There is a general perception that only children of educated and smart parents (GenNext) are smart, sensitive, intelligent and pick up things real fast. Well! it is not so!
This was a 6-year-old boy from slums; father a painter (house painter) and mother working as a domestic servant. His mother had brought him with the complaint that at home he answers everything correctly but gets zero in exams. I had had a talk with his teacher; even she was flummoxed; he would answer correctly in class but come exams and he would do very badly. Learning disorder was thus ruled out!
Before referring to the team counsellor, I thought of talking to him.
Within 2 minutes he opened up and admitted that he is doing this purposely, I was shocked! When asked the reason, out came the reply “My father does not love us” – (we were conversing in Marathi)
“What is that got to do with you not answering your exams?”
“He wants me to study and come first. If he doesn’t love me and my mother, why should I do something to make him happy?”
I was taken aback. In my 35 years of handling families, I have come across several teens/adolescents proclaiming-
- My mother hates me
- I hate my mother
- I am s**t scared of my mother. She has a horrible temper
- I am fed up of my parents
On questioning him in detail, he said “my father never takes us out; my friend’s father earns less than my father and still every Sunday they go out; eat out. He brings clothes for them”.
I asked “what about your mother?”
“Whenever he comes home, she starts feeling giddy. He doesn’t love her”.
Few sessions with the counsellor for him; a talk with both parents put matters straight for this child but such instances of kids disliking one/both parents, unreasonably scared of them and at times downright hating (yes, hating) them are much more frequent than a decade or two before. We being family physicians naturally get involved as more often than not the child approaches us for talking to parents; or many a times parents bring kids asking me to find out what is bugging Rohan/Reema as lately they have been extremely disrespectful; but this 6 yr old really dazed me.
I would like to share my analysis of why kids behave like this – my insights into – Parental influence on behavioural disorder of kids:
- Parents take sides; most children complain that the parents always take another child’s side even though he/she may be wrong. Either they are crying bitterly or are very aggressive while complaining. The child takes this to heart, as he sincerely believes that he lost because parents did not take his side.
- Parents put contradictory demands – parents who have totally opposite attitudes and temperaments expect the child to do totally diverse things. It has a major influence since a child’s basic psyche is to please and seek approval from both parents.
- Parents who are in conflict with each other (although hidden, we know it always shows). Here, I would like to share another real life incident. In a love marriage (he VP in a marketing company; she an air hostess in a foreign airline) the couple had decided that she will take a 2 yr sabbatical when they get a child and then get back to flying. Due to unexpected demise of her mother (mother-in-law was already deceased) she could not continue with her profession.This turned her hostile; more so when hubby was travelling. When he was away she would talk, talk and talk to her child about her broken dreams and how his father had deceived her and when he was home she would be absolutely milk and honey (!?). When a child repeatedly hears negative about one parent from another parent, it carries the risk of weakening the relationship with the criticised parent; but it may also work the other way as a child may begin resenting the parent who criticises and shows disrespect to the other parent. This child when grows older is likely to come up with ‘I hate my mother’. Most such parents either haven’t established a conflict resolution process or wash their dirty linen in front of kids (our small houses don’t help).
The worrying aspect is that parents who behave erratically either do not realise what they are doing or have a justification for the same. In most of my cases, counsellor have to spend more time with parents than with the kids.
Beware! Spoilt by over indulgent parents, today’s over protected kids are much more fragile and with increasing stress in parents’ lives, the breaking point comes even before parents realise that they are contributing!
Dr Chander Asrani, father to three daughters and grand father to one, is a post graduate in Family Medicine. He has over 35 years in clinical practice, launched www.growingwell.com in 2000 and since then has been writing on various subjects. Know more about him at about.me/drasrani.