Author: Sandhya Basu
“Mom! Why am I so fat?” “Why did God make me so dark?”
– Almost every child victim of bullying
All of us are well aware of society’s role in creating a pseudo-perception around words like ‘fat’ and ‘dark.’ Though they are just neutral words describing a person, the general society has provided them with an underlying negative tag that is now widespread through generations. One may wonder how children at such tender ages become recipients of these societal labels. Exploring the issue from a grass-root level and discovering the interaction-patterns of children, one may conclude the three main components of interaction- broadly, parents, teachers, and friends. During the primitive years, parents and teachers play a crucial role in the shaping of a child’s thought-patterns. One must not forget that all of us are also products of societal conditioning and that the societal norms also mould our thoughts and ideas.
Before I proceed, I think it is imperative to understand the procedure behind the society’s deep prints through a process called social conditioning. It is essential to understand such imprints to break the chain and make our children stand-out from the ongoing societal norms. Social conditioning is a sociological process in which individuals are trained by society such that they start responding in a way that is approved and sanctioned by the society. Thus, it can be referred to as a set of rules for our behavioral patterns that are dictated to us by society. Unfortunately, social conditioning commences with our birth. Most of our parents fortify the age-old gender differences right from the very beginning. Hence, with this context of chain reaction, us and then our children start mimicking our society-embedded thoughts. Thus, this results in young girls only playing games, which are kitchen-oriented, young boys zooming out their toy cars, laughing at an overweight kid, and calling out names like kaali/kallu (slang for dark) become means of entertainment, and so forth.
Additionally, the stories surrounding ‘damsel in distress’ and ‘prince charming saving the day,’ which are read to the children as bedtime stories, are also responsible for converging our child’s thoughts to the existing societal expectations of gender roles and guidelines. Now that we have a close understanding of our society-influenced roles in our children’s thought patterns, the next step is to wonder how to break the chain and make our children independent from society’s rules and regulations.
The very first step is to examine our own thoughts and ideas and rectify them accordingly. If we are not aware of the conditioning which has shaped our thinking, then it becomes impossible not to pass it to our future generations. The second step involves analyzing our surroundings like story-books, TV content, familial discussions, etc. which are known to influence a child’s thinking patterns. Content that challenges the thoughts of a child and encourages critical thinking should be advocated at home and schools. Thirdly, the child should be encouraged to give her or his opinion to a particular content to promote originality and creativity in the flow of thoughts. Additionally, providing reasons for teaching a specific behavioral pattern promotes rationalization and understanding of the importance of that particular behavior in children.
We are all responsible for the betterment of future generations. Evolutionary Psychology has thrown light on the course of the embedded behaviors, thoughts, and emotions which have passed on to us since the wake of humanity. Existing in the 21 st century with the changing times, it is our duty to take care of the emotional needs of our future generations and not to let any standard societal guidelines disrupt our emotional, and hence mental peace.