Infantilization: Well-Intentioned For Adults, Misplaced For Children

Adults have multiple ways to screw up their interactions with children. Of course, no adult would actually ever want to put off a child, but they end up doing it nonetheless. One sure-shot way of achieving this unintended objective is Infantilization.

What Is Infantilization

Infantilization is treating children as younger than their age. Meaning, a 6-year old kid is treated as a 3-year or a 4-year old. It also refers to teenagers treated as 9/10-year-olds. It also covers people with developmental needs treated as children, when they might even be adults. Basis my experiences as a stay-at-home father, I will limit the discussion to 6-year olds (age of my twin daughters) treated as young kids.

Examples of infantilization can be many. Dumbing down of speech by the adult when talking to kids i.e. speaking in a child-like tone/manner. Asking the parent when the child is capable of answering the query about the self. Deciding on behalf of the child when he/she can decide for the self. Ignoring the child’s opinion. Not allowing the child to do an age-appropriate activity.

In short, treating the child as younger to his/her age. In other words, disregard the child for who he/she is, what is he/she is capable of doing.

Well-Intentioned For Adults

The adult thinks that the child should not feel challenged. The adult deems that the child should be made comfortable and consider protected. So, what better way to do it than to talk/behave like one? Also, there is no point in taking the child’s opinion or letting the child do what he/she wants to do. After all, the kid is just a kid. Toy with him/her for a while and shoo away.

The adult indulging in infantilization feels perfectly entitled to what he/she is doing. If ever asked why, the person will retort why not? The child is being treated like a child. What’s wrong with that? It is done to protect the kid from bad influences and make him/her happy. The adult feels that he/she should be commended for getting down to the level of the child.

In fact, this is the hardest one for an adult to get a message that he/she is spectacularly wrong.

Misplaced For Children

In today’s fast-paced world, kids grow up fast. Their exposure happens at a furious pace. They are capable of doing/knowing things better than their parents. With each passing day, they teach themselves a new aspect of life. After all, their learning environment is everywhere. And infantilization treats them like kids that they were ages ago.

Rather than getting any credit for their abilities, the child gets spoken to as if he/she is learning to walk and speak. The kid wants to be involved in every discussion and if he/she knows, wants to give an opinion and if he/she is unaware, wants to be explained. At the least, the child wants to be heard and the adult just won’t listen to him/her.

As an adult, can you imagine being treated at half of your age, or even worse 1/3rd of your age? Yuck!!

The Child Ages Nowhere

The kid keeps wondering why the adults won’t hear what he/she wants to say, won’t be allowed to do what he/she is adept at doing and to make matters worse, being spoken to childishly.  It doesn’t help improve the kid’s self-image. The kid comes out feeling left-out and worse, disrespected after such interactions. It doesn’t contribute to the growing up of the child in any manner.

The child doesn’t like talking to adults indulging in such patronizing behaviour. He/she starts to avoid the particular adult, which actually is a significant part of the adult universe, and that’s about it. The child starts getting labelled as a shy/rebel/difficult to communicate kid and it further deteriorates the situation. It happens over a period of time and it’s all downhill.

The child doesn’t realize, from being treated half his/her age, when he/she is being expected to become mature beyond his age. The child is at a complete loss in the adult’s world.

Dealing With Infantilization

There is an issue on hand – treating children as younger than they are. The adults are well-intentioned and misplaced. I have no idea how to get the message across that the child is mature as per his/her age and that, the adult is immature as per his/her age. That, the child is growing and the adult has stagnated in today’s fast-paced world.

Basis my experience, I find it safer to engage my daughters and get them to take the adult’s behaviour in their stride. I try explaining to them that they are fine for their age and should continue what they are doing. But, it is not at all easy for the kids to deal with the adult’s simultaneous childishness and pompousness.

There is no telling the adult and the kids are not to listen and understand. An act of goodwill by the adult leading to ill results for the kid. Never thought that such would ever happen, but it is what it is.

What are your thoughts on the subject?

PS:  I am a stay-at-home father to six-year-old twin daughters, neither an educationist nor an expert, just growing up together with my children. The above thoughts are an expression of parenting is having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.

