The Difficult Child: About the Youth in Osh, Kyrgyzstan

by Gulrano Ataeva

It is a fact that parents and educators love children and want to raise successful personalities. Our approach to children from the very start determines what type of people will grow and how they will interact as grown personalities constituting a family at the least and a nation at the most. As a teacher I see the need to analyze our parenting and teaching so that we do not cause children to become “difficult” and do not raise people intolerant to the challenges of society.

Unfortunately the issue of raising citizens loyal to the moral principles of society stays aside from government agenda. Discussions organized by NGOs and universities on the problems of education mostly concentrate on criticism of corruption, low salaries and drawbacks of Soviet-style teaching. As for the high schools, upbringing issues are addressed during staff meetings and teacher-parent hours but being superficial because most of the time words are not transformed into practice.

Let me present a story about the four most common types of difficult children in Osh. The first child comes from a family where parents quarrel constantly, the second has very strict parents, the third one is molded to fit the parents’ idea of success and the fourth hero has received all the care that probably should have been divided among these four.

The first hero is forced to spend his childhood with quarrelsome parents who drink. The constant quarreling at home frightens him. Psychiatrics would say he is frightened not only of his parents’ anger but of his own as well. That is why he wants to stop them in any way he can. All the same his heart beats with love and he feels guilty. He deeply believes that his thoughts can harm his parents and if they knew about his wishes they would turn away. As a matter of fact, the child hides his thoughts somewhere in the back of his mind. The thoughts buried cause different phobias to develop in him, and make him prone to violence. He becomes a complicated, intractable and hostile person.

The parents of the second child are so strict with him that they do not allow him any freedom in his actions. The fact that he has to follow his parents’ will in each step he suspends the development of his analytical thinking skills and totally erases independence from his mind. It is very difficult for him to cope with problems without his parents’ help. He becomes a subdued and hesitant person.

The parents of the third hero wish to bring up a submissive and disciplined person to impose their impracticable dreams on him. Everything has been decided, “he will be a man of art!” For that reason he sits at the piano and plays music that he finds dull. It will be several years before his parents understand that their child is not Mozart after all. Still, they succeed in setting him on the wrong direction and it will take him long to find his own path.

Overly caring parents have pampered the fourth hero until he is self-centered, irresponsible and stubborn. He doesn’t get along with people; he doesn’t have a good relationship with his parents either. It is quite impossible for him to resist the temptation to be rude with those who make him angry. Even so he knows he shouldn’t treat his parents that way and deep down he wants them to stop him. He releases his anger through insulting behavior and drives them to the end of their patience so that they will stop him.

If I call life a “race”, where happiness is at the finish line, and our heroes  “participants” – this is how they end up:

The first hero is angry with his parents for not helping him to overcome obstacles. He is fed up with constant problems and wants freedom. He is a runaway. He has left his home without care. He is now enjoying life with new friends entertaining themselves drinking alcohol, going to discos, racing cars on the highway and doing many more risky things. They were lucky enough to steal a Mercedes yesterday, but next time – who knows?

The second one hasn’t even started the race yet – he is waiting for his parents’ guidance. By the way, he’s expecting a great event. His parents have found a princess to marry him. She is young, beautiful and hard-working. She will assuredly be a wonderful daughter-in-law and take care of his parents in their old age.

The third one is running, but asking himself, “why should I, what for?” He has graduated from an art school, but still isn’t good at music because it is not his cup of tea. Soon he will leave for Russia to earn money. There he will probably find himself at a dead end again, with just a pocketful of money.

Number four is going to his parents. He wants them to bring happiness to him. He has quit his latest job because he didn’t like the employees there. His father’s task is to find a place where his son can do nothing but tell others what to do.

All four above mentioned heroes are found in the southern part of my country, Kyrgyzstan. As a teacher and a facilitator I witnessed all four cases and was able to listen to the “the story” of young people written above.

By now, you’ve probably guessed we don’t have a winner in our race.  We need a fifth hero who is confident because he didn’t have to hide his thoughts; self-reliant as he was free to think and try; obedient as he respects his parents and teachers; self-restrained and knows his limits and has a certain aim – he wants the experience that he needs to become stronger and to win. Life is full of chances for him.

Cooperation between teachers and parents plays a key role in raising successful personalities. When teacher-parent hours go beyond complains about students` behavior and reports to a real commitment of both sides speaking with one voice, the task becomes more realistic.

Teachers can integrate international human values in our classes not only limiting ourselves to general knowledge presented in textbooks. Of course not every subject allows this but teaching languages is one of the best examples.

I believe by teaching tolerance we can succeed in bringing up a lot of heroes number five. As only showing love and understanding, guiding them responding to any of their questions can help us establish contact with them. Equally, keeping our mind open for differences and learning the demands of the present time are to keep us up-to-date and close to the young generation. Mutual understanding is the key to a cooperative and successful life in which one shows respect to others. Peace prevails in a society in which respect is the order of the day.

Click here to access the Uzbek version of this article on BBC Uzbek.

About the author:

Gulrano Ataeva holds a MA from the University of Tsukuba, Japan. She currently works as instructor at the Osh Institute of Western Education. In her research she focuses on civil society in Central Asia.