In 1923, nine of the wealthiest people in the world met at Chicago’s Edge Water Beach Hotel. Between them they controlled wealth more than that of the Government of the US. However, 25 years later, the President of the then largest steel company (Bethlehem Steel Corp), Charles M Schwab, lived on borrowed capital for five years before he died bankrupt; the President of the then largest gas company, Howard Hubson, went insane; one of the greatest commodity traders (Wheat Speculator), Arthur Cutten, died insolvent; the then President of the New York Stock Exchange, Richard Whitney, was sent to jail; the member of the US President’s Cabinet (the member of President Harding’s cabinet), Albert Fall, was pardoned from jail just to be able to go home and die in peace; the greatest “bear” on Wall Street, Jesse Livermore committed suicide; the President of the then world’s greatest monopoly, Ivar Krueger, committed suicide; the President of the Bank of International Settlement, Leon Fraser, committed Suicide; the president of the largest utility company, Samuel Insull, died penniless.
What went wrong with all these men of success? They probably forgot how to “make” life while they got busy making money! Money in itself is not evil; it provides food for the hungry, medicine for the sick, clothes for the needy but after all, it is only a medium of exchange. Evidently, we need two kinds of education: one that teaches us how to make a living and another that teaches us how to live.
Here one is reminded of the famous quote of Albert Einstein. Some months before his death in April 1955 an editor of “LIFE” magazine named William Miller visited the famous scientist at his home in Princeton, New Jersey. The journalist was accompanied by his son Pat Miller and by Professor William Hermann’s of San Jose State in California. Einstein responded to the son’s desire for guidance in life. “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day. Never lose a holy curiosity. Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value. He is considered successful in our day who gets more out of life than he puts in. But a man of value will give more than he receives.”
That brings us to the question of bringing up children or how to raise the next generation. Every parent thinks that his or her child is special. It is okay so long they allow the child to have a normal growth. But some parents think that their child is the only special child in the whole world and take so much care of it that the child becomes wholly dependent on them or worse, becomes a spoilt brat. We are all aware of the whole generation of spoilt brats in China produced during the “one child” norm. They became liabilities to the state and the parents both inasmuch as blackmailed the latter into submission to their whims. In India also we had a case of over-care having been given to her child by the daughter-in-law of a big business family of Mumbai some decades back. She would give him distilled water to drink and would go to awkward lengths to protect her child. Once when the child, who was truly a scion of a royal family, went on an excursion, and returned home only to lose life. It was assumed that he had not developed any immunity to fight even the mildest of the infections and the would-be scion had to pay through his life for the extra-special care of his mother. The inescapable conclusion obviously is that the children have to be prepared to face the life as it comes along.
The very first imperative need is that parents expose children to areas of life other than academic on which there is too much emphasis. The children should be exposed to manual work, sport and art; the idea being that they should become multifaceted human beings with well-grounded personalities capable of doing things independently of the parents and facing the world almost on their own. This can be achieved by working on (i) the Intelligence Quotient (IQ); (ii) the Emotional Quotient (EQ); (iii) the Social Quotient (SQ) and now there is a new paradigm and additional criteria known as the Adversity Quotient (AQ).
Intelligent Quotient (IQ) helps one to “know book”, solve mathematical problems, memorize things and recall subject matters; Emotional Quotient (EQ) is what makes someone to be able to maintain peace with others, keep to time, be responsible, be honest, respect boundaries, be humble, genuine and considerate; Social Quotient (SQ) is what enables people to build network of friends and maintain it over a long period of time. People with higher EQ and SQ tend to go farther in life than those with high IQ but low EQ and SQ. Most schools capitalize in improving IQ level while EQ and SQ are played down. A man of high IQ can end up being employed by a man of high EQ and SQ even though the latter may have an average IQ.
The EQ represents one’s character; one’s SQ represents one’s fame. Give in to habits that will improve these three Qs but more especially your EQ and SQ. EQ and SQ make one manage better than the other. Thus there is no gainsaying in the recommendation that the children be taught not only IQ but also EQ and SQ at the same time. The Adversity Quotient (AQ) makes people go through a rough patch in life and come out unscathed without losing nerve. The AQ eventually determines who will give up in the face of troubles, who will abandon their family or worse still, who will consider suicide.
The present generation of retirees received an unfair deal in life: they were told to obey elders when they were children and when they became elders themselves, they are told to obey children. They have been at the receiving end from both sides. This may be because there has been a sea change in the manner of bringing up children during the past fifty years or so. Earlier the children were gentle with their parents; today parents have to be gentle with their children. Fifty years ago everyone wanted to have children; but today many people are afraid of having children. Fifty years ago, children respected their parents; now parents have to respect their children. Fifty years ago, marriage was easy but divorce was difficult; nowadays getting married is difficult, but divorce is easy. Fifty years ago we got to know all the neighbors, now we are strangers to our very own neighbors. Fifty years ago, people had to eat a lot because they needed the energy to work hard, now we are afraid to eat fatty foods for fear of the cholesterol. Fifty years ago, villagers were flocking to the city to find jobs, now the town people are fleeing from the stress to find peace. Fifty years ago, everyone wanted to be fat to look happy, nowadays everyone diets to look healthy. Fifty years ago, rich people pretended to be poor, now the poor are pretending to be rich. Fifty years ago, only one person worked to support the whole family, now all have to work to support one child. Fifty years ago, people loved to study and read books, now people love to update their status on the Facebook. The list can go on endlessly on; yet parents being parents, they give in only to see their children happy.
It is here that the parents need to wake up. They should recall their own upbringing when they were children. It was then that poor illiterate parents produced children who became doctors, engineers, scientists, accountants, lawyers, architects, and professors. These children, who are now parents, struggled on their own after Primary or Grade 12, to become notable personalities. Most of them trekked to school barefooted, went to farms, fetched water and firewood, cared for their siblings, helped raise domesticated animals and also in some cases, did some work including trading after school to survive. These parents have produced and raised children who are pampered, helped in their home work and assignments from nursery school through secondary schools to higher institutions, many use chauffeur driven cars to go to very expensive schools or are sent abroad for study; they can watch movies from morning till dawn after school; are treated like baby kings and queens and are not expected to do any household chores. Food is put on the table for them; their plates are removed and washed by parents or house maids; they are given expensive cars and clothes, big pocket money to be wasted; the parents help them in doing their assignments. In spite of all this, only few can speak or write correctly.
These very parents cared for their own parents, younger siblings and their own children, who are still struggling to find their feet at age 30 plus or so. They find it difficult to do things on their own because they are used to being helped to think and doing things by their parents or the society. And then these very children abandon their parents in their bid to acquire the world. The author would himself tread at least a distance of 16 Kms during secondary schooling.
The present generation of parents need to think seriously and at the very least expose their children to some difficulties so that they are not absolutely dependent on them and are able to face the world when they are no more. They should reduce the pampering and the unnecessary help to the children to enable them to grow in wisdom, intelligence and strength. Let the children face the truth and the realities of life; teach them to grow to become independent adults. Teach them to fear God, respect others and develop confidence in themselves. They should inculcate in them discipline to enable them to become responsible adults, useful for the community and the society at large. To sum up, the parents should not prepare the way for the children; but, rather, prepare the children for the way.
Bhushan Lal Razdan, formerly of the Indian Revenue Service, retired as Director General of Income Tax (Investigation), Chandigarh is an environmentalist to the core and is a plantation enthusiast.