Stand UP, Speak OUT!!! #IAmAParent.

Exams Cancelled: Adults Failed, Not Students

For the second year running, the school exams are cancelled in India. This year, even the board exams got cancelled. With no exams, there isn’t scope to ask questions to students. So, let’s try asking some questions to adults: The Government, the education establishment and also us, the parents.

Online education/online learning works, why not online exams?

Ever since the schools were shut down, the Government, Central and States, have been very enthusiastic about online education/online learning. Umpteen statements have been made that no learning loss has been ensured to students by the seamless transition to digital teaching mode. The claims say that the students are doing well, as they would have done by physically attending schools.

Now, the question to be asked is that if online education/online learning has been so successful, why can’t the same success be replicated for online exams? No, this is not possible. Why would that be? It will be said that there are issues with infrastructure/connectivity/integrity and all. It will be said that online exams are not feasible for every student.

Agreed, online exams do not work in India. Well, then how does online education/online learning work in India? If online exams, even as a concept, do not have a presence in India, how can online education/online learning have a real-life application? If online exams are looked down upon as a bane, why a diametrically opposite treatment for online education/online learning as a boon?

What did the education establishment do for a full year?

COVID-19 is sure to be blamed for exams postponement and cancellations in 2020. But in 2021 also? Even after one full year? When the emergency strikes without notice, we are unprepared. We say – what to do, we are helpless? However, when the emergency continues, even then do we continue to be unprepared? Even then, do we say – what to do, we are helpless?

Surely, the Government authorities and the education establishment that control the destiny of students as know-all didn’t assume that the pandemic will vanish in a month or two or even six months/a year. They are THE people expected to be with foresight, with immaculate judgement, with advanced tools to guide the country’s children.

So, what was the scenario planning that the education establishment did for one full year? What were the multiple options considered for the students? What were the considerations, trade-offs, alternatives basis the levels of the pandemic across the country for school and board exams?

Well, after one full year, we got the same answer – school and board exams cancelled, as they were last year. Did the education establishment do any homework at all for the last full year?

Everything moves on, why not the exams?

Between last year and to date, everything in India has got a move on. The country has wobbled across various stages of lockdown all throughout. The IPL, cinemas, bars and nightclubs have also opened, shut down again and will reopen shortly. However, one aspect has remained steadfast – The schools are shut the whole time.

As a country, we come up with paradoxical solutions. The safety of the children is the topmost priority. So, how do we go about ensuring it? By locking them inside and making everyone else free to their will. The future of the children is the second priority. So, how do we go about ensuring it? By cancelling school and board exams and continuing with everything else as normal.

The school and board exams are for a short duration, unlike school reopening. If the school and board exams are so important, that they are claimed to be, why not consider shutting down everything else for a week to ten days so that the exams are done and dusted with? Why can’t the country stand still for a brief time so that the students can write their exams in the mean-while?

If the nation has a hard lockdown, all of us would remain home compulsorily. Won’t we remain home for our children to write exams safely? Why can’t the Prime Minister of the country ask the citizens for this small contribution?

Why school and board exams can exist ONLY as a rote festival?

Are school and board exams an end in itself or the means to an end? If they are means to an end, which they are supposed to be, they can surely go beyond the three hours rote festival. Why can’t the education establishment come up with even a single alternative to exams in its current format? There can be multiple avenues to gauge the learning and the application of the students.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. COVID-19 lockdown called for online education/online learning. However, when it came to school and board exams, rather than desperate measures, we chose no measures, with exams cancelled. Is the three-hour rote festival so sacrosanct that we would rather not have exams in any other format?

The Adults Failed

Well, adults are not supposed to give exams. Also, our children are not taught to question the adults. What’s the bother?  No answers required for any of the above questions or whatever.

The Government and the education establishment get away with their shameful and irresponsible failures and we, parents, remain spectators.

The nation continues failing her children. School and board exams are dead. Long live school and board exams.

What are your views on the subject?

PS: I am a stay-at-home father to six-year-old twin daughters, neither an educationist nor an expert, just growing up together with my children. The above thoughts are an expression of parenting is having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.

Stand UP, Speak OUT!!! #IAmAParent.