‘GENERATION GAP’ is na oft-repeated phrase during discussions on parent-children relationships in the present social system. It is a rift in the relationship between children and parents, the young and old. It is a conflict between two ideologies. This gap is widening at an alarming rate, destroying the social fabric and jeopardising thousands of families the world over.
Parents complain that their children do not obey them, do not listen to them, take them for granted and, at times, even misbehave with them. Youngsters, on the other hand, grumble that their parents do not understand them, impose their beliefs, thoughts and perceptions on them, murmur with regard to small matters and thereby make their life miserable.
There is a fair amount of legitimacy in the complaints of youngsters against their parents. The parents – the elders – suffer from ‘nobody asks me’ syndrome. They believe that they have a solution to every problem encountered by people of any age group, but no one refers to them. This is their real problem. In every discussion, they quote their experience and use the stereotyped arguments like, ‘In our days, things were like this’, or ‘When we were children, we used to behave in this manner’, etc. Thus, in every small issue, parents bring in their dead past and so spoil the spirit and mood of their children. Often, they try to pressurise them to live the way they have lived for decades; it is as if they derive pleasure in seeing their experiences re-lived.
Rishabh’s father is a very popular professor of Chemistry among his pupils. He has, to his credit, several research papers published in leading research journals. He is so engrossed in the field of Chemistry, that to him, his family is like a Chemistry lab!! He treats all the members of his family like chemical substances. The entire family is locked up in laws and rules and is fettered with formulas. He keeps a vigilant eye on every move members of his family make and continually gives instructions: “That should be done this way only,” “Everything should be done scientifically and systematically,” etc. In the frenzy of being a scientist, he has ceased to be a human being. The streams of love and emotions have dried up in the barren land of his heart.
Mandakini, now a young girl, is a 20-year-old university student. She is fed up with her mother’s overcaring, who spends all day worrying about her, to the total neglect of the rest of the family, including Mandakini’s father. Mandakini’s day and night routine is scheduled by her mother – when to get up, how to brush, how to bathe, which soap to use, how to style her hair, what to wear, what snack to take, with whom to go to college, and so on. Her cosmetics, shoes, college bag, purse are all of her motherchoice. She is almost a custodian of Mandakini’s body. If Mandakini is slightly ill, her mother is under stress and keeps busy in nursing her. Mandakini, who finds her mother affectionate and emotional, has started developing a dislike for her.
Pinakin, since his primary school days, is averse to figures and mathematical subjects. He is very good at languages and social sciences. But his father, who, years ago, was unable to opt for a branch of engineering as he had scored only two marks below the cut-off, pressurises Pinakin to study engineering. Since the results were declared he has been insisting that Pinakin study engineering, to the total neglect of Pinakin’s aptitude and preference for languages. Pinakin is now totally perplexed.
Such cases of parental rigidity, obstinacy and interference in children’s careers are not uncommon. They fail to understand their children’s tastes and preferences, ambitions and aspirations. The widening rift culminates in vengeance, intolerance and lack of reason on both sides. All emotional bonds are broken and the family structure faces wreck and ruin.
But all this does not justify children’s going astray, wayward, naughty, insolent and riotous. Under the constant onslaught of TV and Internet, mesmerised by western ads and culture, misled by wanton, irreligious and immoral peer pressure, the youngsters have been the most appaling cause for parental worries. The parents are highly distressed, grieved and broken by the misdemeanor of their young children. They cannot bear seeing a nest woven by them from the warps of values and woofs of virtues, through hard effort over several decades, splinter into pieces.
A brief review about the characteristics of these generations – adults and teens – with some relevant statistics, will help to better understand the generation gap. The generation born between 1965 and 1978 is referred to as Generation X (Gen X) in America. A high percentage of those born in India during this period paid more attention to acquiring a degree. Most of them had to pass through very difficult economic situations and that became a prime cause of the emergence of dual-income households and nuclear families. They struggled with careers and financial matters and only a few of them could make good careers.
Generation Y (those born between 1978 and 1994) is also referred as the Millennium Generation or MTV generation. In American Demographics (September 2001), an article entitled “Getting Inside Gen Y”, explains its three sub-divisions: Gen Y adults (age 19-24 years), Gen Y teens (age 13-18) and Gen Y kids (age 8-12).
The Generation Y in India is found to be self-conscious and is in search of self identity. They are funny, likable, affectionate, intelligent, creative and active. Occasionally their behavior is rebellious against authority, tradition and what they perceive as ‘old-fashioned values’. They prefer to wear modern casual clothes and sports shoes of leading brands. They desire to own a motorbike that projects a macho image, listen to pop music and watch MTV.
According to one study, with regard to Gen Y in America, boys aged 14 or 15 years, spend most of their leisure time with peer groups, whereas girls of the same age prefer dyadic friendships. ‘Young and Rubicam’ ad agency conducted an in-depth study of teens and found that they all crave for peer acceptance and parental non-interference.
The characteristics of Gen Yers in America and Gen Yers in India are more or less similar, as Indian Gen Yers simply imitate western culture.
