I am passionate about working with children and I must say I have had the good fortune to be surrounded with them. I am also privileged to have had the opportunity to work with children from both sides of the divide; the divide between the Have’s and the Have Not’s of our society. On one hand I have been working with children of upper middle class families who go to the best schools in town. On the other hand, I have also been working with slum children who predominantly go to Government schools.
I did not choose to work with either set. I would say they chose me or all of it has happened with Divine grace. I find myself blessed to be in this unique position which allows me to experience and understand how children learn and behave across the divide. Here are some of my takeaways so far.
- Rich kids or more appropriately children of rich parents (lets call one such child “Child A”) are exposed to many areas of learning be it in sports, arts, academics or even behavior (I recently came across classes which teach 5 year old how to communicate effectively). Child A often starts each class with enthusiasm but slowly loose interest and drops out, just like he would do with any new toy.
Children living in slums (lets call one such child “Child B”) are exposed to very limited learning means. So when Child B sees someone wanting to help her learn, she jumps to the occasion and grabs it with both hands, teeth and nails so it doesn’t slip away from her.
- Child A has travelled extensively on family vacations and doesn’t get excited about anything new. I remember a Child A who exclaimed, “I am Bored!” while standing right in the middle of Disneyworld in Las Vegas.
Child B has only travelled between the city and his village. He spends most of his holiday time lazing on the banks of a river and eating Kairi (raw mango). No one asks him if he is bored or having a good time.
- Child A needs external motivation in the form of points, rewards or peer pressure to keep him motivated to achieve goals set for him by his parents.
Child B sets his own goals and has to fight with his parents to get time to work on his goals. Parents are already working hard and often seek help from Child B in household chores leaving him with little time to focus on his own goals.
- Child A is often directionless way past her school years and parents take her to Career Counsellors and Therapists who can help her discover her goal in life.
Child B is self directed and constantly searching for roads which can take him to his goal.
- Child A gets the best sourced food and is obese and disinterested in home cooked food.
Child B is malnourished with rotting teeth and stunted growth.
- Child A is cute as hell and Child B is cute as hell too.
- Child A is addicted to screens. Child B is addicted to screens as well.
Does Child A belong to the “Have” strata of the society? I am not sure because I don’t see him having motivation, self drive, resilience, emotional strength or right food habits (just to name a few things).
Does Child B belong to the “Have Not” strata of the society? I am not sure because I see him possessing all the above that Child A clearly has lost.
I am a parent of Child A and I often wonder how short sighted parents are. In making sure my child has everything that he needs (or more appropriately, what I think he might ever need), I have taken away so many things from him. I did so for my children’s happiness but looking at him, I cannot even say he is truly happy.
In the end, even if my child tops the class and can play music and basketball like a pro, but he cannot share his pencil with his friend or sit quietly in peace with himself for more than 2 minutes, I will have to put my Child A in the Have Not strata of the society.
I leave it for you to judge if this matters to you and if you are willing to provide to your child what she really ought to have.
P.S. – For the parents whose children come to my class, please don’t take offence by thinking Child A refers specifically to your child. Believe me, all of the Have Not traits are common across most children in my class.