mid-day editorial: Don't teach kids to fear, but to do better

Published: Dec 19, 2017, 06:06 IST | mid-day correspondent

A report in this paper had highlighted how a 13-year-old student collapsed after she was punished with 500 sit-ups. She completed 300 before falling to the floor

A report in this paper had highlighted how a 13-year-old student collapsed after she was punished with 500 sit-ups. She completed 300 before falling to the floor. While medical reports showed that there were no physical complications as a result of the punishment, the child was traumatized, and is undergoing counselling.

The ludicrous punishment throws light on teachers' training, and the limit on how far one can go when 'disciplining' students, what kind of 'punishment' will result in lasting trauma, and why school authorities need to be wise when chastising errant children and meting out punishment.

First, one is happy that counselling has been given to this child on priority basis. We have seen that childhood events can stay with us for life. They may instill fears, phobias and scar one in unimaginable and longstanding ways. An expert needs to constantly talk to this child and address her trepidation about school, if any. Concentrate on the bigger picture. The talk should focus around school, how it is a place of learning, friendship and fun and is a classroom for life. It is not a place to be afraid or wary of. This punishment should not define her existence or perception of school from now on.

When meting out corrective measures, teachers too need to think about the overall aim of the punishment. Is it so that children change their behaviour? Is it to set an example for other children? Adolescents are sensitive and highly impressionable. Use words to chastise them or point out their errors, one sees little point in making them do an inordinate number of sit-ups. Sometimes, students may need to be told where they went wrong or need a lesson to change their ways, but let punishments lead to positive and productive transformation, not trauma.

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