Saturday, 5 October 2013

Arrested Character Development-Are we losing out on spiritual and values based development in our Children?

When a colleague of mine told me about  how flustered she had been by the elder of her two daughters who would call a friend over for the day and close the door to her younger sister for six hours at a stretch and how she just wouldn’t share her gadgets with her younger sister, it just struck a chord with me. In a society where we have learned to share things with our siblings, the very idea of me, mine, and I, have never really gained popularity till now! With the change in the way most families live today, a shift from the joint family system to the nuclear family system, wherein a smaller family size would also mean that the only child in the family would not have siblings or for that effect their would be only two children along with two parents. In times not so long ago, their would be uncles and aunts, and lots and lots of cousins to share things with! But that is not all, enter the situation where both parents are working parents.
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In times where the need to conform seems to play such a lot of importance in the development the characters of children. Children soon begin to regard their parents as not as cool as the friends in their circle. In such cases, peer-pressure and the need to conform to popular trends are some of the issues that affect  behavioural issues in children, especially those who have just entered their teens. In a class of twelfth graders, I observed that students wanted to laugh just because their friends were laughing. There was this strong urge to laugh even if the joke was a damp squib and merited not even a grunt! In some cases, students who were not very good in studies, but could do well by studying harder were in fact getting drawn into a vicious circle of bad friends with bad habits. The need to conform to the popular trends and habits was based on the desire to just be part of a group, irrespective of whether it was a good group. In many cases it has been observed that students with a weaker self-esteem ordinary looks or even those coming from marginalised communities  had a strong desire to be part of the clique so that they had an identity.
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It seems most surprisingly that while we talk about the need for individualism, creativity, and speak against rote memorisation while teaching in some of the progressive school, what is in fact happening is the exact opposite of our expectations. So then, what is making out children rather selfish, self-centred and not ready to accept change, and growth? While we keep preaching about the need to evolve and grow, learn new things, talk to new friends rather than remain loyal to only a tight group of friends? It has been noticed how children who are more exclusive so as to limit themselves to small exclusive groups could in fact be more vulnerable to deception. They begin to trust their friends more than their parents and immediate brothers and sisters. A very frightening situation, no doubt-which often results in children becoming more and more secretive regarding what they do amongst their friends. I have come a cross many students who don’t share anything with their parents, and often it comes as a surprise when the teacher tells the parents little things about their wards! As this distance between parents and children keeps growing, things begin to fall apart in terms of relations between both. While no doubt, much information can be gained from the internet, but to thinks that the internet can replace the social, cultural and value based education that the parents can give is a big fallacy! Today’s tendency to base the value of everything on the basis of a  price and purchase ability has meant that of our young ones have begun to look at life from a very skewed perspective! There is clearly more to life than money can buy, and this has to be instilled in children through example and tactful explanation. In an age which has begun in surrogacy and outsourcing, the process of nurturing children has begun to neglect those very essential moral mores, social, ethical, and spiritual values that give meaning to life! It came as a surprise when I asked my students went to temples and churches and other places of worship, and no one was ready to own up! It was probably unfashionable, or not “cool” to go to temples or churches to worship. My next question to these students was whether they ever prayed, and this time, one of the students stated very proudly that he was an “Atheist” and I replied, “Thank God your are an atheist” trying to underpin the fact that God exists for everyone, even for atheists; and he smiled realising the implication of what I had said!
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It may be old-fashioned for some to  pray or go to places of worship, but the fact remains that Godliness, Spirituality, and Respect for Values, moral, social, and cultural make all the difference! What our children have gained through technological advancement has resulted in a corresponding loss of all those good things that were passed by word of mouth by grandparents, uncles and aunts. It may not yet be too late to salvage the situation wherein progressive generations keep getting more and more selfish and self-centred. The need to look beyond the self can only be explained through the example of sharing and sacrifice  which, unfortunately, is missing in many ways as we teach our children to fend for themselves, think first about themselves and then about others. As life becomes more and more mechanical, and we tend to think of success solely from the amount one earns, it is high time we thought about a better way of teaching our children about the importance of healthy values. A value based education is the need of the day, whether we like it or not! An exposure to good books with sound moral values, movies with a sound spiritual message, and other media tools can help bring about a change in how we view our children and how they view us. The fact is that the family that prays together stays together! If we, as elders are not strong spiritually and morally, then how can we expect our children to have a sound outlook towards life and the the society at large? Thanking God for providing us nourishing food is just one more way of telling children that prosperity and a full stomach should not be taken for granted and that we pray to God, thanking him for this gift and that he might continue providing us with more down the years!

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