A new commercial titled 'Shishu Oporadhi' (child criminal) made for ACI Captain Bike is making rounds on social media where a child is being subpoenaed on charges of screen and mobile game addiction.
In her defense, the child affirms she has grown to be increasingly addicted to smartphones owing to the fact that nobody (none of her parents) plays with her or narrates stories to her insinuating the parents do not have time for her.
The ad is sure to whet any viewer's thought process as it immediately points to the truth that many of us are actually not spending quality time with our children – something that a child rightfully deserves from his/her parents.
Just like having a fair share of the parents' time, there are indeed many other rights that the children are entitled to get from their parents. Do we even have notions about these rights, let alone defend those?
First, we often deny and fail to ensure an ambiance free of altercations and acrimonious feelings for our children. Well, parental arguments are normal and there's bound to be squabbles in a relationship, but we often get oblivious of the fact that all those fights happen in full view of the children, which will make him/her feel disoriented in the long run.
In the book Marital Conflict and Children: An Emotional Security Perspective, written by renowned developmental psychologists Cummings and Patrick Davies from the University of Rochester, it has been claimed destructive tactics that parents often resort to such as verbal aggression, threats of abandonment, and physical assaults create a stressful environment having long-term cognitive impacts for the children.
Most of the parents in our country do not consider this issue seriously. As a result, they keep locking horns and violating a child's right to grow up in a healthy atmosphere.
Second, parents often forget to spend time with their children. This is especially true for fathers as they keep working their fingers to the bone with a view to bringing home the bacon. There is nothing wrong with that, but our family and children should never occupy the back seat during our journey of life. To generalise, it may not sound like a cogent argument to many, but there are actually fathers who do not feel the necessity to live up to their children's emotional expectations. Such practice and mindset is a clear violation of a child's emotional right, which puts strain on his/her effective growth.
Third, parents in our society often impose their goals on their offspring, especially when it comes to education and career choices. Very few parents actually let their children pursue their own dreams as they consider their children as extensions of themselves, rather than an individual having independent choices and aspirations. So, they want their children to fulfil the dreams that they themselves have never been able to achieve in their lifetime.
This can be considered as a tenet of healthy narcissism as defined by Sigmund Freud, the Austrian psychoanalyst, in his essay titled "On Narcissism: An Introduction" in 1914. Healthy narcissism, he states, might prevail in all individuals and it is a part of the normal gradual development of a human being. For instance, parents' hyperbolic evaluation of their children's calibre and their inherent tendency to slap their unfulfilled aspirations on their kids are examples of such narcissism.
This is not the problem, rather the problem with our parents is the extent to which they practice such forceful pursuit. Such kind of authoritarian parenting not only harms a child's self-esteem but also creates a widening psychological gap between the offspring and the parents.
Fourth, many parents in our country abrogate their responsibilities of providing food, shelter, and education to their children. According to estimates by different NGOs, there are around 11 lakh street children in our country and many of them live on their own without any family support. Now give it a thought --- where are the parents of all these children?
Well, the fact that the rights of the children are violated so indiscriminately in our country is itself very staggering. Two reasons might have contributed to such a societal condition -- age-old beliefs and social programming. With regard to the first one, in our society parents are beatified in the wrong way. That's why there is no accountability for them even if they duck out of the responsibilities they have towards their children.
The second reason is the way we are being programmed since our childhood to think and society conditions us to think in a way that approves of anything done by the parents as rightful and beneficial.
This particular claim will be clear if we take treatment of any news item related to wizened geriatric left on the street or anywhere else. Whenever any old parent is forsaken by his/her adult son/daughter, media outlets sensationalise the incident and make headlines slamming the offender (accused son/daughter).
That's perfectly okay. But have you ever seen any media outlet coming down heavily on the parents of the street children who are actually solely responsible for throwing the future of those tiny tots under the bus? The answer is obviously 'no' and even cross-sections of people also do not talk much about those irresponsible parents. It happens so because we have been programmed socially to think that way.
So, what if all these rights are not fulfilled? Jean Piaget, a Swiss developmental psychologist with international acclaim, has outlined four stages of intellectual development that a child goes through in his famous theory of cognitive development --- sensorimotor stage, preoperational stage, concrete operational stage, and formal operational stage.
In all these stages, a child learns through schemas (kinds of knowledge that help a child to interpret and understand the world). When a child's right is denied and exposed to violence, he/she forms that kind of schema, and a twisted version of knowledge about the world, relationship, and family life gets imprinted inside him/her.
Such a child grows up with repressed feelings and pent-up frustrations that keep accumulating inside him/her psyche and start clouding his/her views. He/she, in turn, also continues the legacy of bad parenting once he/she becomes a parent.
So, how can we transmute the situation? We must revisit the dogmas related to parenting and learn to question the role of the parents as well. No one should be given a free pass to do as they please (not even the parents). Talking about intangible child rights on mass media and social networking sites could be a good first step.
Md Morshedul Alam Mohabat is a philomath who likes to delve deeper into the human psyche with a view to exploring the factors that influence it.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.