According to Zen Buddhist master and peace activist, Thich Nhat Hanh, Thay, “Each one of us has both negative seeds (for example, anger, rage, jealousy, hatred) and wholesome seeds (love, joy, gratitude, compassion, courage) and what will grow depends on the seeds we water. Similarly, in our relationship with our children, the seeds that will sprout and gain strength are the ones that we nurture. Simple.” (Source: https://indianexpress.com/article/parenting/health-fitness/imagine-parenting-and-the-art-of-selective-watering-6075830/)
Before I come to the topic let me share with you an interesting excerpt from an article (which I recently read in Indian Express) by Shelja Sen. As children possess multiple intelligences, Ms Sen observes that the way they are recognized in a school and by their parents should also be according to the same. She talks about three kinds of recognitions that children should receive i.e Active Recognition, Value Recognition and Creative Recognition. Under active recognition she suggests that children need to know that they are valued and there should be a ‘light up day’ when parents and teachers can observe them a little more keenly with a subtle hint of extra understanding and optimism so that they can feel the extra attention.
Explaining active recognition, she writes that children thrive when they feel they are being appreciated, recognized and valued as human beings. However, she warns that it is also very important to differentiate between recognition and praise. “Praise like ‘you are so pretty’, ‘you are so intelligent’, ‘you are so smart’ is like junk food, which does not really nourish a child. Carol Dweck from Stanford University, in her decades of research in this field, calls praise ‘fixed feedback’ (i.e., something that can’t be changed), which ends up breeding a generation of praise junkies who are resistant to growth. Fixed feedback does not help the child to grow and, on the other hand, can just make her complacent and reluctant to work on her skills.”
However, she introduces the remarkable idea of Process Feedback, “recognitions, which highlight effort, persistence, compassion, etc are like process feedback (i.e., something that can be changed), which enhances the growth mindset in children.”
Telling us the importance of Creative Recognition she explains that some children get lost in the crowd. It is the responsibility of the parents and teachers to give them the opportunity to grow at their own pace. By recognizing them in school we become active agents. These kids have tremendous potential; all they need is space and time. “The art of selective watering is about accepting and celebrating the child as he is and not as you wished he was.”
Now, as we have understood the need of recognition, appreciation and value. We realize that it needs not only time but also keen observation and undivided attention, none of which can be replaced by anything material or short term. Like nurturing a plant, children need patience, care and time too.
Here I would like to share a story I recently read which depicts that a busy couple could rarely take out time for their child. They tried to compensate the lacuna thus created through materialistic stuff like gifts, gadgets, generous pocket money, gourmet special cuisine and what not. Unfortunately, they come to know that the child is suffering from cancer and their world comes crashing down. They realize that the child now needs nothing but their constant care and attention. Now, this unfortunate event is shattering but why a disease or disability should only force parents to show the fathomless love they harbor for their child. I want parents to take time and ponder over this.
Parenting isn’t an easy task. More difficult than love and care is the fact that the child is raised with a sense of integrity. Integrity cannot be compromised in any situation if we want to raise good citizens. As discussed previously, parents often tend to compensate lack of time and attention with privileges that they often shower on their kids. Situations become worse when kids normalize this behaviour and start seeking happiness in these undue advantages. One of the most harmful things a parent can do is to favour their child even when they are wrong. This is neither support nor is it taking a stand for the child. It might sound a little severe but I must say that as teachers and parents our focus is not and should not be ‘to be in the good books of the children’. We aren’t here to favour them when they are wrong, so that they like us better. We are here to create a balance and raise righteous children. And this definitely comes with a sacrifice of sometimes being at loggerheads with our own kids. But that is ok if we are doing what is right for them. I would like to share an incident in this context. A child was constantly creating trouble in the class. He was neither paying attention in the class nor completing his work. The class teacher as well as the subject teachers tried to counsel the child but it did not yield any fruitful result so they thought of taking the help of parents. The parents specially the father conveyed to the teachers (in presence of the child) that he did not listen to them also hence it is the teachers only who should try to improve him. They also conveyed that they should not be called to the school and whatever teachers think right can do. In between the mother remained in touch with the teachers and shared the problems in the family. The teachers kept working hard with the child but as there was no help from family so there was almost no improvement in the child rather things went from bad to worse. The child remained absent from the school quite often and parent did not respond to the messages sent by the school. The parents told the class teacher that the child did not listen to them so they could not do anything. One day the child got involved in some fight in school and misbehaved with the teacher so he along with few other children were made to sit in separate room so that the problem could be solved without letting it flareup further. When the child went home and fearing that the parents would be called to school, he narrated a story and conveyed that he was wrongly made to sit in a different room. When the child was punished, the father finally responded. But unfortunately, he favoured the wrong doing of his child and confronted the teacher why was his son sent out of the class. This was surprising to know that all of a sudden, the father became so much concerned about the child though in the past he always said that he was a gone case and out of his control. I would like to mention that this was not an isolated case and few other parents had behaved exactly in the same manner so we thought and analyzed the issues. After discussions with psychologists and educationists and other parents I came to the conclusion that this was the case luring the child towards them by the parents by supporting his wrong actions as they were not able to get respect from the child by telling him the right things. The parents were just trying to be ‘good’ to the child without realizing that the school wanted the child to improve. I could see the desperation of the parent, how he wanted the child to approve of him but I guess this is where we are failing these days.
Anyway, my only advice to the parents and teachers is to make sure that our focus is to encourage and enhance the qualities of our kids and deal with the negatives firmly and unapologetically, definitely justifying our actions but not owing any explanations. Here, I would like to put forth the example of SC Johnson owned mosquito repellent brand All Out’s new campaign on why we must lend support to ‘Tough Moms’ who teach children key life lessons.
“The digital film, conceptualized by advertising agency BBDO India (Gurugram) and directed by ace filmmaker Shoojit Sircar, unfolds at the dinner table where a joint family is gathered for a meal. The film features a mother who is evidently angry at her son for stealing money and refuses to entertain his tantrums when he refuses to eat. While the rest of the family members on the table start criticizing her for being too hard on the boy, the grandfather supports her decision of tough parenting as she wants to instill in the child, a sense of right and wrong.” (Source: https://www.livemint.com/Consumer/W7KpDEybSkMG8d4ARqeq0H/All-Outs-digital-campaign-on-tough-moms-garners-over-15-mil.html)
At the end of the day, the most overwhelming key to a child's success is the positive involvement of parents and positive not always means favourable but it definitely always means nurturing and dedicated. The need of the hour is to realize the importance of time we need to give to our children. The time and effort also needs to be constructive and positive focusing on the holistic development of the child. We must remember that a parent’s love and attention cannot be replaced by anything else in the entire world.