eat with their hands, it is not surprising if parents feed their children with their hands! Force-feeding is not unknown in this country, and children are strictly warned not to waste food! Things in the Norway incident however took a turn when stories started filtering in about the differences that existed between the father and mother. Sources claimed that the mother was in a constant state of depression and the couple had differences and often fought!
The entire incident that took place in Norway last summer is a pointer towards the need to re-examine parenting ethics and its impact on children today. We, as teachers and parents need to do a re-think about how our behaviour at home can impact the psyche of our children. As a teacher for quite some years I have not been a stranger to cases where students who were either aggressive or extremely passive had problems at home where there were reports of parents quarrelling amongst themselves. In some cases there were instances of the father coming home drunk and abusing the wife and the whole family! In those days when I was a teacher in a Govt. Aided school in Delhi, we teachers had a consensus that a large number of cases of problems in students was because of an adverse environment at home which included abusive parents, parents quarrelling amongst themselves, and the lack of study space for the child. Parental neglect, as a result of both parents having jobs, and being single parents also, we noticed had a negative impact on the emotional health of the student!
Behavioural Psychologists warn that the environment at home does have a serious impact on the emotional and mental health of the child, and this especially affects children who are very young, aged baby-hood till early teens. Children are mentally and emotionally traumatised when they witness both parents quarrelling amongst themselves. Often these quarrels fed by alcohol abuse end up in violence. This violence results in emotional scars which remain with the child till adulthood. As a result of this child hood mental trauma, many adults are not able to build up healthy relations with their spouses, they are not able to be good parents, and often, they display insecurity, and erratic behaviour. In all this I am not talking about extreme cases of physical abuse of children, but I am talking about how sometimes even seemingly healthy bickering between both parents might result in mental and emotional trauma in children. Such traumatised children fail in various ways in their adult roles of maintaining relations with children and others in the society. Perhaps the only advice to parents as a parent myself and a teacher is that they should avoid bickering amongst themselves in the presence of their children! This is often easier said than done, but then it is an important part of parenting ethics that responsible parents should realise that they are after all in many ways responsible for the emotional well being of their children! As such, violence amongst parents is a strict no no, and if differences are irreconcilable then they had better meet a family councillor! Failure to do so would result in the social services taking children away. Children are the cement that binds the family, and if they are not treated with kindness and respect, then the fabric of the family, the basic unit of every society will break down!

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