One of my sister’s professors strongly propounds that there is a very thin line between finishing a job and completing it. I agree with him. My observations in various professional environments over some time now have led me to believe the same thing. I think the reason we finish any task without completing it is that we do not pay attention to the ultimate outcome and its impact but focus on reporting the work done so that there is instant gratification and our managers are happy.
Sadly, this is what we are teaching our children too. If you observe carefully, children today do not wait for complete instructions to begin any task. They are impatient to begin and finish the given task, rather than understand the purpose of doing it and what they will learn from doing it. This impatience and lack of focus is evident in the way they work on their homework projects. They know what they need to do and when they need to submit it, yet they leave it to the last minute and the parent ends up doing most of the work. The purpose of the project is that children learn the skills of careful planning and execution, in addition to expressing their talent relevant to the work assigned. This purpose is not served at all because children conveniently pass on the responsibility to parents.
Are they better managers? May be not. I would say they have learnt the skill of manipulation.
When I was a school student 25 years ago, there were not many projects at school. Even when there were, the responsibility of work was very clear. It was my job to complete the project and my parents would assist me only if needed (if something needed to be bought or some heavy duty cut/paste was involved). If I brought things to their notice at the last minute, I would surely take an incomplete project back and was appropriately punished for it. It was very clear – my homework is my responsibility, if I don’t do it, I will get punished for it.
Today however, the principle seems to have changed. Parents are over enthusiastic in making sure children submit good work, so they will go to great lengths in helping (rather taking over) the work for them. It seems to be a matter of prestige. Why will my child see the need to take responsibility for her actions if I’m ready to tap into my technical abilities and networking skills at all hours of the day and night to make sure her project is submitted on time?
The root cause for this is the way we live our life. Maximise efficiency by doing multiple things at a given time. Take office calls while driving with family. Juggle a customer problem over a call at the same time engage with a toddler at play. Do not respect time (our own and others’) and live in the illusion that being ‘busy’ over phone is the ultimate saving grace. Spend more time on devices than necessary. Take children on expensive trips to exotic locations. Think and talk about “quality time” but spend too much time and energy on things that don’t really matter to our happiness but are good for the economy.
If we reflect on these patterns of behaviour, we are the cause for any behavioural challenges our children exhibit. When we were children, we were equally aware of the struggles and luxuries that came with our way of life. There were clear boundaries on what is acceptable and what is not. Today’s children have no idea of the struggles of working parents. They have a false sense of entitlement to everything that they have.
Many of my students feel that without a smart phone, there is no life. When I ask them why they need a phone at school, they don’t have an answer. I know teenagers who think that it is their birth right to get a Rs. 25,000/- gadget as a gift or a Rs. 15,000/- dress for a party. They have no idea what it takes to earn that Rs. 25,000/- or Rs. 15,000/-. Where are they learning this? By observing their elders and peers.
In a parent meeting at school, some parents vehemently defended the need for a phone saying that they needed to keep tabs on their children’s safety. Well I think they should fit a radio collar on their children and then track the signal on their own phones, it would serve the same purpose.
Parents’ instinct to control their children’s lives seems to me the biggest culprit in making children irresponsible.
My sincere advice to parents is to take a deep and hard look at how their lifestyle is shaping their child’s personality and make suitable amends when necessary.
What children need is a basic set of values and the skills to build their lives on them; not the futile practice of finishing one thing and moving on to the next.