Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Help Children Achieve Freedom From Erratic Lifestyle

“Think in the morning. 
  Act in the noon.
  Eat in the evening.
  Sleep in the night.” William Blake

You might wonder why I am dealing with an issue related to health and lifestyle. The reason is that we are what we eat and it is a matter of concern that the food habits of kids are changing for the worst. I was recently going through certain statistics that show the hike in consumption of junk and processed food by kids of 10 to 15 years of age and this hike is alarming. What made me skim through this data is the recent scenario of in-activeness among kids.

It has been a constant feedback by the teachers that students are inactive and many of them are drowsy in the morning when they come to school and hence find it difficult to participate in classroom interaction and extracurricular activities. Quite a number of them are generally tired. Many students (especially the ones in middle and high school) do not eat breakfast due to some obvious reasons. To understand and perform better the kids need to be active listeners and concentrate in the class. When we tried to find the reason, it is mainly improper food and sleeping habits. Some students say that as they go to sleep very late so are not able to get up early in the morning hence tend to get late to the school due to which do not get time to have breakfast. In some cases as no one else in the family gets up early so they do not get the breakfast prepared at all. Also the quality and nature of the food served has changed (processed food) and contribute negatively towards the health of the children. 

As processed food is easily available and convenient to cook, even the parents these days have switched to it. Packed food items and junk have become the smart and easy way to breakfast and brunch. Kids are depending on milk and a bowl of cereal for their breakfast, the meal of the day which is supposed to be the richest. Even in their lunchbox they bring fried stuff and oily preparations which are quick to prepare. They make the kids sleepy and lethargic.

The routine/schedule of all family members have undergone a sea change and late going to parties/ eating outside in restaurants has become very common (in some cases almost this is a daily routine). The children have their dinner very late which results in going to bed late. They most disappointing attitude here is that of the parents. They are solely responsible for providing them with such food items and junk. Outings and weekend get-togethers are no more about arranging a picnic or an athletic sport or spree in the park but it has become all about going to a restaurant and eating pizzas and burgers. Parents need to remember that it’s their responsibility to make sure that their kids eat healthy food at proper time and also make their kid realize the importance of balanced diet. Not everything is learnt from the theories of science book but by practice.

The lack of proper and adequate sleep is hampering the performance of students in class and they experience constant fatigue and drowsiness. They are bound to attend and be a part of late night family functions and parties. Even the parents have adopted a lifestyle where they go to bed in late hours and indirectly encourage the children too to do the same thus disturbing their schedule/routine.

Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together”. “The lack of sleep is also a result of constant stress the students are facing due to burden of tuition homework and 4 to 5 hours of coaching after school. This becomes so stressful that the brain comes to saturation and makes it impossible for a child to perform well on both these platforms i.e, school and coaching centers.

“There are data that sleep loss leads to learning and memory impairment, as well as decreased attention and vigilance,” says Dr. Kushida. “In the student-age population, studies have found that factors such as self-reported shortened sleep time, erratic sleep/wake schedules, late bed and rise times, and poor sleep quality are negatively associated with school performance for adolescents from middle school through college. Thus, there is ample evidence to indicate that the lack of adequate night time sleep can lead to disturbances in brain function, which in turn, can lead to poor academic performance.”

The parents here need to realize that the environment these days asks for better food habits and sound sleep so as to be more productive in this competitive world.
I believe that parents need to make nutrition education a priority in their home environment. It's crucial for good health and longevity to instil sound eating habits from an early age”, said Cat Cora and I believe this should be the way to go. Parents should adopt a healthy lifestyle and food habits for the kids to emulate. They should take care that the kids eat proper breakfast and brunch with maximum amount of protein. Physical activities should be encouraged and junk should be strictly avoided from a very early age.

The schools and the teachers also need to take this responsibility of educating the children about the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Not only students but parents should also be made aware of all the food groups and the importance of incorporating all of them in a day’s meal plan. Students at school should be appreciated if they eat healthy food and others should be encouraged to the same. At Maria Montessori Magnet School in Rockford, Ill., parent group members have got together to ensure that the students get only wholesome food to school.  Some parent groups purchase food and exercise journals for students, offering journals to other family members, making the food log concept a whole-family activity. The process of calculating calories burned and calories consumed can double as a math lesson too. Kids should be encouraged to turn junk into healthy food options themselves as they should be encouraged to experiment with chapattis tacos and wheat crust veggies stuffed pizza, fruit cream salads and homemade shakes.

