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The right way to raise a human being

  • Published at 05:32 pm May 23rd, 2018
  • Last updated at 05:33 pm May 23rd, 2018
Photo: Bigstock

There is a fundamental inadequacy in how we raise our children

In the past few months, I've become obsessed with babies.

Maybe it stems from stepping into the 25thyear of my life, and my psyche so willingly embracing the call for motherhood to fulfill the wish of my own mother (and frankly, no one else's), yet I can't help but see these little humans, waddling on their tiny feet, and think of all the incredible magic that they carry within. 

Of course a child -- apart from carrying on its small shoulders the burden of being a tiny person, dependent on everyone around them to survive -- retains, within themselves, a potential for great things. It is in our nature as human observers to assume here that great means good, and good we assume the child will be. 

But in this way, do we not place the burden of being good on the same tiny shoulders whose vulnerability is still the same, who still cannot entirely think for themselves, let alone fend for themselves? 

Even without being a parent -- and, perhaps, especially when one isn't (yet, or ever going to be) -- it is important to try and trace how children are taught the basic tenets of being human.

Understanding the contours of child-rearing in a society can provide insight into why, for instance, some children hurt small animals as a form of cruel catharsis, or, later on life, why adults can be violent enough to compulsively and continuously harass and inflict pain onto others. 

And even before we, as caregivers, impart knowledge onto our tiny friends, the process of learning begins with expectations. We expect our children to be a certain way, and the possibility of them being anything different is hardly accepted.

The first step, then, in raising a generation in a time riddled with anxieties and fears of various sorts, is to realize that expecting children to be only a certain kind of people is unfair on the people they are on their way to becoming, and accepting the fact that there are many different ways to raise our kids.

The process of parenting varies across cultures, and, in our own, class divisions also play a part. For most of us reading, we fall into a specific class bracket. 

In our own, Bengali middle-class neontocracy, interactions between child and parent are often deeply rooted in values of respect and authority, which over the years may turn into obligations which children -- and eventually, adults -- become tethered to. 

While the importance we place on values of respect, honour, and authority is an essential part on building the foundations of one's personhood, the strength with which we implement them, and ignore other values therein, is a problem.

Children are taught how to be good students, good employees, dutiful sons and daughters, value the worth of money, but rarely much emphasis is placed on being kind, sensitive, responsible, and creative. 

If we shifted the values we put on people growing up, from being respectful and dutiful, to being creative, expressing emotions, and being kind, then perhaps the possibility of creating a collective conscience that we all can be a proud of won't be an idea all too far fetched.

Luba Khalili is an Editorial Assistant, Dhaka Tribune.