Thursday, November 16, 2017

Learn to Accept No And Failure

My faith on kids has not deterred in worst of the situations but the recent events unveiled how muffled are the kids psychologically. It was reported that a child of a school was allegedly involved in a heinous crime just because he was worried about his examination and subsequently the result as he thought that he was not well prepared for the same. I do not know what the truth is but there are a number of cases reported almost on regular basis where the children do not accept NO from anybody and fear of failure drive them towards not good things. Such issues raise a lot of questions. The responsibility, dignity and ethics on which an educational institute should work are questioned. A lot of fingers are pointed and answers demanded. Discussions and interpretations are pouring in and yet somewhere there is emptiness. The fact remains, that the child who lost his life was innocent and his demise has created a void in the life of his parents which probably would never be filled.
The children who are innocent in their thoughts and actions with all pious feeling towards others are ‘made to’ behave in a manner which is not approved by anyone in the society. ‘By whom and why’ is the question to be answered, if we have to save our children from getting trapped in something which may force them into an inevitable and difficult situation.  I must strongly state that I am in no way exonerating the kids involved in some violent or hate acts or trying to reduce the intensity of their crimes. All I am trying to do is to give tongue to the fear that now fills our hearts. Are there more kids who might be involved in some crimes? Are they around us? Are they the best friends of your kids? Are they sitting, eating, and talking to your kids every day? ..... OR, is your kid so psychologically drained that he could be one of them? I know these are uncomfortable questions and I ask them to make you uncomfortable.
Any act of violence or theft etc. raises so many questions on parents, teachers, school administration and the education system as a whole. Who is responsible? The kid who commits the crime? Yes, definitely. But along with him the parents, teachers and school stands shamefaced. One would call me inconsiderate here that I am taking away the toil, love and patience the parents and teachers give to a child but the need of the hour is to find the loopholes. I think many of us are not teaching the kids to accept FAILURE and are not inculcating in them the tolerance and the capacity to hear NO.
As parents at times, we try to hide our child’s mistake and cover for them, which indirectly make the child feel that how significant it is to be flawless. As teachers we celebrate and appreciate achievements and many a times punish and humiliate kids for something not done right by them. We never let the children feel that mistakes are a part of life and one should be learning lessons from the same and avoiding the repetition of such mistakes. This is something that needs to be taught.
No can sting but it’s a part of life and kids should be made patient and strong enough to tolerate it. Children should be made to understand that it is ok to feel disappointed when you hear a No. They must be explained that there isn’t any good in holding grudges and taking revenge because in this way you are wasting your precious time pining upon lost opportunities and neglecting the available ones. A clear ‘no’ or in some cases blunt criticism can perturb anyone so it’s important that the child learns to take criticism in a healthy and positive manner. Children should be taught to:
Ø  Listen to criticism and understand where they made a mistake. Own up to their mistakes without shame and fear to try to overcome them and move further instead of living in guilt and fear
Ø  Ask questions from the critic for self improvement
Ø  Take initiative and help from family, teachers and friends to not repeat the same mistakes
Ø  They must know that NO is also important and everything may not be made available to them as and when they want.
This could only be executed successfully if we as teachers and parents learn to embrace our kids and let them know their faults in a positive manner seeking improvement not their humiliation.
The psychological counselor Eve Menezes Cunningham talks about the importance of saying no. "Children, like adults, need boundaries. If they don't hear 'No' and honor it, how will they not overstep others' boundaries - and set strong enough boundaries when others are not honoring them?" It was in the news a few weeks back that when a child was denied a badminton racket by his mother he tried to burn himself. A student was fought happy with his classmate just because he did not share his lunch box with him. There have been number of cases shared in which children ask for motorbike etc and when told NO stop eating food or run away till their demand is met. These are the cases where their demands were always met but when said NO this is the response. When a child makes an unfair demand the parents and teachers should say a firm NO but they should go ahead and give the reason behind it too. “It turns out that saying no pays off far beyond avoiding raising spoiled kids. When we always yield to our children’s wants, we rob them of the opportunity to find solutions by adapting what they already have. Kids who learn from denial realize at an early age that they won’t always have the perfect tool for every job.”
This brings me to another major issue which is the inability of the child to accept failure and move on. How many times do we say to our kids that:
*      “If you are not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you are not doing anything innovative.”
*      “When you are losing it can seem like there is a black cloud following you around, but remember there is a silver lining in every dark cloud.”
*      “One can fail many times but he isn’t a failure until he gives up.”
*      “Failure is the mechanism of leaning.”
*      “Failure is not fatal. Success is not final.”
With these lessons which motivate students to accept failure we need to understand that students will not accept failure if they do not know the art of bouncing back from failure. Failure and disappointments are really inevitable when we are in pursuit of what we want to achieve. “The simple truth is – no great success was ever achieved without failure. It may be one epic failure. Or a series of failures – such as Edison's 10,000 attempts to create a light bulb or Dyson’s 5,126 attempts to invent a bagless vacuum cleaner. But, whether we like it or not, failure is a necessary stepping stone to achieving our dreams.”
We need to help them develop a perspective, to take stand for the right. This righteousness should not be based on what society thinks is right. They should be groomed in a way that they wouldn’t be able to sleep with a guilty conscience. This will happen when they will be encouraged to make choices in difficult situation. Failing in an exam doesn’t make one loser but giving up and submitting to wrong means does. 
I would conclude with these lines for the teacher, parents and kids, “Failure and No should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. No teaches us to understand our limits and boundaries so that we can respect the boundaries of others.”



