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Journalist, Author, Columnist. My Twitter handle: @seemagoswami

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Prat Pack

Bring up your kids to believe in their non-existent talent; and they’ll soon be making fools of themselves on national television

Have you been watching some of the auditions for the so-called reality shows on Indian TV? You know the ones I mean: which promise to find the best singer in the country; the leading dancing star; or even the most talented performer across genres.

Well, if you have, then you will have been just as bemused to see some of the so-called contestants perform on these shows. There are putative singers who can’t hold a tune to save their lives and give the term tone-deaf an entirely new dimension. There are modelling hopefuls who are short and stout and could do with a spot of dental and dermatological work. There are actors who can’t act; dancers who seem to have been born with two left feet. I could go on, if it didn’t mean that I would rapidly lose the will to live.

I don’t know about you, but every time I watch some of these abominations which make a mockery of genuine talent, I can’t help but wonder how some people can be so delusional about their abilities – or more accurately, the lack thereof.

And now, much teeth-gnashing later, I have come to a conclusion: I blame the parents.

Sounds a tad harsh? Perhaps it is. But it is true nonetheless. Just think about it. How did these people grow up being so deluded about just how good they were about their singing/dancing/acting? It can’t have been because all their chums at school told them how brilliant they were. There is nothing like your fellow students for taking the mickey out of you and telling you that you are making a damned fool of yourself. And they certainly couldn’t have been encouraged by extended family or friends, who have the necessary distance to tell the truth – and with luck, the goodwill to have your best interests at heart.

The only people who could have made them believe in their non-existent talent were their doting parents, who gazed on them fondly through those proverbial rose-tinted glasses which make even the most unpromising youngster seem like a budding genius. Result: we have a whole set of people who have grown up believing in themselves despite every evidence to the contrary, only because Mummy and Daddy told them over and over again how brilliant they were, how so very wonderful, the absolute acme of perfection, in fact.

In some ways, I think, this is a generational thing. The New Age parent genuinely seems to think that the best way to bring up children is to tell them that they are perfect and that they can do no wrong, no matter how hard they try. Their slightest literary effort is praised to the skies. Their sporting ability is exaggerated beyond all rational bounds. And artistic talent is thrust upon them even when there is no evidence that they posses any. These kids are told over and over again how marvellous they are; that the world is their oyster; and all they have to do is go out and conquer it, like the alpha creatures they are.

Is it any wonder than that these kids grow up believing that they are absolutely fabulous? That they can do no wrong? And that the sun, as it were, shines out of their perfect posteriors?

The one place that these children could have the stuffing knocked out of them is at school. But even here the reigning philosophy seems to be to encourage children rather than bring them to terms with a realistic appraisal of their abilities. Now, it’s all about not grading the little mites, so as to not destroy their self-esteem. It’s all about not keeping score in games so that nobody feels like a loser. So, medals all around for merely turning up. And everyone is a winner.

Except that they’re not. There will always be kids who are rubbish at sport (I certainly was; that sad kid always last to be picked by any team). There will be children who can’t make sense of physics or math (yes, me again). And there will be students who can’t write a readable essay no matter how hard they try (aha, not me this time round, thank God). And no purpose is served by convincing the poor dears that they are actually any good at this stuff, when they are patently not.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am all for nurturing the self-confidence of children, of boosting their self-esteem, of inculcating a sense of self-belief in them. But let’s not kid ourselves. We are not going to achieve this by giving them a completely unrealistic view of their own abilities and talents. In fact, you could argue that it is the duty of every parent to tell his or her child just what he or she is good (or bad) at. Because sooner rather than later, these kids are going to go out into the real world where there are no prizes for coming second, let alone last.

So, for God’s sake, be honest with your kids as they grow up. Praise their achievements. But be sure to make them aware of their shortcomings too. Encourage their strengths but don’t fight shy of pointing out their weaknesses. They will thank you for it one day, no matter how much they hate you now.

And if you don’t, then be warned. One day in the not-so-distant future, it could be your kid up there making an absolute ass of himself (or herself) on national television. And believe me, you don’t want that.


Anonymous said...

I think you're missing the point. In the absence of talent, making a fool of themselves on tv is their only way to be on tv! Every time a 'two left feet' is given their two minutes on national tv, another one watching at home is encouraged. They're in no delusions about what you're watching them for, so long as you are!

Anonymous said...

Its something not many dare to say.Completely agree!

Anonymous said...

Still not justfies how can some one be so disillusioned about their own abilities.

Shoumitro said...

But are they not selected through tough auditions? Mirakkel-6, acomedy show in Zee Bangla which has just concluded, and Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, a singing competition which has just started on the same channel after Mirakkel , are quite good.

Anyhow, got your point. Pushy parents... sighhh!