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The rat race of parenting

Two Bhuvans, two Mother Teresas, two Kalpana Chawlas, two Indira Gandhis, a Rajiv Gandhi and a Sonia Gandhi, half-a-dozen Netajis and even Queen Victoria.

From a few months to five years, infants and tiny tots in fancy dress took over the Ice Skating Rink on Tuesday afternoon. Mommies and daddies were lined up, keeping the wails at bay, coaching their restless bundles for the ‘talent round’. “Main Kalpana Chawla… Bharat ki pehli….”

The five-year-old who had an attack of stage-fright and stumbled over her speech was denied munchies as “punishment”. These were the very mothers who stayed on for a talk with doctors affiliated to the Indian Academy of Paediatrics, in search of advice for their parenting woes.

“Competition is the main problem faced by children today, who are tortured by parents living out their own ambitions and unfulfilled desires through them,” said Dr Debashish Biswas, secretary of the West Bengal chapter of the Academy. The paediatrician has many patients who vomit every day before school, but are okay on weekends. “They are victims of brewing anxiety.”

But with the task of bringing up a child becoming more of a “sword-fight and rat race”, doctors have sympathy for parents. “They have a growing sense of frustration because they do not know what to do with their own kids,” adds Dr Biswas.

Parents at the interactive session on the first afternoon of the three-day fair organised by Media Creations, in association with the Academy, came up with many problems, ranging from psychological disorders to bedwetting, tantrums to autism. Most had been looking for help with their children’s problems and had not found a satisfactory solution at hand.

Like one mother, whose child had been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder while still in Montessori. “But a child isn’t supposed to concentrate at that age,” stressed the panel, also including doctors Dilip Mukherjee, Tapan Kumar Ghosh and Monideepa Banerjee.

“Tantrums and attentive disorders are often caused by parents who fight in front of their kids and children who have easy access to the media,” explained Dr Mukherjee, central president of the Academy. There are no easy answers to issues worsened by the fact that children do not have constant access to their primary caregivers. “Women are steamrolled by the triple responsibilities as mother, wife and working woman. Men need to understand this to help their families run easier,” was what Dr Biswas suggested.

Patience is the only antidote for tantrums, usually a result of children not being able to understand and articulate their own problems. “But ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ is not a solution. Children who are treated with hostility will only give it back later,” said Dr Mukherjee.

Parents must also be warned about “negativism” in toddlers aged two to three-and-a-half, when their likely response to everything a parent says is ‘no’. “Parents can avoid this by framing their words differently,” suggested Dr Banerjee. So, instead of “authoritatively” telling a child to study, why not make it sound like a “team effort” for parent and child'

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