A child’s best memories are those of the school days. Sports day competitions, pop quizzes, teacher blues, canteen treats, ice candy man at home time are the tales that more or less every kid is laced with. School days are certainly the most carefree days of one’s life. Quite appallingly, however, the recent stories dotting the papers are spine chilling. Innocent teenagers are becoming victims of the wrath of supposed “sanctuaries” called school administration and parents!
It’s baffling to know that in the past months, numerous secondary school students have resorted to taking their lives either by swallowing poison, hanging themselves from the ceiling or shooting themselves. The common thread that runs in all these cases is either parental pressure to perform at school, or teacher’s terse and draconian attitude towards these children. The students who committed suicide were those who either failed in their exams and were scared of facing their parents, or ones who were ill-treated and humiliated by their teachers.
It’s a shame that the custodians of shaping these young minds have degenerated in their sense of responsibility. Ironically, the cosy shelter that insulates against all worldly odds is the one that is leading these innocent lives to the morbid path of death. The light that illuminates the mind with thought and intellect is the one which is drowning these receptive souls into darkness.
What became of the idea of leading by example; the concept of parents and teachers being role models for the desired behaviour in children? Is baton the best tool to shape character and personalities? Sadly, in our society, we believe, that just because we are older, we have an irrevocable mandate of superiority of reason. Our word is final and unquestionable. We dictate our set of expectations to our younger generation, which are to be carried out by hook or by crook because we are the venerated, ‘know-it-all elders’. If these rigid demands are not expressly shared, alternatively, an environment of a pressure cooker is pumped up at home. The implied and subtle nitpicking to perform is the deadliest of them all, because it strikes at the subconscious level of the kid. It pricks the conscience of the child, creating guilt in case of falling short and in order to avoid losing face, these children resort to desperate measures of taking their own lives.
Parents and schools need to realise that inspiration and fear are two different phenomenon. In order to scale great heights, become worthy and contributing individuals in a society, these delicate minds need to be nurtured with heavy dosage of inspiration. This is by far, the most compelling aspect in the upbringing of any child. Fear in any endeavor never bears phenomenal results. It only breeds mediocrity or failure. Fear, only instills feelings of inadequacy and low self esteem which reduces an individual to low productivity. Those who have dazzled the world have been souls enlightened with positive motivation, and concrete self confidence.
We need to foster an environment both at home and in academic institutions, which inculcates inspiration. Exceptional performance can only be achieved through meaningful visions. Positive energy and exemplary behaviour goes a long away in sculpting the ideas towards greatness. Instilling self esteem and confidence in children spurs their mental and emotional growth. To facilitate this process parents and teachers must engage in constant dialogue, positive reinforcement through encouragement, intelligent conversations, powerful stories, lesson based anecdotes and being the change they wish to see in their children. A genuine transformation is only possible through these slow but revolutionary means. True, these measures require a lot of patience and don’t bear instant results as a ‘stick’ does, but it’s well worth the cause. Fear scars the mind forever, yet the heart still remains bereft of the fundamental values.
I have learnt of this phenomenal practice from my father, who was the greatest advocate of this methodology. Our dining table used to be our epic classroom where my siblings and I learnt what no teacher ever ventured to teach in any classroom - pristine mannerisms, noble values, lofty ideals, meaningful dreams and aspirations. The way he orchestrated these lessons of life, with our everyday happenings, were marvelous and they still reverberate with me so powerfully. When we would all gather around the dinner table, he would take a rundown on the highlights of the day and would have the choicest of anecdotes to relate to us from history, religion, politics and literature; something which we cherished as kids. The best part of it was that he never resorted to lecturing or nagging to drive a point home. Instead, he left us with a thought to mull over. Consequently, it developed our ability to reflect and find our own learnings from the stories he would narrate. I can vouch for it that his conversations left deep impressions on our minds vis-à-vis the way we approached life.
As students, whenever my siblings and I would be going to take our exams, he would tell us, that it’s not the end of the world and there’s always a next time. Just this statement of his, would lift our spirits high and ease a massive load off our shoulders. Hence, the way we approached our exams, went through a paradigm shift altogether. It’s only a supportive, loving and caring environment which cultivates healthy minded individuals. I have adopted the same strategy with my children and witnessed excellent results.
Parents and teachers must focus on the strengths of children. Various subjects at school are meant to discover the talents of students, which must be developed and promoted to capitalise upon. Pointing out weaknesses and belittling them only dwarfs their self worth for the rest of their lives. In this futile process of mending their shortfalls, they lose sight of what they were naturally gifted with when they started out.
These two institutions have a gigantic responsibility and opportunity to mold the most malleable minds. They can either make them or break them. The only progressive way forward is to awaken the inside to greatness with respect, love and inspiration.
The author is the President & CEO a financial institution