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It's not only children who grow!

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I have been thinking a lot about parenting lately. In the build up to Ahmedabad Rising, an event on February 14 to kick start a concerted effort to...

notI have been thinking a lot about parenting lately. In the build up to Ahmedabad Rising, an event on February 14 to kick start a concerted effort to try and stop violence against women and girls, I had visited close to twenty educational institutions, many of them schools. Talking to the children, and to teachers, I realised that the seeds of violence are sown even in the first year or two of life. When a young child starts exploring her body the mother remains sanguine � till she touches her genitals. Then the immediate reaction, "chhi chhi. Dirty. Shame shame". The child is taken aback, stops but files it in her memory that there are portions of the body that are not kosher. Thus begins the curiosity about the private parts, one that soon gets obsessive with the internet, pornography sites, gossip and innuendo becoming the source to find out more. And our films of course, with the item numbers as the course curriculum on how men and women behave and what women like men doing to them! Children today are privy to information from many sources, mostly technology oriented that we can't really control what they see or read or listen to. Thus it becomes even more important to face queries and curiosities frankly and honestly, rather than to try and push them under the carpet with warped ideas of morality and the belief that teaching a child about the body and sexuality encourages them to have sex. So many children are on the computer by the time they are five or six years old, and learn to search for key words. Even video games are filled with strange sexual connotations. How then can parents continue to keep a silence and hope that the issue will get resolved by itself? Children today mature earlier. They get their periods earlier, date earlier and become sexually active earlier. Parents need to face this rather than do an ostrich on them. For city girls the perception of the body, the need for perfection can lead to early eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia. Boys can get into gangs, start smoking and taking drugs, even get into petty violence or pornography. It was only a few months ago that a young boy was caught in Kerala filming his mother as she bathed, to earn some extra money. We lay too much emphasis on discipline, understood in the old sense of never sparing the rod. Children need to be spoken to, listened to, without them thinking you will respond from the same fixed position. Make them feel that you want to understand them, that their point of view is important, that you too can change your position. And discipline them by involving them in the disciplinary action. Discuss why you think what they did is wrong and once you have convinced them, ask them what their punishment should be. However long it takes, sit and negotiate a punishment that they do not resent, that they feel is fair and one they have agreed to. And be open to being corrected if you find that you were wrong, that you misunderstood or judged wrongly. Here is a good piece to remember, from American author Joyce Maynard. "It's not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching what we do with ours. I can't tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is to reach for it, myself". Or this one from O A Battista, author of Childish Questions. "The best inheritance a parent can give his children is a few minutes of his time each day" (The writer is a popular danseuse and social activist)
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