We are very good lawyers for our own mistakes, but very good judges for the mistakes of others.
It must have been a year or so ago when I first came across this quote and I was floored by both its simplicity and its profundity. And it certainly is true. We are very generous with ourselves when we make allowances for mistakes, but strangely short-tempered and rather judgemental when it comes to an error made by another.
This is especially true when it comes to online forums and discussion groups. As a parent blogger, I stay connected to many groups and parenting forums across Facebook, Twitter and Google plus. A few of these are highly active and some discussions can get pretty heated very quickly.
Most often the queries are of the diaper/bathtime/ naptime/ eating schedule variety. And the great thing about these forums is that people are always willing to help. You can get pointers on where to hire nannies and how to deal with teen aggression, all in the course of a single day.
However, what takes me by surprise at times is one tendency that people exhibit- that of making snap judgements. Keep in mind that ninety percent of these people have never met offline and only have the questioner's words to go on.
Let us take a scenario:
One mother posts a query on a forum, asking for inputs on how to keep a 4-year-old child occupied all through the day. Many helpful parents jump in, offering great tips which range from art and craft activities to simple, picture books, using kitchen utensils to keep the child busy and getting an indoor inflatable pool.
Then, one parent suggests that the child can be allowed to play for half an hour on the I-Pad or the Galaxy Mini, quickly adding that there are many educational apps which will also enhance the child's learning.
That's when things take a turn for the ugly.
A parent rises out of her slumber to point an accusatory finger at the mom who suggested technology! Gasp! A tablet at this age? Won't the child stop using her brain? Won't it impede social interaction?Won't it lead to juvenile delinquency as a consequence of minimal outdoor play? I exaggerate on that last one, but you get the picture.
Wham! The next series of responses turn on the accuser, saying that just because she doesn't believe in using technology, it doesn't mean that all the other parents will remain with her in the Stone Age. Technolgy is good, they echo. It is necessary in this day. Children would be at a loss without this advantage. But, the unfortunate thing is, nobody puts it across that way. The comments are invariably rude, with hints of disdain, scorn and condescension, thrown in for good measure.
From there, it's all downhill. As the comments get meaner and fiercer, we get growing arguments for both sides, until the original query is lost in the mud-slinging between the two factions. It sometimes reminds me of the Indian parliamentary sessions or those annoying debates on the evening news, where nobody hears anyone else and each person is busy shouting louder than the other.
Occasionally, there are a few voices of reason that step in, asking for calm to prevail and also to agree to disagree. The sad reality is that people are very quick to swing from one extreme to the other and are unwilling to make allowances for the situations of the other party.
What would be great is if people could exercise moderation in everything that they do or say.
Are you uncomfortable using technology? Try it out for a short while. Let your child use it minimally and under discreet supervision, perhaps on weekends for an hour or so.
Because, here is the danger with extremes- they can switch to the other end of the spectrum in a fraction of a second. And, if you were to give free rein to the child in using the i-Pad or completely keep him away from it, you're setting yourself up for more trouble than you bargained for.
It's Day 23
This post is my contribution to