By Gulrukh Tausif
One event that excites children to no end is their birthday. It is a special day for them and the images of cakes, candles, gifts and confetti are enough to keep them awake all night. Birthday for a child is a big occasion which they want to celebrate with their friends and family members with as much pomp and show as possible.
In recent years, it has become a norm for parents to arrange extravagant birthday parties in schools where they bring cake, birthday hats and goodie bags for the whole class. In some cases goodie bags are a treasure trove of imported chocolates, sweets, art supplies, candies and other expensive items. However, this trend is giving rise to some serious emotional issues in those children whose parents cannot afford to do the same on their birthday.
Children in Montessori or nursery schools are too young to understand the concept of what their parents can afford or cannot afford. When they see a child basking in the limelight with everyone clapping for him, singing the birthday song and bringing gifts and sweets for the whole class, it is only natural that they want the same for their birthday.
More and more middle class families are working hard to send their children to elite schools for sake of better educational opportunities. But once enrolled, it is very tragic really that the difference between haves and haves-not becomes apparent to children as young as 3-4 years old.
Children from rich families know even at that tender age that they are different from those who do not have big cars, expensive houses, mini toy stores at home and maids to look after them. Children from middle class know that their parents cannot give them the things that some of their class fellows take for granted. This is giving rise to arrogance and superiority complex on one side and jealousy, envy and depression on the other side. All these negative emotions are very detrimental for any child’s emotional and character development.
School administration should take a strong stand against parents who wish to show off their wealth within school environment. No child should be made to feel special because he or she comes from a privileged background or just because “Daddy brought a remote control helicopter from Dubai” or “My maid is from Philippines and I have so many servants in my home.”
Any celebration that needs to be done must be the same for every child like having a picture on a school board with Happy Birthday sticker displayed for the day, the birthday song sung by the class fellows or allowing distribution of inexpensive sweets.
Parents who wish to throw themed parties for their children can arrange a big birthday bash at home with friends and family members but at school, children should be just children. Class, social status and elitism should be left outside one a child enters the school premises. Wealthy parents must realize that the cost of arranging an extravagant birthday party for their child is too high if it is making other children in the class depressed and victims of inferiority complex.
On the other hand, it is a fact that children cannot be protected from harsh realities of life all the time. Parents need to be able to communicate with their children and tell them with honesty that some people have a lot more money than others. Parents who have a strong, loving relationship with their children are able to thwart feelings of inferiority complex or sadness when it arises.
Children need to understand that expensive toys, branded watches, bags, shoes and foreign trips are not possible for everyone and material possessions are not the most important things on earth. Not every wish can be granted nor every whim fulfilled. Even if parents can afford to, it is a terrible idea to pamper the children too much or give in to their every demand.
Parents who themselves have a contented spirit and moderate outlook on life can teach their children good values. If parents are bitter, angry and show signs of jealousy and discontent, children are quick to pick these nuances from them and will view the world and all it contains in a negative state of mind.
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