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Child-Abuse of the Emotional Kind

September 14, 2006

Kahlil Gibran: Children are life’s longing for life itself. They belong not to us, but to themselves.
Technically speaking, child abuse is any action that can harm the child emotionally, physically or sexually.
Out of these, emotional abuse is the hardest to detect. shouting-mask_1_1.jpgVerbally assaulting a child, heaping on him humiliations and insults, pressuring him to excel in school, or being plain uncommunicative and uncaring all fall under this category. The suffering child develops low self-esteem and may also be apathetic, lack initiative and may find it difficult to get along with others. Being a witness to emotional and physical violence between parents can also scar the child emotionally, and he is also likely to develop warped ideas of the man-woman relationship
Pampering and over-protecting children is also a form of child-abuse. Spoilt children develop qualities of selfishness and laziness and find it hard to adjust to pressures of adult living.
Is it surprising then that studies show that approximately 25% of children suffer from some sort of psychiatric disorder, ranging from chronic sulkiness, lack of concentration, irritability, refusal to go to school, hyper-activity, temper tantrums, depression, anxiety attacks to suicidal and delinquent behavior? If these problems are not treated, these children can grow up with grave problems in adult life, and in extreme cases take to drugs, alcohol or even turn to crime. At best these children grow up with deep-seated complexes.
Parents are eager to believe that these problems are genetic or perhaps even caused by diet. While these may play a part, the environment is critical. Otherwise why should it be that the most unruly children come from families where the parents themselves lead indisciplined lives? Or from families where incorrect, and sometimes very harsh methods of discipline are used?
Unfortunately bad parenting is passed on from one generation to another. The child-abusers of tomorrow are sitting in our class rooms today! And that is where we should catch them, in school! If algebra and geometry can be taught, subjects which only a handful of students will finally use, why not a course on nurturing?

(A condensed version of what appeared in the Deccan Herald, Bangalore)

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