Depriving children of their childhood

Image courtesy of Clare Bloomfield /
Image courtesy of Clare Bloomfield /

Recently I happened to read this in a ‘Parents Agony Aunt’ kind of a column – “I sincerely need advice about our child.She has been active as a child and is healthy.The only problem is that she is slow in everything – eating, drinking and studying. She is good in English but poor in Maths and Hindi. Inspite of personal care and extra tuition she hasn’t improved. We can’t figure out what is her problem. She expects to be reminded of everything everyday over and over again. We want her to be normal like other children and do things independently. Her text marks are very poor and the complaint of her teacher is that she is slow. She gets nervous before a test and forgets everything. We feel she has no reasoning power of basic logic. Is there something wrong with her? Why is that she behaves like this? Kindly advise.”

Now most of you readers must have read such problems and may even wonder as to why I have taken the trouble to note down the whole thing and reproduce it here. Well the reason is very simple – the child is barely two years old! She is of the age off charming innocence and fun. She should learn by toddling and stumbling along about what life is all about. She should be having a whale of time and not be bothered about the harsh lessons of life so early.

But this kind of trend, I am unhappy to note, is steadily on the rise. While parents say that they are helpless and that the child needs to be coached for securing admission in a good school, the school authorities to shrug off all responsibility by saying that they are forced to resort to screening measures owing to the tremendous demand for admission.

It is a stalemate and even as psychologists try to assess the stress and trauma suffered by the hapless, we progressively charge on with the tirade. Many things can be said about childhood days – that they were charming, innocent days where we were full of fun and mischief. We pulled off capers worth remembering and have old memories worth reliving. Suffice to say that man, in his old age, thinks most about this phase of his life and often regards its as the happiest one.

And we seem to want to snatch this pleasure from the upcoming generation of tiny tots. Even in conservative, middle class homes the idea is fast catching on and people have already accepted it as an inevitable and harsh fact of modern life.

But it isn’t really so as is being vindicated by many modern Arabic nations where schooling begins at the age of six-seven years. Also I can vouch from my personal experience that children who started their schooling post the age of five are happier and feel emotionally secure. Late schooling is a factor that contributes to their ability to cope better with stress and develop into a healthy individual with a positive attitude towards life.

Moreover the pitfalls of the new trend are well camouflaged and will come to light only many years from when they started. Japan – the second most rich nation in the world and the country which we all hold in awe for having risen up like a Phoenix from its ashes – is now facing a grave crisis nowadays. Academic pressure has led to many problems in Japanese school such as bullying and fighting as the stressed children try to let off their steam. The fallout is that these stressed children are running away from life and there have been a spate of suicides in the recent past.

Maths, English, Hindi can all wait for a while, first let the child toddle along to his fifth birthday.

The article appeared under the column ‘Parenting’ in the youth supplement of The Indian Express on May 6, 1995 in Pune, India.

Nearly two decades down the line and being a father of a 6-year-old daughter who is still attending only her Higher KG in school, my views remain steadfast on this issue. Peer pressure and a mad rush to run the ‘rat race’ continues to relentlessly blight the lives of most young children. And what starts off as early as the KG class seems to run along even till the time the child has grown up and is pursuing his PG class.


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