Let’s not confuse slapping your child and abuse for love

If you’ve read my column from Monday about the Whatsapp video that went viral where a mother was forcing a pleading child to learn math, then you’ll know I condemned that video and the action on many levels. I refuse to think I judged the mother, but I’d definitely count that behaviour as abuse. Slapping a child on her face, filming her humiliation (which means you aren’t looking into her eyes when you are reprimanding her, which in itself is a huge lack of connection) and compelling her to learn when her brain is not equipped to memorise numbers and math is definitely abuse on many levels.

Well, her uncle, Bollywood playback singer Toshi Sabri spoke to Hindustan Times and said the most tone deaf things any person could say about the kids. But let me not get ahead of myself. India Today quotes Sabri as saying, “Hamare bachche ke bare mein humein pata hai naah ki hamara bacha kaisa hai! Uska nature hai waisa… Agle hi pal woh khelne chali jaati hai. Agar aap usko chod do toh woh kahengi main mazzak kar rahi thi. Uske nature ki wajah se chod denge toh woh padai bhi nahi kar paayengi. (We know about our child better. Haya’s nature is such that after being scolded, the next minute she runs off to play. But, because of her nature if we don’t push her, she won’t study.),” Toshi told HT.

He further claims that it was an attempt by mother to make her child study who is otherwise very stubborn. He further added that no one should form a judgement about the parenting techniques of her sister after viewing a 1.5 min video.

“Ek maa ki mamta hai, judgment nahi kar sakte hain. Jisne usko 9 months kokh mein rakha hai. Ab agar bachche zidd karenge toh unko padana likhana chod dein kya? Bachon ko paalna asaan nahi hota. (One can’t judge a mother’s love for the child by seeing a short video. If children throw tantrums, then should we stop teaching them? It’s not easy to raise children)”, Toshi said.

No child is born with labels. No child is stubborn. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that Haya is stubborn because she is treated the way she is in the video. With no understanding of a child in general and her own needs in particular. And seriously, when you equate love to abuse, a child grows up believing she isn’t worth kindness, respect and gentleness, all of which signify genuine love. Sabri here says if she isn’t reprimanded in that way, she won’t study. So what? She’s young enough to not have to study if she doesn’t want to. I come from experience: my daughter refused to write when she was forced to do so at age three and four. I changed schools because I knew the school that didn’t understand children was not the school for her. She started writing after age 6. Today, at a newly minted 9, she has a beautiful hand and I am so very glad that the decision I took then paid off. I was worried too, what if she doesn’t learn the skills she needs for life. But she has. And I worried for no reason. But this is not my story, so I will not digress.

I will go back to Sabri equating motherhood, love and abuse with each other. Just because a woman carried a child for nine months in her womb doesn’t mean she knows how to care for her child. Nor does it mean her love can surpass her own frustrations. Loving a child and dealing with a child are two different things. One is an emotion that comes from caring day in and day out for a baby; one that emerges from responding to need and actually rearing a child from day one. The other is dealing with your own inadequacies as people first, and a parent next, and then dealing with the child with patience and understanding. To actually get what the child needs, connect with the child and treat it accordingly. This one tight slap that Indians love is entirely useless when it comes to teaching and instructing. It’s useless in any way but I don’t mind the once-in-a-while rap on the knuckles to correct behaviour, but definitely not when you are teaching a child.  A little patience goes a long way.

All I want to say is sure, don’t judge the mum (as hard as it is for me to not) but let’s not also confuse abuse for love. I hope Haya’s mother changes the way she treats Haya and understands what her child needs.

Feature Image Source: Buisness of Cinema

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