Raising a young mind can be a challenge everyday. I don't mean the physical kind of challenge of running around trying to get them to study or do their chores, all the while keeping an imaginary scorecard of their meals! By challenge I mean the mental kind that comes from raising a vibrant and inquisitive mind. I am lucky to be the mother of a 9 year old girl and I'm faced with this challenge a few hundred times a day myself. A questioning and curious mind keeps throwing curveballs and I have to walk a tightrope knowing full well that the answers will mould and shape her. Every answer to a 'why' will form her opinion, personality and beliefs. We as parents always want our kids to think for themselves but at an early stage we help them form ideas and ideals about the world they inhabit.
In a recent development I noticed my 'honest to a fault' daughter lying through her teeth! Every question was met with a small and often disernable lie. This was very disturbing to me as a mother. I have always prided myself with imparting the highest moral standards to my child. Without sounding too pompous I should mention how my little one would own up to everything fearlessly. And now the same not - so - little - anymore girl was brazenly lying her way out of situations. This drastic change in her not only worried me but scared me aswell. I read articles on why kids start to lie and Googled all I could about children and the psychology behind lying. While all the articles treated this as a common practice among children,none of the reasons mentioned applied to why my daughter had picked up this nasty habit. I blamed the company she kept to the shows she watched on tv. But nothing could explain the change in her personality. After suspecting everyone and blaming everything I chanced upon the reason when my daughter very nonchalantly mentioned that "YOU say it's okay to lie sometimes"!!!!! I was shocked that it was I who had made this very reckless statement. I implored her to tell me more and she related how once she had missed school on account of me having overslept and the next day I mentioned in the leave application that she had been unwell. It all came back to me how she had pointed out that it would be lying and I told her it was okay to do so not explaining that a leave letter mentioning an over sleeping mother would not go down too well with the school authorities. This little incident which we can all relate to all too well taught her indirectly the very bad habit of lying. I had inadvertently taught her to lie at her convenience. She learnt that day that lying was easy and it helped in avoiding an uncomfortable situation.
Honesty in real life can be tricky and get you into trouble. Lying in crtain situations can be the wise thing to do and can be called being "street smart". But is it right to teach out kids one thing and practice the opposite in real life? Are the moral science lessons learnt not applicable in the real world? And if they are, then why do we, as adults act contrary to what we teach?
After realising this terrible truth, I started noticing a very troubling pattern with everything we taught our kids. We teach them to help a person in need even if it's a stranger. But in case of a road mishap do we ever stop and help? The "adult thing to do" is to move on and if, maybe you have a heart, call the cops. But NEVER stop and help because life has taught us that more often than naught, the person who helps gets into the most trouble! The dilemma of being good versus being smart is one that we fight with everyday. If one lives up to a high moral code of conduct, they are regarded as an oddity, a fossil from another time with no connect to the "real world". Why do we have to live in two different worlds? Why can't the world of our textbooks and childhood stories be one and the same thing? A poor impoverished woodcutter today who refuses a gold and a silver axe for an iron one would make the headlines as the "dumbest man alive"!! Why do we start teaching kids "ways of the world" and to be practical as opposed to being an idealist?
How many times have we talked about the new bride bringing gifts from her parents' house knowing all too well what an evil practice this is and a veiled way of taking dowry. How many times have we remained seated while the national anthem plays on all the while teaching our kids to love their country. And yes I still believe in standing while the national anthem plays because it might not be the only way but it is definitely one way of showing my respect to my motherland.
Our words and actions, big or small are being soaked up by an ever eager and responsive sponge that will form the future generation. We have to invest time and attention on it. We have to be conscious of what we say and do. And above all we have to practice what we preach.