Saturday, November 11, 2017

Importance of Inculcating Self Reliance in Kids

“You cannot help children permanently by doing for them, what they could and should do for themselves.”
Cleanliness and hygiene are the basic values and etiquettes inculcated in every child. Both parents and school strive for accomplishing this goal. “Swachh Bharat Mission” initiated by honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is a commendable step, uniting the nation on the grounds of cleanliness. Not only the people in general but also many schools across the nation have welcomed this move with appreciation and enthusiasm. Students are enthusiastically involved in this cause and contributed in cleaning the school premises to celebrate the event in its true spirit. Realizing the gravitas of the event, students picked up paper bits from the classroom and playground and cleaned the school premises with teachers, showing exuberance and positivity.

Even parents, across the nation, welcomed this idea and encouraged their kids to participate in cleanliness drives, actively. Amidst this sense of responsibility towards cleanliness of the nation and self-hygiene, a few schools faced objection from a few parents as they were against the idea of including kids in cleaning the school premises and picking garbage. It was quite surprising as importance of cleanliness & hygiene should be the basic, and the most important lesson taught in schools as well as at home.
Education underlines the idea of holistic development of students and a major part of this is self-reliance. In the era of DIY (DO IT YOURSELF) our kids are still being pampered and raised in such a way where they are not being made responsible enough to do their work themselves.  They have all  kinds of help available when it comes to preparing their uniform for school, cleaning their clothes, washing the dishes they use and even for making their bed and keeping their room clean.

Self reliance starts with basic responsibilities which kids are deprived of on a daily basis. It’s high time that we work in the direction of making our children learn to be more resourceful and less dependent on us. “Data shows that the 21st century parenting style is a lot of protecting, rescuing, helicoptering, over-involving, micromanaging, and enabling and it’s not doing our kids any favors.” When you are doing all this you are attempting to take on a responsibility that you should not be doing. You are making your child dependent and someone who would be ready with this question in all trying situations, “What would we do now?”

