The generation gap: The rift between parents & children

Thangjam Sanjoo Singh *

There is no sacrifice a parent is not prepared to make for the well-being and happiness of their children. The family is the oldest unit in this world. It is, in fact, a society in miniature. And it is the duty of each generation to pass on the torch of civilization to the next.

Most parents love and cherish their children. There is no sacrifice a parent is not prepared to make for the well-being and happiness of their children. Unfortunately, modern materialistic influences and pressures have now made a burden of parenthood greater than ever before. It even threatens to tear the family apart, the most fundamental and social structure which had been formed by the human race before the dawn of civilization.

Pressure on parents: There are many causes for this. First of all, the economic pattern during the last two hundred years has changed drastically from agriculture to industry. No longer does the family operate as an economic unit on the farm. The parents work away from their children who are generally referred to as ‘latch-key’ children and only return home after their work performance. During the time of recessions, they are exposed to the insecurity of either being laid off or getting reduction in pay.

Children are exposed to a wide range of expectations, consumptions patterns and demands by their peers in school or other activities featured in advertisement through the mass media which parents are pressured to meet. In addition, parents are sometimes being evaluated by critical children who are better educated than themselves. They may even not have much in common with their children to strike a simple conversation. This rift between parents and children is known as the generation gap.

These changes place great pressure on parents, many whom seem unable to cope with the psychological demands. Besides all these, the two world wars have created frightening experiences which have gone through and which have caused whole nations to change their views about a benevolent God who cares for all the creatures he made. In this age of science and technology, such concepts propagated by many religions have been found to contradict mankind’s own experiences and modern scientific discoveries.

Pressure on children: Most parents have their worldly expectations and will feel a sense of failure or inadequacy if their children do not live to them. Great emphasis is placed on materialistic attainment and scoring points before their friends and neighbors, while spiritual values are sadly neglected. Unfortunately, their children fall victim to these psychological pressures.

They are encouraged to excel in their studies, to secure jobs that pay well, to climb up the social ladder, and also accumulate as much wealth as possible. Many parents do not place too much value on virtues such as gratitude, honesty, integrity, kindness, consideration and tolerance. The pursuit of wealth and worldly success are far more important to them.

Due to social pressures, parents, either rightly or wrongly, and without thinking of the consequences, encourage and even force their children to work hard and compete for the so-called ‘ success’. They impose their value systems on their children who are under pressure to be smart, to be popular and to excel. They are under the impression that success means the ability to compete, conquer and quell opposition, ignoring the need to establish an inner harmony with oneself.

Whether the children have the interest or not, they are expected to attend classes on music, swimming, tennis, and so and so forth. Under the misguided belief that such activities are very important for success and happiness. There is nothing wrong in pursuing such healthy activities if the children are interested, have the required talents, or if they are meant to enrich their child’s awareness of themselves and the world around.

The cultural activities and accomplishments are necessary to make a human being more cultured. A richer understanding of beauty of life should help children become more understanding, more compassionate, and appreciative of the beauty of nature around them. It is natural for parents to see their own features and characteristics reflected in their children.

Recognizing potentials: A parent should be aware of the potential within his child – of what he or she can accomplish in the future in his own good time. Children are not mature enough to plan for distant future. You cannot expect a primary school student to set his or her sights on going to university, deciding his or her career, or about his marriage. But one thing is certain.

There is no such thing as ‘useless child.’ Every human being has some talent, some potential. An academically ‘stupid’ child may be born ‘natural’ in motor mechanics or cooking. It is, therefore, the duty of parents to recognize what a child is good in, his/her aptitudes, to pay particular attention to such gifts or talents, and encourage the child to develop them for the good of society and the child’s sense of fulfilment. Try to train the children according to their mentality to do something which they can do for their living.

Parents should not place the children under such pressures – to be brilliant beyond their capabilities, to be leaders when they are not ready for leadership, or to be star athletes when they have no sporting attributes. As a result of unrealistic goals, children are prematurely forced into the world of adult pressures and responsibilities.

The outcome: they are always tired and listless. They are not able to enjoy the carefree life of childhood. These pressures have also the undesirable consequence of giving rise to emotional insecurity in their adulthood. Let us not transfer our ambitions to them and rob them of their childhood.

Conclusion: Teachers and parents

If teachers and parents try to understand the mental capacity, the intrinsic mental habits and the potential talents of their children, there will be no difficulty in training them to be good citizens. Parents must re-evaluate their priorities. It has become fashionable for parents to compare the academic achievements of their children with other parents.

By all means encourage the child to excel in his or her studies, but a child should not be evaluated only on the basis of his or her academic achievement. We must accept him/her for he or she is, and not what we expect him or her to be. Yet, this is what all parents are unconsciously guilty of.

All this does not mean parents should allow their children to grow up without training or to aim for excellence. They should be encouraged to excel, after taking account their aptitudes, inclinations, and abilities. Human beings are not all born equal, so parents must recognize their children’s potentials and help them to excel in those areas in which their potentials is strong.

Parents should try to recognize the natural ability of their children instead of imposing their ideas on them. Not all children are born to be engineers and doctors. Yet, when given every encouragement and support, their aptitudes will develop and they can grow to their fullest potential.

* Thangjam Sanjoo Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is a lay Buddhist & Social Activist of People Who Use Drugs, PUDs
This article was webcasted on April 17 , 2018.

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