Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Spare the rod,spoil the child-does it work?

-by KParthasarathi Wednesday, May 28, 2008
I remember I was eleven studying in elementary school. A class mate of mine took me to what he called a library in the first floor of an old building in the main bazaar. My vague memory tells me that there was none in the library. It was actually an office for a small political party. Someone must have made a bequest of all his old books long ago. The attendant possibly opened the office cum library and left on his errands only to come back in the evening to lock it. It had several open racks containing very old books of the great authors like Scott, Dickens, Dumas, Goldsmith, and Shakespeare etc of the past. The books were all so brittle that the pages would get broken. My friend asked me to take some books I wanted to read even as he collected two books. Since I knew then very little of English or the authors, I took the first book that was before me. It happened to be a large well bound book of Walter Scott’s poems with the title in gold letters. I vaguely heard his name but never knew whether he wrote poems. When I asked my pal who would issue the books, he said that nobody is there and I can take the books home and return later after reading. It occurred to me that it was not the right thing to do and yet when my friend started to leave with two books in hand, I succumbed to the temptation and left the place with the book tucked under my arm. In the evening when my father saw the big tome on my table, he took it even as bits of pages fell down. He was initially happy and asked me where from I got the book, I said from library. Further searching questions brought out the fact of my having brought the book without anyone’s knowledge. He became wild in rage and with a cane hit me in the leg shouting that I had turned into a petty thief. I could see the pain in my mother’s face at the revelation. He ordered me to replace the book wherever I took it from the first thing in the morning. When I mumbled about the school, he said it did not matter and that I could go late. His anger and his caning me are still fresh in my memory even after several decades as also the lesson I learnt at that young age.

Most parents would have encountered this problem of the child stealing be it writing instrument in the school or play things like toys or balls from friends. Some laugh at the errant behaviour as if the child was smart. When it sees a toy in another’s house, it takes it without permission, plays with it and brings it with him along unless the parents tell him to leave it behind as it belongs to another child. If the child is very young it has no idea that things are owned and belong to others. But from the age of nine or so , the child knows that it is wrong to steal others belongings. But yet a few indulge in this as they cannot control themselves from the desire to possess what they do not have. It is the responsibility of the parents to inculcate the lesson that stealing is reprehensible and would not be tolerated under any circumstances. There should be zero tolerance for this deviation. In some cases the child will rationalize the act on the plea that he found a pen on the floor in the class and since none had reported the teacher of any loss, he brought it with him. He is right in a way that he did not steal but still he possessed what did not belong to him and was someone else’s. The mother should explain the proper course would be to hand over the thing found to the teacher. She should explain how honest taxi or auto drivers or bus conductors hand over the baggage that contain money or valuable things left behind in the vehicles forgetfully to the authorities. Without accusing them, the children must be made to return the things to the teacher and not keep them. The lesson should be taught in a calm and firm manner preferably privately and not in the presence of other siblings or children. If child does it again, it should be punished immediately after the incident so that it can relate the punishment to the wrong, as often as it does the mistake, with no favouritism to different children. Once punished this matter should be treated as closed and not brought up on every occasion to demean the child. Such act would be destructive. ”Nip it in the bud” should be the right approach to be adopted. Parents may also have to find what sort of friends the child has to wean it away from bad elements. While children should generally be led to good practices by encouragement and explaining, and not by spanking or ill treatment, one should be remember the adage ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ .It would be good to instill in the child’s mind that it continues to enjoy the full trust of his parents and their belief that the child is honest. The parents should be role models. The father bringing office stationery for use by children or the mother accepting quietly a costlier dress given by mistake to a cheaper one actually bought and paid for are all watched by children only to be emulated. The parents should teach by their personal example.

1 comment:

  1. Children only tend to impersonate...
    Parents sometimes even tend to encourage such behavior saying -"Oh, our kid gets along well with anyone, he takes their things to be his, cute isn't he???"
    Parents(such ones), when will they grow up!!!