You are your child’s parent. But that does not mean you have to run your child’s life. You are not expected to do this and you really don’t have the ability to do this; especially if your child is a teen. Your child is now a teenager and has a need to be in control of his own life. More than that, it is your responsibility as a parent to help your child learn to take control of his own life. This is part of teaching your child how to become an adult.” Our role as parents and teachers is to prepare our child to function as an adult, to help them take decisions and make choices in difficult situation. And for this they need to learn at a very tender age, the art of trusting and depending on themselves for various things including their daily chores. Discussions about it may feel like the least of our priorities. Teaching children principles of self-reliance, however, can actually help children learn to responsibly manage their emotions and behavior.
The father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi spun his own clothes, and was able to provide nourishment for himself with a small farm he owned. He spoke highly of self reliance and propounded it to be one of the greatest virtues. But kids these days are so accustomed to the comforts of "I cannot", "I do not want to" and "it is too difficult" that they forget to realize when they stop doing things for themselves and expect others to do it for them, depriving themselves of achieving greatness. We have made them weak.

Well, this problem asks for a solution and we need to come up with ideas that could inculcate self reliance in kids without burdening them with the sense of serious responsibilities. Let’s see what we can do as parents:

v Seek help: Let the kids feel that they could play a key role in helping you out in various ways. Involve them in grocery shopping or making the monthly budget.

v Let them emulate: Both the parents should set an example for kids by keeping the used plates etc. at proper place after and washing the meal, wash dishes if possible, arranging the clothes and cupboards properly, keeping the desk neat and tidy and dividing the chores equally so that the child also feels responsible for certain tasks.

v Take a back seat: If you constantly do all the work for your child, they tend to rely on you and become lazy. If you want to change this scenario you need to take quick measures. Let the child get his/her uniform ready for school. Let them cook if you are busy for the day.

v You aren’t the saviour: If they fail in the tasks mentioned in the above point, don’t panic and don’t let them panic. Tell them to manage their time better the next time but don’t do it for them. It’s important for them to realize that they are responsible for their own success and failures.

v Positive reinforcement: Weather it is a little effort in making their bed or arranging their desk, appreciate the way they have done it. This would encourage them to understand that their efforts do make a difference and add to their personalities in a positive manner.

v Appreciate their style: Spread their little efforts of self reliance by sharing it with their friends so that they remain motivated.

v Let them be the change: If they are perturbed by the mess around the room and in the locality, ask them to take an initiative to find solutions. Encourage them to write letter to the editor and conduct and get involved in little locality based cleanliness campaigns.

As teachers, involve your students in keeping the classrooms clean. Appoint cleanliness in-charges and regulate their work. Give titles like most organized child, most clean class and appreciate their creativity and originality in work. Teach them to organize their work at school as it is an important skill they need for managing their own lives-so they rely less and less on others as time goes by. Let them know the benefits of self reliance in building their future to make them “career ready-opportunity seekers”.

Recently, the parents of a pre-primary class witnessed the assembly presented by the little kids on the topic `importance of trees`. The children were at their best and parents were overwhelmed by their performance. One of the parent said that it was difficult for them to believe that their child who could not manage self at home can do so well in group. She was right but the fact is when the child got opportunity to do without much of interference and support he/ she did. The problem is that the children rarely get such opportunity.

I would like to conclude my views with these thoughts of Gever Tulley, “When we protect children from every possible source of danger and responsibility, we also prevent them from having the kinds of experiences that develop their sense of self-reliance, their ability to assess and mitigate risk, and their sense of accomplishment.”




Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Dealing with lies of kids through affectionate communication

