Bane of excessive parental attention

Bane of excessive parental attention

The nation has been outraged by the news report of the Norwegian government’s high handed act of taking away two of our children from their parents on a couple of ludicrous charges.

Ignorance of cultural practices is a lame explanation as spoon feeding a toddler and co sleeping with a baby, are not unique to the Indian culture. The fact that very recently, there was a  study-based report from UK, on the later day food preferences of spoon fed children vis-a-vis children left to eat on their own, shows that even in the developed countries spoon feeding is actively practiced by many.

In fact, it is one of the many, passionately discussed parenting practices, with staunch supporters for and against. With no conclusive evidence one way or the other, most of us follow instincts and do what seems appropriate for a particular child. As such we do not think there is anything abnormal or abusive about spoon feeding a three year old. 

Besides, who gave the Norwegian government the right to say what is right and wrong about our cultural practices? Surely, it is none of their business.  But, at a time when the subject has come up for discussion,  it is our business to introspect and critically examine some of the current day parenting practices, and see if they help or hinder the child’s development in the changed world order. 

Dynamic subject

Culture is a dynamic subject.  Deletions and addition happen continuously and these are by and large dictated by the shifting societal values. So while hand feeding and ‘babying’ young children (thanks largely to the joint family system) is an old custom, over the last few years, a new version of it is has evolved in nuclear families.

The middle, upwardly mobile class of parents, driven by the desire to give their children a standing start, are ‘nesting’ the child for longer periods and extending the spoon feeding to other areas of growth as well. It is this practice that we need to take a good look at and see if we are not raising a generation of children who are passive adults with stunted, decision making skills.   

Spoon feeding implies that the recipient is not given a choice over what goes into his/her body. He/she is not given a chance to make a responsible decision that concern oneself.

The problem is, foods that the parent wants the child to have are generally not what the child wants to eat! One would think that a compromise arrangement, acceptable to both should be the way out.

The crop of new-age parents, citizens of the shining India, has come up with a new alternative. Here, the child gets to order, buy and eat the various ready to eat foods freely and the parent retains and exercises the right to push in nutritional, high value foods as well. Birdie moms, adequately updated on protein and Omega 3 and anti oxidants, are on the job, spoon feeding with evangelical zeal.
No exaggeration

It is no exaggeration. I have seen mothers, feed banana and cheese to the school going child as he/she waits at the gate for the school bus to arrive. Meritorious students preparing for the all important entrance exams allow their devoted moms to spoon in fresh, hot, food, even as they crack the physics problems. Yet another clever mom, stealthily feeds her boy spinach and rice when the nine year old is in a zombie state, engrossed watching the cartoons!

The reason why we do this is also rooted in our culture. We take parenting too seriously and own responsibility not only for the child’s health, but also for his/her performance, success or failure in life.  We feel guilty and blame ourselves if the child gets sick or hurt. Guilt over physical injuries in time extends to emotional hurts as well and we try to shield the child from every, foreseeable setback.
So we pack the bag and check the diary. We sacrifice our social life to sit with the child and make sure he has finished homework, studied for the tests and completed the project work.

The excessive parental attention in the growing years is breeding a generation of toothless, clawless, self-centred children who have never taken an independent decision and faced the consequences. Children who have been so effectively shielded from failing that as adults they wouldn’t dare to stray from the safe, predictable path of mediocrity. A case where the operation was a success but the patient died.