Acouple of months back, on the occasion of Universal Children’s Day, we talked about the rights of the children. You learnt that as a child you have several rights, such as the right to education, food, healthcare, and, above all, to be loved and taken care of, to name a few.

While it is good that you should know your rights, it does not mean that you become demanding and expect everyone to do your bidding. You need to learn that rights come with responsibilities. If, on the one hand, you have certain rights, on the other, you have some responsibilities too. These responsibilities are mainly towards those from whom you expect to receive your rights, especially towards your parents as you want to be loved and taken care of by them.

Responsibilities towards parents

When your parents love you, it is more from instinct than the realisation of your right or their responsibilities. You, as their child, are their responsibility and they fulfil it to the best of their abilities. They do whatever is within their means and power to provide you with love, good education, nutritious food, nice clothes, and safe and healthy living conditions, besides many other things.

Even if they are not able to meet or fulfil certain demands, such as to take you on trips during holidays or take you out for eating frequently or provide you something at some point in time, it is not that they do not love you. But it is because they have their limitations and a lot of things on their hands and minds. Sometimes their pockets may not allow them to buy you expensive things or their official engagements may not give them time to do certain activities with you.

It is here that you are expected to be responsible and understand their problems and limitations, and not ask for things that are beyond their means and reach.

For instance, if they tell you that they cannot take you on a trip during the summer holidays this year, be understanding and settle for an outing or two within the city; or if they do not agree to buy you an Xbox on your birthday or three new suits on Eid, do not insist and graciously accept what is given to you. You should be thankful as some children do not get even one new suit on Eid, as either their parents cannot afford it or they have lost their parents. It is your responsibility to be understanding.

It is also your responsibility and duty to take care of your parents and to ensure that they get some rest and time for themselves. You can do so by helping them a little around the house, by doing some chores, such as cleaning your room so that your mother gets some free time and rest, or feeding the pet if you have any at home.

You can also help your mother set and clear the table at lunch or dinner, fold the laundry, take out the garbage, or make sure that the house is clean by not leaving your things around and even picking up things that someone else may have left, rather than wait for others to do it.

No boys, don’t give me those looks! These are not chores reserved for girls. Even boys can and should do all these things.

I have seen children not even bothering to get a glass of water for themselves and call out to their mother or any elder in the house to get them water. This is so bad. Instead of asking your mum to bring water for you, it would be good that you go and fetch water, or if you are old enough to make tea, make it for your mother when she is busy with other chores or just tired, or when your father comes home after a hard day’s work at the office.

If you have time, you can help your younger siblings do their homework or keep them entertained while your parents are busy with their work or want to relax for a while. As you grow up, and with your parents’ permission, you can do the groceries and run errands for them.

Illustration by Ziauddin
Illustration by Ziauddin

Responsibilities towards school

Your responsibilities are not limited to your home and your parents. You have to act as a responsible student and it is your responsibility to maintain school discipline and rules and regulations, as well as to keep your school clean. No, I don’t mean that you have to sweep and wash the classroom or the restrooms, though in Japan children are often required to do so as part of their training.

What is required of you is to make sure that you do not throw litter around or make the walls dirty by scribbling on them or damage any school furniture. And there is no harm in watering the plants, if you have any in or outside your classroom, even if there is a gardener to do so. And yes, respecting your teachers and fellow students and helping them out in any way that they may need help is also part of your responsibilities.

Responsibilities towards community

Moving from home and school, you, as part of the community and society and as a citizen of this country, have certain responsibilities too. I know you cannot do anything major to bring about a change in society or our social set up, but remember even small steps lead to major achievements.

You must all have heard about Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg; they, like many others like them, began by taking small steps and were only teenagers when they attracted world attention through their ideas and actions. Rather than just play around and have fun, which is their right as children, they paid attention to their surroundings and the problems they and their peers and the society at large, were faced with and chose to speak up and do something about them instead of just grumbling.

Small actions such as not wasting water, switching off the lights, taking care of the plants in your house and not plucking flowers just for fun, helping the elderly people in your neighbourhood or whoever needs help, can go a long way. Simple things — such as crossing the road or carrying their groceries to their door if you see them carrying heavy bags, giving your old clothes to some needy child, or sharing your school lunch with someone who has not brought lunch — show that you are a responsible child and capable of taking on bigger responsibilities in the future.

You can also point out anything and anyone going against the rules. For instance, if your elder brother does not wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle, you can politely remind him of the rule and point out that it is for his safety. If you notice someone doing things, such as stealing or quarrelling, but you are not in a position to tell them directly, you can tell your parents and seek their help in communicating the message.

If nothing else, you can make note of the problems around you such as environmental degradation, lack of education and health facilities and read about them whenever you have time, so that you have some idea of what is being done or what can be done to counter these problems. This will help you play your role as you grow up and have the reins in your hand.

Remember, you are the future of the world and the world needs educated and well-aware people to handle the crises that the world is faced with today. And you can only play a positive and fruitful role in future when you are aware of your responsibilities today and prepare yourself for the days to come.

Published in Dawn, Young World, January 22th, 2022

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