 Adults constantly raise the bar on children, precisely because they're able to handle it. The children get overwhelmed by the tasks in front of them and gradually lose the sort of openness and sense of accomplishment they innately have. When they're treated like that, children start to crawl inside a shell and keep everything inside. It takes a lot of time and effort to get them to open up again. Kids' hearts are malleable, but once they gel, it's hard to get them back the way they were.” - Haruki MurakamiKafka on the Shore
Lying is wrong and honesty is the best policy. This is what the teachers teach and parents preach to their kids since the initial years of their development. But kids find it hard to follow and practice. They do lie. And it starts at an early age and this tendency increases with time. Brilliantly using their positive capabilities of mind reading and self control, kids lie. The more mentally and logically strong the child is, the more confident and detailed he is at lying.
The question arises, why do kids lie? Let us try probe into this. The reasons are thought provoking and worth pondering.
·         To Escape Punishments: Lying becomes the easy way out of punishments and scolding. It is interesting to note that we never teach our children to take pride in accepting their mistakes and moving on towards improvement. The moment they commit a mistake, they are questioned, scolded and even humiliated. Lying becomes a safe escape out of such situations. Kids lie out of fear, guilt, and shame.
·         Peer Pressure: At school and other public arenas kids constantly interact with other kids of their age. They strive to maintain a status quo in that group of peers. To prove that they are equal to the other members of the group they tend to show off and claim to have and be various things that they are not. Here they take the help of lying again. An amazing web series on Amazon Prime Videos, “Lakhon Mein Ek” portrays the story of a teenager who is forced to join a coaching centre for IIT. He aspires to be a commerce graduate but had to submit to the aspirations of the parents. In the coaching institute he is enrolled in the section of the least scorers according to his performance. He is trapped in the company of certain bullies who force him to act according to their whims. Unable to come out of this situation, he succumbs to lying.
·         Burdened by Expectations: Pamela Mayers, author of “Lie Spotters” believes that “lying is a cooperative act. A lie has no power whatsoever by its mere utterance. Its power emerges when someone else agrees to believe in the lie and expects a happy lie instead of the difficult truth.” What I am trying to indicate here is that kids are always expected to do the right thing and parents set certain standards and high expectations which the kids are constantly expected to fulfill. When they fail to do so they take refuge in lying to maintain their dignity in front of their parents and teachers.
·         They Simply Emulate: Yes. It might sound unpleasant but I emphasize time and again that children practice what they see around practiced and not what is preached. Adults set up high ideals for them but often succumb to lying unknowingly (at times knowingly) about simple issues in front of the kids. Kids tend to do the same in similar situations.
“It would be surprising for you to believe but lies deeply hurt children. When they come to know that adults around are lying to them, they end up doubting themselves.” This hypocrisy has adverse effects on them. The ideal world constructed around them is shattered. In this course they lose their innocence as beautifully described in the poem “Childhood” by Markus Natten. “Children will learn to trust their inner sense of differentiating between right and wrong at a young age, only when their parents and teachers encourage this.” As children grow they learn at every stage that the world is not an ideal place. We cannot burden them with moral thoughts and ideas without explaining them the practicality behind their philosophies and values.
To tell children the importance of honesty or the dangers of lying we need to ask them the following striking questions and let them seek the hard hitting answers:
1.      Would you appreciate someone lying straight to your face? Would you like your family and friends to lie to you?
2.      Do you know that telling lies to protect someone you love will only destroy them in the end?
3.      Do you want dishonesty to be a part of your individuality, your being and your legacy?
4.      Don’t you think there could have been another better option or an alternative to lying?
5.      Do you want to live in the fear of getting exposed some day? What if no one trusts you after that?
Asking questions means seeking answers. We must engage kids in self talk and encourage them to communicate with us while they give the answers. Freud said that no mortal can keep a secret. One only needs a listening heart and an understanding mind.
The so called modern world where technology is advancing day by day, kids get opportunities to express and share their feelings on social media. But is it the right platform to share thoughts? Jeff Hancock interestingly observes, “In the world full of tweets, status updates and constant texting; over sharing has become a trend. Over sharing doesn’t ensure honesty rather it increases the chances of fakeness. Subtleties and importance of human integrity is what that matters.” This situation calls for better communication between parents, teachers and children, so that they realize that the best people who can understand them and they should open up to are their parents and teachers.
“Parenting is all about communicating with your child. Positive two-way communication is essential to building your child's self-esteem. While children thrive with words of encouragement and praise, listening to your children boosts their self-esteem and enables them to feel worthy and loved.” This self-esteem in turn motivates them to accept themselves which thereby decrease their chances of telling lies. Looking at the role of teachers I would like to quote, “Happily, effective teacher-student relationship is not related to the teacher’s personality or the students viewing the teacher as a friend. Rather, they are characterized by teachers exhibiting appropriate levels of assertiveness and co-operation; clear communication and awareness of high-needs students.” The trust and belief shown by teachers can work wonders. If the students can trust their teachers and confide in them then kids would not need to lie.
I would like to share an interesting incident here. Once, a student was wearing his identity card cover with the string attached to it. The string being around his neck and the cover in the shirt pocket couldn’t let the teacher realize that his card was missing. When the monitor was checking the uniform he asked the boy to take out his identity card and show it to him and this way it was found that this was empty cover. The kid was then taken to the class teacher by the monitor. Understanding the situation the teacher stared at him. The kid expected a lecture on the importance of rules and regulation of the school and how not wearing the identity card is a breach of discipline. But something amazing happened. The kid was shocked to see the expressions of anxiety and worry on the face of the teacher. After 30 seconds or so of silence the teacher said, “Dear child! You are an integral part of my class. Do you understand that the identity card plays a crucial role in case of emergencies? They carry all the significant information which can be used in case of a mishap. I hope you would take care of this and always carry your identity card.” The child thoughtfully nodded his head twice, said sorry and went back to his seat smiling as there was an affectionate communication giving no chance to the child to come up with excuses and lies. So, with this understanding and sharing of ideas the tendency of lying among kids can be reduced. But the important thing here is to make sure that the lies spoken by kids should not be taken lightly. The reactions should not be grave but it should be made sure that kids realize the dangers of lying. According to Dr. Carl E Pickhardt, “Whatever is the child’s reason; parents and teachers need to treat lying seriously. There is no such thing as a small lie because when adults overlook one lie, they only encourage the telling of another. The quality of family life depends, as much as anything, on the quality of communication. There is no trust without truth. There is no intimacy without honesty. There is no safety without sincerity.”

