Saturday, February 16, 2008

Crime and punishment

-by KParthasarathi Friday, February 15, 2008

I have a middle aged couple with five children from thirteen to two living in the opposite flat. The kids are boisterous, playful and often fight with each other. They keep coming to my flat often. One of the boys Ravi, a smart chap aged eight is my favourite. He had the notion that his parents were not uniform in their punishment for the mistakes committed by him and his siblings. He suspected that they were stricter in his case than with his younger brother and sister for the same transgression of the rules in the family. One of his younger sister also thought that two of the children were dealt with kid gloves while the rod was not spared in their case. As they grew older, they realized that the parents affection is same for all children and that there were no favourites.What was perceived as unfair and what they did not know then was that punishments were influenced by several factors like age, frequency of mistakes, cost, the parents’ own moods etc.
But this issue of disciplining children at home or for that matter even in the work place has some guidelines. It is always best to follow them. Let me explain what I have read on the subject.
If we touch the flame of a candle lit when the power goes off, it burns our finger. It is not that we were not aware that a flame burns the finger. We had a warning from our elders when we were young not to play with fire. The burn is immediate, not delayed and is consistent in burning the finger however many times we touched it. It has no favourites.It is impersonal and burns the fingers of anyone who touches it.
Discipline should be like the candle flame. Unless punishment is immediate, it would not be related to the violation of the rule. The parents cannot take cognizance of a mistake months later unless it is serious and remained unknown. Otherwise children would not know why they were being punished. The misdemeanour and punishment should be capable of correlation.
There should be clear Do’s and Don’ts and a warning that any disobedience would invite punishment. I have seen children being beaten by parents in anger and their crying and asking their parents at the same time why they were being beaten. They were not able to relate the punishment for any disobedience or lapse.
Ravi had told me that for the same mistake he had been let off once or twice. When the dad came to beat him, his mom hugged him protectively. He was not punished. Punishment in this case has not been consistent. It is like the constable issuing challan to someone for beating the signal some times and turning a blind eye many times.
Punishment should be impartial. It cannot be imposed on Ravi and his siblings let off for the same mistake. Justice should be blind to who committed the mistake. As our politicians often say, law should take its own course however high one may be. Punishment should be impartial without any bias.
Much of the law and order problems in the country would be very much less if only the law enforcing agencies follow these simple rules.

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