Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Kids not dolls to play with, need utmost care

By Zhao Huanxin (China Daily) Updated: 2015-06-03 07:47

Kids not dolls to play with, need utmost care

A mother plays with her kid. [Photo/IC]

A 2-year-old toddler was made to drink alcohol by some fun-seeking friends of his father at a banquet in Panzihua city, Sichuan province, on April 10. The child slipped into coma and died two days later. Three perpetrators were arrested, Chinese media reported on May 16.

A similar child-teasing incident was reported recently from the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, where another 2-year-old boy was given a cup of homemade spirit by his unwitting uncle. As a result, the small child became a mental wreck for a few hours.

Few people would be amused after reading such reports. But equally few people will, perhaps, stop poking fun at children. In a country where teasing children is almost second nature, it is time we reviewed and regulated the way we play with or make fun of youngsters. Parents and relatives and their friends must be aware that their one-off jokes or fun-poking behaviors could cause serious consequences that a child has to deal with for a long time, perhaps even after growing up.

Ask anyone on the street if, as a child, he or she had been teased by some unlikely adults and chances are the question will reopen old wounds, or at least bring up unpleasant memories, rather than laughter.

Almost everywhere in rural China you can find people placing babies on their palms, or tossing them up and catching them - for fun. Last year, in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, a father was devastated when he failed to catch his 2-month-old daughter after tossing her up for fun and she fell to her death.

Many people will remember having been told by a neighbor or relative: "Your mother doesn't want you any more ... ha, ha, ha ..." Such remarks almost always brought a child to tears and drew fits of laughter from the adults.

An online survey published in Guangzhou Daily on May 23 showed that telling a child that his/her mother no longer wants him/her tops the list of common ways people tease children in the city. For adults, it might be just a casual remark. But it could baffle and bewilder children, and make them feel abandoned, according to psychologists.

One can argue that there isn't always an element of sadism in the way adults tease children. But what the adults believe is fun does not necessarily mean fun - and a feeling of security - for children. Take the alcohol incidents, for instance.

Another common fun remark usually comes from parents who do not know how to answer their children's questions about sex. On most occasions, the mother or father chooses to gloss over such curiosity.

Consider this typical situation that one could encounter even in today's China:

"Where do I come from?" a little boy asks his mother and pesters her for a reply. The harried mother teasingly says: "Well, honey, we found you in a corn field." Or, if they are in a city: "We found you at a supermarket."

Since children have innocent and gullible minds, they should not be told lies even jokingly; they have to be protected from all possible harm. Parents must say no to anyone who makes fun of their children that could leave them traumatized.

For the mental and physical well-being of children, it is important for adults to be caring and considerate. They must consider the consequences of the way they play with a child.

A child is not a super doll immune to damage. It is fragile and must be handled with extreme care.

The author is a senior writer with China Daily.

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