Though it may not be possible for us to create an environment of hundred percent truthfulness and honesty but we can certainly help our children to achieve the best in that direction and if could be done so then this would be the best thing done for them and real education in true sense. 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

CHILDREN ARE THE ‘SUN’ OF HOPE

CHILDREN ARE THE ‘SUN’ OF HOPE ILLUMINATING THE WORLD

“Every child comes with a message that God is not yet discouraged of man.” Rabindranath Tagore
Generally, when I sit to write an article, the focus is always at the problems that the kids are facing these days and what could be done in order to come up with apt solutions and how these solutions can be implemented by the teachers and parents. But, it gives me immense pleasure to tell you that a few incidents and things happening around the world have brought a happy realization to me and reconfirmed my belief that kids give us important life lessons which cannot be learnt from complicated philosophies.

Recently on a trip with students of age 10-11 years I felt privileged to observe the beauty of being in the company of kids outside the structured world of the school or home. They were well behaved, maintained the decorum and showed heartfelt reverence to the teachers and elders. They displayed impeccable table manners and commendable food habits. They were respectful towards the hotel staff and helpers. The humility and grace they exhibited made me contended and proud. This definitely reflects the values taught to them in the family. This trip strengthened my belief that kids are humble and capable of showcasing pious innocence and positivity. Therefore, the parents and teachers of the present times need to understand that they have the great responsibility to perpetuate this inherent positivity and to not let the negatives of the world deprive these kids of their innocence.

