There was a time when children were economic assets. They worked and contributed to the family income. It was a reciprocal arrangement. Then along came the concepts of “a child’s right” and schools. Children stopped working, the school became work and the load shifted to the parents. And it kept growing in radius because now there was the child’s happiness and self-esteem that began to be held up as the absolute moral values. Everyone forgot that these two elusive and ephemeral notions are tied up with effort and pushing and doing things one does not want to do. For the earlier generations, the parents provided this discipline and structure and hateful nagging but for this generation, there was no one after school/college. Not for want of trying but the young themselves developed a very private, independent, and individual sense of self. The personal choice became a virtue and failure began to be celebrated. More confusion. About this time they began to ring true, the words of sociologist Viviana Zelizer, that children have become “economically worthless but emotionally priceless.”
Of course we have a role to play in this ‘all or nothing’ theme song when we offer unconditional support to our young. It is we who bring them up to think all paths are smooth when we do not allow them to bear the consequences of their actions. Perhaps we spoil them by always standing by. There may even be an anxiety born of a relationship so open with parents that everything is shared, including misgivings and insecurities. And with so much generic alarm and mess around them, is it any wonder so many young people suffer from insomnia and depressive disorders.