Super Kids?

“I hate my childhood and everything to do with it”

Here is a quote that most existentialist, absurdist and other seemingly complicated folks swear by. There isn’t much of a chance of me ever being able to connect to the aforementioned statement, and this is because of the fact that I had a truly wonderful childhood.

Most fortunate individuals cherish their childhood memories as the days of free, unencumbered innocence and frivolity, where one’s main job is to be a kid and enjoy life’s simple pleasures. Of course, there are certain less fortunate souls for whom childhood was a period of profound affliction, but such individuals are few and far in between (at least, such are the cases with our generation).

However, for children who are around a decade younger than us, the story has changed entirely. Over half of the world’s educated children below the age of fifteen are said to be suffering from varying degrees of clinical depression. Most of them seriously lack in self esteem, to add to which, a large number of children are below or above ‘medium weight’, and therefore suffer from a poor body image.

As society morphs into fast paced, ultra competitive, ruthless world, it is inevitable that people must adapt to their changing environment. In a world that demands quick results, parents feel that it is their duty to raise children who will be able to deliver. This is the very essence of the ‘super-kid syndrome’, symptoms of which are palpable in families everywhere.

The average kid of today is a good student, is actively engaged in one particular sport or dance form, is good at arts and craft or is familiar with one particular musical instrument and yet, manages to ‘have fun’. And heaven forbid, if a kid lacks in any of the aforementioned departments, over-anxious parents bring on the coaching classes and child psychiatrists. While there are some individuals who possess the multi-tasking gene, the rest of humanity certainly does not, so it in such cases, increased level’s of stress is a given, as is illness, hypertension, and in some cases – so is a burnout.

Half a decade ago, the average age of kid’s who would begin taking tuitions (if required) was around fourteen to fifteen. Today in certain parts of the world, kids as young as eight or nine are now seen frequenting their neighborhood tuition centers. The root cause of the sad state of affairs cannot be determined, but the most obvious agents involved are the parents. With a gamut of easily accessible information available, young parents of today are far more aware than the older set. This information can be a boon to new parents, but the array of available facts also has the tendency to make them over-anxious. If the baby book says that the baby should be crawling by six months, and God forbid, our baby is not, a wide variety of pediatricians will be visited, second, third and fourth opinions will be taken; a variety of tests will be administered on the bewildered baby, only to come to the diagnosis that the baby is merely a late-bloomer. The clearest example of such insanity is the mad rush that is created during the time of pre-school admissions, when (I kid you not) hundreds of four year olds flock to the examination centers and give aptitude tests, and depending on their performance on these tests, they are called for interviews. Parents start ‘coaching’ their children for these tests a year prior to the date. Clearly, this is not a good sign.

Another major drawback of the “super-kid syndrome” is that parents are often found to use love as a reward for success. When the child is successfully able to complete a given task, parents smother him/her with love. However, if the child doesn’t fare too well, the disappointment is palpable (however hard the parents may try to hide it). Psychologists are appalled by such scenarios; they claim that the job of parents (in the formative years of their children’s lives) is to provide the children with unconditional positive regard. Children must be chastised for the purpose of disciplining alone, and not as a punishment for failure. Not adhering to this cardinal rule of parenting is likely to fill the child with feelings of dejection, which is almost always the start of the downward spiral into depression. Experts predict that if this trend continues, then at the time when the children of today come of age, they wouldn’t live in fear of HIV-AIDS or even Cancer, the most threatening illness of their time would be Clinical Depression.

It is the need of the hour that parents must seriously consider modifying their over-enthusiastic parenting tactics, for despite being young, children are as human and as mortal as the rest of us. Since families are the building blocks of society, if the attitude within the family changes, then a change in society is sure to follow. The children of today have an equal right to the joys of childhood, let the kids be kids, let us not try to steal their childhood by converting them into miniature overworked adults…

For surely, “childhood” must not become synonymous with “depression”!

Rayman Gill

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