Sunday, August 26, 2007

A Little World Full of Violence

Have been meaning to write a post on violence in our children's lives. Two posts made me attempt it today (let me tell you it is not easy to write about such things) one was adventure dad's post showing the video recording of a father and coach hitting a teen age athelete for underperformance and the other was Kiran's post at karmickids about the Adnan killing. Kiran asks whether anyone has answers, I think I have after observing the amount of violence in my young daughter's life and I am to blame too.

Violence is celebrated in our society, we advise our kids to go out and get it at any cost. I remember long ago my then toddler daughter took part in a toffee picking race with other kids of her age. She picked only two toffees from those strewn on the ground whereas the other children had collected fistfulls of the stuff and also managed to finish the race ahead of her. I admonished my baby and told her to grab as many as she could next time. There also is a particularly objectionable game which is a part of every birthday party when a big bag of goodies is hung high up on the ceiling when it is burst and the children are supposed to pick up the stuff which falls all over the floor. The biggest and the most boistrous children can grab the most. This game celebrates brute force and grabbing power but we all whisper to the children "go for it, push shove and you will get what you want".

Although I noticed that some kids at the play school pushed others while playing in the slides and see saws, my daughter first started complaining of the hitting when she entered the big school. I told her to ignore it and steer clear of the perpetrators. Sometimes I even told her to hit back. Sometime later the complains stopped, she made a group of friends. I started believing that all was well. Then it began again. There was no problem in Class I but now there is a serious problem which will not go away by itself. It is affecting my daughter's studies. Aparently there is a boy in the class who is good at some kind of combat game.He teaches the moves to the others who use the knowledge so gained on hapless children who are not the hitting back types. One of the boys is my daughter's close friend. One day I went to the park with my daughter and the friend and his mother. When they were at play I noticed that the boy was more interested in playing pranks on my daughter than playing cricket. My girl would run up to bowl only to have him disappear behind a tree! As we were leaving the park his mother and I were talking while they were walking near us suddenly he had her in a death grip his hands looped from under her arms to behind her head, I was shoched, while his mom went on talking non-chalantly. When she realised that I was not responding to her banter she turned her attention to the children locked together in that strange position. "Ah," she said proudly, "Govind has taught him that, he is a very athletic boy and knows a lot of these twists and turns". "Hello", I thought," how about asking your son to let go, now that it is established that my child has lost the match?" Seeing that she had no plans to do any such thing I tried to tell the boy that my girl was not the type when she quickly added, " haan woh larki hai na, usko chhor de". That irked me even further, let me see him attacking a girl bigger than himself with a reputation of hitting everyone like B also in my daughter's class.

Finally I extracted her from him and came home shaken. Now this boy was then sitting next to my daughter in class and she began complaining of similar incidents as the park in class. I told her to ask for help from the teacher. She said children got letters from home requesting change of place but I wanted her to deal with the problem herself. A few days earlier her place was changed but she was disapointed as the new boy was more notorious than her previous partner. The complainings increased, the teacher also told her off by saying that she has to adjust to everyone. Matters came to a head when one day during her class test she did not write more than one line. she did not even attempt the drawing part and part of the page was torn. At this stage I decided to act. I went to school with her copy and told her class teacher the entire matter . All she did was change her place again and give her 1 on 10 for the one line and wrote in her copy that she has to write faster! The new partner did not hit her but he also did not want to sit with her and he made that quite apparent to her. Well, all was quiet for some days, then the murmerings began. The new boy has started hitting me now and then etc.

At the parent-teacher meeting I brought up this concern with the class teacher. Undoubtedly the children are under the impression that it is ok to hit their friends and it is acceptable behaviour, boys are specially enouraged to pick up fighting skills and teachers shrug shoulders and say "boys will be boys" and carry on with their nonchalant lives. This apathy is making our society violent and encouraging overt aggressiveness.

And then there is us I plead guilty of forcing the child to get up, brush teeth do potty go to school, study and also learn the cycle, eat healthy food. Mounting pressure on her I admit hitting her as she is stubborn and I have to really establish my superior strength before she toes the line. I am being drawn into this circle of violence perpetuating it in the name of disciplining the child. Where is all this leading us? Is my daughter ready to face the violence all around her. How can I make learning spellings easy for her, how can I increase her writing speed without intimidating her? How can I stop her classmates from hitting her?

Clearly part of the blame lies at our doors. Violence is encouraged and children think it is ok to be agressive. I have told my daughter to protest loudly when she is hit even if she cannot hit back. Incidentally her new partner has asked his parents to write a letter to the class teacher saying that my daughter hits him and has asked for his place to be changed!When I asked the boy whether it was true he could not look me in the eye and hung his head and looked the other way, clearly the boy was not telling the truth. I have asked the class teacher to hold a sensitizing meeting involving the children and parents lets see what comes of it.

The killers of Adnan are the products of this same system which is turning violent day by day. These killers think nothing of using force upon helpless people because they have been doing so for their entire lives this is just a step further- snuffing of a young life.

No comments: