I’m horrified reading of young people in cars mowing people down, showing no regret, and a callous attitude towards life. While my son is only 14, I already see such future brash kids in his immediate environment. How can I ensure my child does not imbibe such attitudes? We are a compassionate family, particularly so towards the less fortunate.
Feel assured that unrepentant young people getting away with heinous crimes, are people whose parents have consistently not bothered to stop them from small acts of callousness, like torturing puppies and bullying other kids, to higher misdemeanours. Worse, they have been shielded when caught and someone has tried to make them take responsibility for their actions. This goes under the name of ‘parental love’, while actually doing the children a huge disservice.
If, as a family, you are compassionate and considerate, that’s a big insurance against your child growing up to be a callous troublemaker. However, it is important to make an active statement about your attitudes. Taking a passive ‘we live and let live’ stand is not enough any more, given the level of brashness around us. Your kids must see you actively demonstrating considerateness, civic-mindedness and caring. It is very well to be ‘good people’ in abstract terms—when you do not have to deal with actual poor people. So, an important thing to add to your family’s right-thinking attitudes is, perhaps, some active right-doing.
It is much easier for people to be callous to the poor when their lives are not touched directly by poverty. The ‘other’ in any situation needs a face, close-up and personal. Free-floating and general compassion is fine, but it needs someone to be compassionate to. A note of caution: most people either teach their kids to ignore and/or distrust the poor, or to pity them. Pity doesn’t stick. At best, it leads to f guilt-ridden charity most of us suddenly do—giving away stuff (and worse, giving stuff we don’t need!). Caring and compassion come from giving of yourself, and taking too. Which means, you need to expose your kids to (by way of actual interactions, or at least in conversations, and by your own actions) people from the lower strata in such a way that they can see some of the sterling qualities of people who are poor—not just see them as a pitiable mass of toiling humans.
You also need to see that your kids take responsibility for whatever they do. As one parent recently did, when she realized her son was part of a bunch of 15-year-olds who ‘tp-ed’ (throwing opened toilet paper rolls) a professor’s garden. She got him to clean up the next day. Only two boys out of eight were asked to do this by their parents.
Keep a close eye on your child’s idea of fun—especially if it involves cars and motorcycles, vandalism or eve-teasing in any form. Often the ‘boys will be boys’ lazy parenting syndrome ends up with boys becoming dangerous to themselves and society at large.
Write to Gouri Dange at firstname.lastname@example.org