I am not truly aware if this prevails in other parts of the world, but there’s a way with the traditional Indian community where children, especially girls, are conditioned to be good right since childhood. Same goes for our daughter-in-laws too – now it follows that a girl naturally progresses to be a daughter-in-law in the future and so does the ‘need for conditioning’ follow from the birth family into the in-law family. Resultantly, most of the time, the girl may not have any place of her own to exist by herself. She always has to ‘live for and live as’ someone else. Many times it applies to the boys too (of course since they don’t have to change families though). The good girl / good boy syndrome is modelled into the psyche, very early on in life by the parents themselves, even before the child begins to understand or know it’s meaning.
So what does being a good girl or a good boy entail? It indicates someone who is obedient to all that he / she has been told to do especially by the elders…someone who does not defy and is unresistingly willing to keep his own brains or mind aside (if need be), just to comply…someone who is nice and affable and respects the wishes of people around especially the elders, to the extent of defying his own…and the outcome of all this?….he/she gets the appreciation of ‘being good’ for all these compliances and compromises. He / She is even called ‘understanding’ (which is actually not even a remotely close affair…in fact that might be the biggest joke)
Problems arise when this attitude progresses into adulthood and makes a home inside of this person. So does this upbringing have an impact ?… Definitely YES…We are conditioned to stop thinking for ourselves but rather act in a manner conducive to the wishes of others….we begin to feel worthy of the title that we have earned and even strive to maintain it by pushing up towards denying ourselves more (naturally, who wouldn’t want to be praised?)…the habit goes on to become perennial and begins impacting every sphere of our life… and in the process, we end up enduring, suffering, giving up so many things that are rightfully ours…so much so that eventually we even develop a disposition to feel guilty or wrong, over even a slight want to do something for ourselves or act in our own interest anytime. We get conditioned to put the feelings or interests of others before our own, every sleeping or waking moment of the day. Vow!!! What a place to be!!!
So I am forced to wonder if the title is worth?…I mean, now look at the cost of not only attaining this but also the upkeep thereof…Does it make you feel satisfied always?… Are you happy enduring and giving up every time, for a title that is of no real relevance to anyone? Don’t you wish at times that you were not you and you were someone else who did things for yourself without ever having to feel guilty about it?…like say giving an impetus to the wilder side inside of you, just let go of everything within that cage and enjoy life’s moments in a carefree fashion…I think I don’t even need an answer to that…So come on, it’s high time we accept certain facts….there is no rule written anywhere that you need to keep doing certain things (or not start doing them either) to ‘merely keep proving that you are good’ – especially when it is not in compliance with your inner voice…the reality is, our ego has got itself excited to this torment and is unable to find a way out to break this pattern of subjecting ourselves to other people’s opinion…. you know you are a moron but it’s just a question accepting it…so is it false prestige???…or is it fear of losing the title??? Forget it…it’s no good anyways.
In the case of women, often I have observed that, being overly good serves no purpose…with passing age such people only become negative minded which is completely natural, considering the fact that, they have endured or given up so much in the initial part of life, in a thoughtless order…and needless to say, against their real will…besides living under a false impression that this is the way to be. So now, when they see others living life in application of their mind (practically and sensibly)…the mind refuses to accept that what you had subjected yourself to was not appropriate…also these people could end up getting jealous…bad mouth other people etc.,…the side effects lean more towards bitterness. In the case of men, it denies them of an exposure to know and understand what a balanced thought process is and consequently, such men, fail at justified behaviour in balancing out their overall relationships…the overall prognosis is a closed mind.
In this way, do you think being good would amount to being right as well?…not necessarily…you could now end up being shallow most of the times in a bid to please a selected few. So let’s agree that it’s a sadistic practice. In fact, this is a type of abuse because there’s always a kind of pressure resting on the incumbent to keep maintaining that ‘proof of obedience’ (irrespective of his age, stage or stature) whereupon he mostly finds it difficult to exercise a free will.
I had never used that bait on my little one, but found some relatives doing that with her. And strangely enough, it seemed to be working well too with this naughty, precocious kid where she began complying to the extent of proving and declaring that she was a ‘good girl’ and also started striving in some ways to keep it up…I was appalled to see her responding to this with a vehemence, which is what set me thinking…Clearly, I disagreed.
The questions that came to my mind were:
(1) Are not the effects of forcing someone to be good transient? Since, in the long run they are anyway bound to realise that they have been fooled (in case they are).
(2) Instead of ‘being good vs being bad’ why don’t we teach them ‘being right vs being wrong’, ‘the fair vs the unfair’, ‘the acceptable vs the unacceptable’? (Though tedious in the beginning, the positive effects would be certainly long lasting).
(3) Would it not be better to teach them to think for themselves rather than make them unquestioningly comply every time?
Of course, compliance is essential too, but it’s not bound to be that way at all times. Mind development is more critical.
(4) Isn’t conditioning someone to be ‘good’ bound to have a reverse impact later on, where the parent himself is not going to be spared of the repercussion?
(5) Shouldn’t integrity be a part of parenting lessons?
Right is what is fair to all and what is right has to be good. But what is good need not be right always.
When a new daughter-in-law steps into an Indian household, usually there is a lot of pressure on her to prove that she is good…she is under everybody’s observation in the in-law household where her every move is watched…say what she is doing…things she is ‘not doing’…what feelers are her behaviour / attitude sending out…apparently ‘not complying would sum up to being bad’.
My question is how many people make an effort to peep into her educated outlook…dreams…wishes…desires…expectations…aspirations etc., from this marriage, besides the background where she has been raised and brought up…considering all this, is whatever she is offered today commensurate and reasonable? Is there a mutual consent on the adjustments that she is expected to undergo? What if she refuses?…does she earn the title of being bad?…will that result in a distressful relationship with her husband and in-laws?…Is she to be the only one to remain under constant duress of being responsible to maintain the marriage? A relationship is everybody’s responsibility (though the sad truth is only the couple in question stand to lose out in the process of balancing out all these pressures)
To my mind, awareness of these has to inculcated from childhood and therefore, bringing up a child using the bait of ‘good / bad’ would be an incorrect method in the long run. In the initial years of childhood, understandably some parents have no choice but eventually, the efforts should be leaned more towards instilling a thought process of common sense, where the child is encouraged to think for himself and others as well, in terms of the fair and unfair / acceptable vs unacceptable….the need for a shift to a more value based upbringing is warranted rather than an easy one that is also kind of callous…since it would simply amount to taking advantage of innocence born out of newness…whether it’s a new life like a child or a new person like a daughter-in-law.