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    Volume 9 Issue 29| July 16, 2010|

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Tough Love is the Answer

Aasha Mehreen Amin

Being a parent is the world's toughest job. I mean how do you tell a four-year-old sugar junkie that she cannot have another sweet before lunchtime because this will prevent her from getting the nutritional balance she needs for proper growth of her brain and body which those unappetizing fish curry (shing maacher jhol) and veggie concoction (niramish) will provide? It's so hard to lecture on life's harsh realities when they look at you with those limpid eyes and chubby cheeks and puppy-like expressions. It is downright torture.

But as we have learnt from our own parents, sometimes tough love is the best way to make sure your kid does not grow up to be a serial killer, loan defaulter or a student cadre who will wreak havoc all over the country. Sometimes you just have to say 'no', despite the gnawing guilt nibbling at your heart. You must say 'no', you can't take away your classmate's favourite pencil box just because you're bigger and the teacher thinks you're an angel; no, you can't eat someone else's lunch even if your own consists of rice and last night's chicken curry mixed up in a poor impersonation of chicken biriyani and no, you cannot just stick chewing gum on your teacher's chair when she is writing on the board just because she gave you an 'F' for writing 'sorry but this math problem is really giving me a headache'.

When a simple admonishment does not do the trick don't go for empty threats like 'we will no longer be your parents' (we sever our association with you). They know it's all bogus, that you will always be their parents even if you don't want to be. You also know that no one else is going to sort your kid out because no one else really cares. Thus tough action is due. The best way to deal with errant wards is to take away their privileges, their immunity from punishment and make sure that they cannot get away with it. If it means cutting off Animax or a total ban from Facebook, cell-phone, PSPs or in certain cases confiscation of favourite toys, cut off sten guns, machetes and pistols, so be it. Usually this kind of deprivation brings them to their senses and makes them realise that parents are there to make sure they don't become toxic to themselves and their environment.

Unfortunately there are far too many parents who are in constant denial. They are insanely indulgent and ineffectual (Aha baba, don't hit your grandpa with the remote control, he will feel bad, it's not nice, here have some chocolate instead). They just don't want to admit to themselves, forget anyone else, that they are raising a little demon who will one day try to take over the country or at least try to destroy it as much as possible.

Primary leaders of political parties can be compared to such delusional parents. They are, after all called 'parent organisations' right? When a leader says to her murdering, extorting and utterly unscrupulous youth members that they should stop their plundering ways or else severe actions will be taken against them, she should follow through the threats. It is not enough to say “I am no longer your mother and will stop your allowances” when they continue to take part in every kind of mischief imaginable -- intimidating university authorities, attacking teachers, taking bribes for admission of their own unworthy candidates, taking toll from businesspeople, mugging, stealing… Sometimes they really do need to be just locked away in the closet.

The worst thing a parent or guardian can do is give wrong advice to their wards. This really messes them up. When a minister tells student cadres of his own party to stop fighting amongst themselves, and go and redirect their violence to their rival groups, this is not just indulgence; it's pure insanity. You don't tell your kids to stop hitting the daylights out of each other and go beat up the neighbour's sons, no matter how much you hate the neighbour who keeps throwing garbage on your side of the fence. You ground them or send them to bed without supper. In the case of a slightly more psychotic group of offspring as the BCL has turned out to be, tough love will entail something like sending them to jail and trying them like all other criminals who have made a mockery of our democratic values. Please, no crossfire though: that really isn't the answer.

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