Thursday, January 22, 2009


A disturbing question that keeps haunting many grand parents is why their grand children are different in their attitudes and behavior from their own off springs when they were children. Of course psychologists may have a ready answer which often may sound too scientific to understand. It is well known that parents, the home environment and the food do influence the personality of a child in several ways and one quick answer would be that the grand parents, their house holds and the food they gave to their children were much different from what they are to day. That is begging the question! The old saying 'spare the cane and spoil the child' is still remembered by many old people and according to them the precise reason for all the ills seen to day can be attributed to the dramatic changes taking place in the society at large. How many will take this for an answer? Probably very few.

Modern education pundits and child psychologists will pooh pooh the old style thinking, holding the view that child must be handled with care, not causing any mental stress during the growing phase. A keen observer cannot miss the dramatic differences in the behavior of a toddler in the creche and at home. The working parents who bring the child home in the evening invariably have a horrendous time in keeping pace with the frenetic activities of the child till hitting the bed at the night. The child does not rest even for a minute and the eating behavior is totally erratic with frequent tantrums. Same child is a model in the creche with absolute obedience and meticulous behavior. Probably the environment in the creche may be some what restrictive for this child to indulge in activities it wants to pursue and only at home it has the freedom to vent out its bottled up energy. Could this be the effect of the hectic pace of life in urban centers which a child is forced to follow, leading to a dichotomy in its behavior? Or could it be due to the shrinking sizes of dwelling units in urban areas with very little space available to the child to move around freely? What is going in the little brain of the child is difficult to gauge. What can be the solution? More attention to the child at home? Not sending the child to a creche? Going back to the old system of joint family living? These are difficult questions for which ready answers are yet to emerge!

In the food front, what shapes the attitude of the above child to different foods to which it is exposed? Some clues are available from a Danish study of children's behavior vis-a-vis food during their development. There was subtle difference in food preferences between male and female children. Boys needed 10% more sourness and 20% more sweetness compared to girls. As the taste buds of boys were less sensitive, they preferred super sweet versions of beverages, more extreme flavors, sweet and sourish foods. The inference is that girls' brains process information from the tongue differently than boys' brain do. As children grow the taste perception changes noticeably and the ability to recognize different tastes increases with age, peaking at 13-14 years. Generally love for sour foods increases while that for sweet foods diminishes.

Given this situation parents should be able to approach the issue of deciding on the nature of foods to be made at home with more understanding rather than forcing the child to take what ever is cooked for adults. It may also help to nutritionally tailor make the food incorporating the flavors and tastes preferred by the child, male or female. This is where the real problem lies. Lot of patience, efforts and time are required to understand the child and few young parents seem to have these traits because of their hectic life styles forced upon them by the compulsions of financial security and career development. Probably many companies realize this and are offering flexi timings for their women employs to work from home, some times even paying extra salary for the same and insisting only on delivering results rather than keeping account of the number of hours spent on the work. More such progressive measures by others also, can be expected to alleviate the situation significantly.


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