Children and teens should ask themselves how much they understand their parents before complaining that their parents do not understand them. They also work under stress in their respective workplaces. They are also worried about undue pressures and controls from their bosses. There were days when they were perplexed as to how to pay their children’s school fees, pay the rent, electricity and telephone bills. Children should understand the sacrifice their parents have made for them. Their hard earned money has been spent to ensure children get good clothes, nutritious food and the best education. They have sacrificed their wishes for holidays and other enjoyments.
Mothers spend many sleepless nights, nursing their children back to health. Their dreams remained unfulfilled, so that they can see their children’s dreams fulfilled.
It is quite possible that children may never have bothered to know exactly what stature their parents have, as they see their parents as too talkative or as interfering in their activities. One eminent professor of Economics was recognised and held in high esteem by the entire teaching community for his erudition, but alas, his children knew little about his versatility. Once, his younger son, on seeing a book authored by his father, exclaimed, “Oh! my dad is great!”
The expectations of the parents are not unreasonable for children to fulfil. If children do the laundry, run small errands, escort them to a mandir, return back home on time, sit for half an hour with them and talk like a friend, they are more than happy. A few courteous gestures from the children will really make their day. Simply enquire, ‘How are you Dad? How is your health?’ at least once a day, and they feel highly satisfied. Show concern by asking ‘Have you taken your BP tablets?’ and they feel gratified and rewarded.
How many relations do children come across during their daily routine which are of their choice? Is their bus driver of their choice? Is their class teacher or principal of their choice? Is a supervisor in an examination hall of their choice? Is their boss at work of their choice? Is their neighbor of their choice? And still, they try to get along with all them; they accept them as they are. So parents who are kith and kin should also be accepted and respected. Children forget that their very existence on earth is due to them. Whatever they are today, their entire grooming is due to them. Anger, a habit of giving admonition and advice, interfering in their children’s activities may all be inherent in them. Parents must be accepted with all their limitations.
Youngsters should know that after 20 years they will be the parents of the next generation. If they have not treated their parents in a dignified and humane manner, they will face the same fate from their kids. Also just think, how long will your parents be with you? Once they are gone you will then repent for your misbehavior.
Referring to spiritual tenets of all the religions of the world one common doctrine is taught: ‘Respect and revere your parents.’
The Vishnu Smriti (31:1-2), talks about three great masters – Mother, Father and Spiritual Teacher (Acharya):
In the Jewish scripture, Talmud, it is mentioned that ‘As the Lord could not reach out to all homes, He created mothers.’
Among the Ten Commandments of Christianity, one of them reads like this:
‘Honor your father and mother in order that your days may prove long upon the ground that Jehovah your God is giving you’.
In Vachanamrut Kariyani-2, Bhagwan Swaminarayan, while analysing the tendency of faultfinding people, says that such people’s intellect is pestilent and baneful, as they may have displeased some great sadhu or harassed some poor man or may not have properly served (treated) their parents.
Even if the parents admire one son, who cares little for them, and abhor another, who sincerely serves them, it is the duty of the sons to continue to honor them.
Pramukh Swami Maharaj teaches youngsters that parents must be respected, even if there may be some flaws in their attitude and behavior.
The parents of a devotee from Amdavad were in the habit of favoring their younger son who was insincere and prodigal. This devotee, fed up with his parents’ behavior, decided to sever all ties with them. He met Swamishri to seek his guidance in this regard. While giving advice to him Swamishri said, ‘No matter how your parents behave, it is your duty to serve them till they die. They have raised you and cared for you, and now, despite their unfair behavior, you should still support them and care for them.’
Once in the town of Vankaner (Saurashtra region), a young devotee had come to see Pramukh Swami Maharaj with a list of complaints to be lodged against his parents. Narrating his complaints before Swamishri, at one point flinging his anger and hatred at his parents, he said, “Swamiji, it is intolerable for me now. I will now deliberately start taking wine, go wayward and be a ruffian to teach them a lesson and set them right.” Swamishri, who was calmly listening to him with rapt attention, abruptly interrupted him, saying, “It is sheer foolishness on your part,” and then asked him a piquant question, “What right do you have to punish your parents?” Then Swamishri, taking a little pause, allowing the piquancy of the question to penetrate, said, “In order to teach them a lesson, if you become an addict of wine, who is the ultimate loser? You and you alone will have to bear the fruits of your misdeeds. And do you think your parents will go uncared for? God will look after them. Therefore, shun such wicked thoughts and start behaving respectfully with them.” The words of Swamishri were so penetrating that soon he became a changed person, bowed down at Swamishri’s lotus feet and promised to change his behavior with his parents.
Thus, if parents learn to treat their children as friends, when they cross the teen years, they can bring a change in their attitude and behavior and the youngsters, in turn, should learn to accept them as they are, bear with their idiosyncrasies, respect their feelings and understand them then there would be perfect tuning between the two generations. In place of revolt and hatred, there will be reverence and love. Such a united family, emitting a fragrance of love and mutual respect, would please Pramukh Swami Maharaj. ?