“Whose responsibility is this?”- 29 January 2013

The girl has almost gone out of hands. She is nineteen years old, and attending a college. She does not do anything at home — no helping the mother in the kitchen, no helping the younger brother in his studies, no going to the market to buy things for the family…! All the time, she has ear-plugs on and she is listening to some music, or talking to her friends on the cellphone. All attempts by the mother to make the girl see sense and become a more meaningful part of the family that also has grandparents, have failed. When the woman of the house talks to her husband about moulding the girl properly, the man says in a dry tone, “That’s not my responsibility. You are at home all the time, and I am travelling for at least one week in a month, then it is your responsibility.” No arguing helps. No crying helps. The girl is going out of hands. For, she keeps coming back home late in the evening. She does not eat her meals regularly. She does not get much of pocket money from home, but seems to have a lot of money with her and is spending on her new clothes. When the mother asks where she got the money from to buy the new expensive dress, the girl shrugs her shoulders and says nothing. This adamance also shocks not just the mother but also the grandparents with whom the girl has not spoken for months. “How can we get such girl married?” the mother worries. “That is your responsibility,” says the father.

There is another case, one among many which I deal with in my psychological clinic. This boy was well behaved just until a couple of years ago. He studied well, and followed a routine that was the envy of all other families. Then he entered teens, and went almost berserk. He just does not listen to anybody in the house. The mother keeps trying her best to bring the boy back on the rails, but the young brat just does not bother. He also does not study, does not eat his meals in time, even does not bathe for days, and hates being told to study when the exams come closer. The mother tries to discipline the child, but the fellow responds only negatively. No amount of wise and caring words have helped so far. When the mother urges the father to discipline the child, he says, “That is your responsibility. You are mother and you should tackle him. Not me. Not my cup of tea. The fellow is very arrogant and does not listen to me. I keep getting ulcers because of his adamance. You manage your son. Not me.” And when the mother fails to discipline the child, the father is all willing to blame only his wife, and not the child.
There is yet another and worse case. In this family, the father drinks alcohol every evening. He offers his ten-year-old son a sip or two. In the past one year or so, the boy has not got addicted to those couple of sips. The mother shouts at the boy, but the boy says openly, “Daddy gives me whisky. I like it.” The question is not of whisky; it is of discipline and virtuous upbringing of the child. Please spare the child. And you also do not drink at home. That is actually spoiling the child. Why don’t you understand?”, the mother yells. The father says most indifferently, “Look, I will do whatever I wish and I am doing all that with my own money. This is my house and you cannot command me to do things.” 
These are not just the three cases I have come across. There are countless such cases of young boys and girls going out of hand, going berserk. There also are cases where the mother’s indifference has spoilt things. But mostly, it is the man of the house who accepts no responsibility of grooming the child. He shoves that task to is wife, and enjoys life with responsibility towards his own children. I also came in contact with a family in which the woman said in disgust, “after all, he is your son, too.” To that statement, the man said, “I don’t know!” What did he mean by “I don’t know”? Did he want to disown fatherhood of the child? 
This is a big question. Whose children are these? Whose responsibility is this?
It is unfortunate that in a shockingly big number of average Indian families, the task of grooming the children has been thrust upon the woman of the house. This is not happy picture at all. In fact, such families cannot expect to be happy in a true sense. Yet, very few families ever give any thought to the issue. On the contrary, the number of men disowning any responsibility towards their own kids is growing with every passing day. 
To all such men, I tell, “Look, you cannot run away from your responsibilities towards your own kids. You should become a good and responsible father.”

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