Fear can’t make children perform better

Using verbal or physical violence to pressurise children to bring flying colours in exams makes it difficult for them to grasp, remember and recall

Published: 09th September 2017 10:00 PM  |   Last Updated: 09th September 2017 04:52 PM   |  A+A-

There is a strong chance that by now you might have come across the video that has gone viral on the internet wherein a hostile mother is teaching her scared and tearful little daughter how to read and write numbers.

Using verbal or physical violence to pressurise the child to perform better in exams makes it even more difficult for her to learn, remember and recall. It may also bring down the child’s curiosity, creativity, enthusiasm, and confidence. Unable to realise this, many parents begin to attempt what is frustratingly impossible: in order to close the progressively widening gap between their expectations and their children’s performance, they, in their desperation, begin to use more and more of what is, in fact, causing that gap to widen.

Consequently, not only does the child unconsciously begin to feel unworthy and unloved, but also to associate learning with stress and trauma.
Often, children who are victims of such hostile treatment of parents may:
• begin to keep a safe distance from their parents;
• reassert this freedom, often with an aggressive vengeance, by deliberately flouting every rule the parents want them to follow;
• develop a deep-seated dislike, hatred, and animosity for their parents; and
• seek to pay them back in the same coin or vent out their suppressed anger towards soft targets in the school.

Some may even commit suicide to teach their parents a lesson and to escape their unbearable hostility. Even in cases where the consequences are not so extreme in the short-term, distressed children may grow into self-centred, anxious and hostile adults who are, then, ready to pass on all these traits to the next generation, as parents.

Environmental photographers often use time-lapse photography to capture deforestation taking place over 30 years in a 60-second video. If the slowly progressing psychological damage of this kind of parenting could hypothetically be filmed in a similar manner, what we are likely to see in a 60-second video would be comparable, in the physical world, with a parent chopping off her/his own child’s arm. When viewed collectively, such parenting will be as devastating for a society’s culture as wide-spread deforestation is for our environment.

There are three possible reasons why, despite these devastating consequences, parents may behave in such a hostile manner towards their own little ones:

1. They lack awareness and do what they have seen their parents doing.Unfortunately, to many parents, the very word “disciplining” means threatening or yelling at the little one, locking him/her up temporarily in a dark room, denying food or playtime and slapping or even beating him/her up. Hostile parents, in their childhood, have often been victims of such aggression themselves. They have neither seen nor do they know of any other way to discipline a child. Therefore, the idea of treating the child with love and empathy doesn’t occur to them even as a possibility.

2. They are high on ambition, low on empathy. A student’s father was insisting a school principal to let his son pursue the science stream, despite his poor results. He assured her that he would employ the best tutors, spend all the money it takes, and even beat his son with a cane until he starts doing well in the exams and eventually becomes an engineer. Just then, the electrician, who had come there to fix a table lamp for the principal, finding that the holes of the socket were spaced a bit far apart, loosened the legs of the plug, splayed them out a bit and then kicked at the plug to force it into the socket. We were all watching this and were not surprised when the plug got cracked, in the process. Seeing this, the principal, while drawing the father’s attention to the cracked plug, remarked: “You know, unknowingly, this is precisely what you are trying to do to your child.”

3. Unbeknownst to them, they seek to overcome their own sense of unworthiness through their children’s accomplishments. Ceaselessly yelling at children gives some parents a false feeling of being responsible, a vain hope of helping them do better and a seemingly respectable excuse to vent out their own frustrations, resentments and anger. Some parents may even be mentally ill, and the innocent little ones continue to be the “soft and safe” targets of their sickeningly aggressive behaviour.

Parents ought to learn how to befriend and persuade their children through a healthy dialogue. Instead of coercing through verbal or physical aggression, parents could develop a habit of asking intelligent questions that raise their children’s awareness about the consequences of their actions or inactions and provide them with their own compelling reasons to act in the desirable way.
Brute force may be required for tightening a bolt; human beings need love, empathy, clear guidelines and questions that raise awareness.
Anil Bhatnagar is a corporate trainer, motivational speaker and the author of Success 24x7 and several other books.

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