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What are we teaching our children?

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Source: The Friday Times

There was this horrific tale we were fed as children to teach us about the vagaries of stealing. The tale went like this. 'There was once a boy who went to school. One day, he swiped a small item from a friend and brought it home. His mother asked him where he got it from and he said he stole it from his friend. His mother, being of shady morals no doubt, did not say anything to him at the time.

Well, lo and behold, this young upstart grew up into a full-fledged criminal. After a series of robberies and thefts, the police of yore - apparently being much more astute than they are now - managed to nab him and bring him to justice. As he was being carted off in chains, he asked for one last meeting with his mother. The meeting being duly arranged, the young man leaned in to say something to his mother... but instead, bit her ear off! The highly upright and moral 'thief' then said to his mother, if you had reprimanded me for stealing all those years ago, I wouldn't be the criminal I am today.'

What a blood-curdling way to teach honesty to our children! It raises so many unnecessary and totally irrelevant questions. Why didn't his mother stop him in the beginning? Wasn't there any other way for him to find out that he was not on the right path? Could I hope to pass off my shortcomings on someone else like this? If the thief knew he was wrong all along, why didn't he stop himself instead of waiting around for his mother to do it? Is it possible to physically bite off someone's ear with just your teeth?

Nightmares aside, this innocuous story actually managed to fill our little hearts with dread at the very thought of stealing. I still remember my mother's age-old remedy for a case of the hiccups, which was to spring this accusation at us when we least expected it 'Your Principal called and said you stole a pen from your classmate?' The terrified child would hold his breath before protesting that no such thing ever happened, and mother would smile and say 'I know, but did you notice that your hiccups are gone?'

Cut to the present time. Yesterday, I read an advertisement in the Young Readers supplement of a leading newspaper. The ad was obviously developed for children by a really-wannabe soap company with an endearing storyline. The cartoon went like this.

Girl:Bubloo Chal Aunty ke chocolates chura kar khaatay hein.

Boy:Hehehe! Chalo!

(Both the thieves eating chocolate which messes up their hands)

Girl:Bubloo! Aunty agaen! Let's wash our hands quickly!

Girl:10 seconds! 10 seconds!

Girl:Aray Bubloo! Tum abhi tak haath dho rahay ho?

Boy:Uh uh.

Aunty (screaming as she catches the hapless kid): BUBLOO! -

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