Another incident that touched my heart happened with two little girls on the trip. One of them had her birthday and the teachers had already prepared to surprise her (they had already arranged cake for her) but in order to have fun they started asking for cake from her as a treat to celebrate the day. The other girl overheard this conversation and could not bear that her classmate had no cake to offer on her birthday. The little girl with a big heart offered a pack of Britannia cake to her so that her birthday could be celebrated. Everyone was touched by this beautiful and selfless gesture. Surprisingly, I came to know later that these girls weren’t even good friends and rarely interacted with each other in the past. But I would take a moment to appreciate the values inculcated in this kid by the parents and the lesson we adults could learn from her. I could realize that this child was exposed to an excellent and conducive environment at home that is why she developed this empathy. We can learn from this young girl that friendship is not that difficult to initiate and then nurture. This was not and is not an isolated case but most of our kids are like this and if not so then we should blame nobody else but self. All we need to have is a generous heart. “In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.” The beauty of little things is shown to us by these young ones.

Here I would like to compliment and express my gratitude to all those parents( and they are in majority)  for creating stress free and joyful environment in the family and teaching the kids values of compassion and caring and sharing.

Kids teach us to acknowledge emotions and open up about feelings and own up to our faults. They have the innocence and courage to believe and try new things which the adults tend to lose as time passes. They aren’t scared to try new things, laugh their troubles away, raise their voice when required, take risks and showcase indefatigable commitment and enthusiasm in every challenging situation. Kids teach us to dream and work hard to make these dreams a reality.

In a brilliant TED talk, which I would suggest my readers to watch, a child prodigy, Adora Svitak says that we should stop using the term “childish” when it comes to criticizing behaviour associated with irresponsibility and irrational thinking. She emphasized that adults had been responsible for imperialism, colonization and world wars. Kids on the other hand have done this; “Anne Frank touched millions with her powerful account of the Holocaust, Ruby Bridges helped end segregation of USA” and Om Prakash Gurjar became the first child to win the International Peace Prize as he worked for liberating child slaves in India. The children behave much better most of the times than the adults.

Children bloom to their fullest when allowed to experiment and grow in an unstructured manner. When we observe the classroom teaching scenario, a certain pattern is observed in the delivery of lectures. The traditional lecture and discussion method is often replaced by Flip Class, student’s initiation and discussion but the overall potential of a child cannot be brought out unless he/she is given an opportunity to express in an informal and unstructured manner breaking the monotony of general classroom expectations.

The life skills and social skills that we as teachers and parents often strive to inculcate in our children, cannot come only through formal teachings until these are lived by the adults around them. You can hail moral science as a subject but I believe that the inherent innocence and values of a child can flourish only when they are given practical situations where they can take lead and act according to their instincts, like in the incident discussed above.

There are numerous examples that I observe in the school where some students voluntarily and patiently accompany the other students who are not physically self sufficient. The care and constant companionship shown by these students reflect that they stand out from the others. They aren’t forced or commanded to do so but it is their genuine humility and strong sense of amiability that help them shine brighter than others and let them take a stand towards something good, humble and right. “Children are our future, and the only way for the world to evolve, as I have been shown it should be, is for each generation to be more loving and compassionate than the one before. This is only possible if we support the children around us, and protect and encourage them so that they don't need to lock their love away.”

This innocence and basic instinct of doing the right thing starts to diminish as a child grows and such practical opportunities and life skills become secondary as the child is forced to do exceedingly well in academics. As parents and teachers we should make sure that a children keep this innocence intact as they grow up and for that we need to give them more opportunities to be expressive in natural conditions. Let me elaborate with an example. When we ask parents these days to let the child develop their skills in sports and games, parents show the tendency to enroll the child in sports academies; when asked to enhance their creative skills and personality, the child is sent to personality development and creative writing classes. In these cases we tend to forget that the great personalities, orators and writers that hailed from our country did not take special classes. They excelled in doing so because they worked on these skills in natural environment without being mechanically trained.
What we need to do today is to let the children explore their qualities naturally by speaking on various topics and discussing social and political issues with their parents and teachers, playing outdoor games as per their wishes letting the natural instincts tell them about their capabilities. This is how the natural talents of a child can be explored and further developed.


In the end I would conclude with this quote, “The goal of education is not to increase the amount of knowledge but to create the possibilities for a child to invent and discover, to create men and women who are capable of doing new things.”