AASM (American Academy of Sleep Medication) is a professional membership organization dedicated to the advancement of sleep medicine and sleep-related research. It has provided the following tips to help students get the most out of their sleep:
Go to bed early 

Children should go to bed early enough to have the opportunity for a full night of sleep. They need about seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
Get out of bed 

If you have trouble falling asleep, get out of bed and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy.
Stay out of bed 

Don’t study, read, watch TV or talk on the phone in bed. Use your bed only when you go to sleep.
Limit naps 

If you take a nap then keep it brief. Nap for less than an hour and before 3 in the afternoon has been found helpful
Wake up on the weekend 

It is best to go to bed and wake up at the same times on the weekend also as the children do during the school week. If you missed out on a lot of sleep during the week, then you can try to catch up on the weekend. But sleeping till late on Saturdays and Sundays will make it very hard for them to wake up for classes on Monday and Tuesday’s morning.
Avoid caffeine 

Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and at night. It stays in your system for hours and can make it hard for you to fall asleep.
Adjust the lights 

Dim the lights in the evening and at night so your body knows it will soon be time to sleep. Let in the sunlight in the morning to boost your alertness.
Wind down 

Take some time to “wind down” before going to bed. Get away from the computer, turn off the TV and the cell phone, and relax quietly for 15 to 30 minutes.
Eat a little 

Never eat a large meal right before bedtime. Enjoy a healthy snack or light dessert so you don’t go to bed hungry.

If this appears to be impossible for the parents and children to follow then the government should change the school timings appropriately and it can be from 9 AM to 3.40 PM so that our children do not suffer from lack of sleep and proper food.


I hope my thoughts on this topic will be taken in the right spirit and healthy lifestyle would be prioritized by parents as well as students because all know it very well that a sound mind resides in a healthy body. I would conclude with this quote by Lord Buddha, “To keep the body in good health is a duty, otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Nurture values to strengthen the future of kids

I have a certain belief system when it comes to understanding the kids. It might not be in sync with your understanding of them.  Some people also label my notions about the kids as “idealistic” but I stand firm on it.
Being in the field of education for the last thirty-five years, I come across many cases related to the students and every incident in one or the other way becomes a learning experience for me. I came across the fact that there are some students who create disturbance in the classroom and hinder the teaching learning process. To deal with the situation I discussed it with the parents and teachers of these students but to my disappointment I realized that they have given up on these kids. I am not justifying the kids here but is it plausible to give up on our own kids? Has it come to this, that we cannot persuade and motivate our students and kids towards something constructive? Is it the frustration of the teachers and the parents as well that is being showered upon the kids instead of a sincere portrayal of patience and understanding?
Pondering upon the issue thereafter I stated in my previous article that students shouldn’t be blamed for the incompetence and frustration of teachers and parents. Consequently, I was contradicted and subtly criticized on my views but I still want to state that plants grow in shady trees only when they are nourished and nurtured with patience and care. And a plant needs a specific atmosphere and surrounding to grow based on its distinct features; it cannot flourish everywhere no matter how much you nurture it. A coconut tree can be made to survive in different climatically conditions and might also bear fruits but the quality of fruits cannot be the same as in the environment conducive for the proper growth of these trees.
When I talk of these kids, I would want to ask you that were the kids this indifferent and stubborn since the time they were mere infants? Who is responsible for this change in their behavior from infancy to teenage? Why is it that a few kids are doing amazingly well in many fields and the others are reluctant?  When board results are declared then most of the teachers tend to take credit if the kids pass in flying colors and point out the demerits of the kids when they don’t perform well. Isn’t the same happening at their homes too? The father would proudly spread the news of his child doing well and in case of academic and behavioral downfall he would question the mother, as to how is she raising their kids. So as a father if one can take the credit then one should also be ready to share the blame.
I don’t want to talk about shortcomings but want to discuss that we as parents and teachers should try to understand, what our kids actually need instead of fulfilling their wants. The kids are at loggerheads with the teachers and parents because we as their guardians are imposing rules on them instead of helping them understand what they actually need. The concept of joint families played a crucial role as the unavailability of parents was being taken care of by the grandparents. And the child would find a neutral space to put forth his points and any of the  shortcomings of the parents was thus compensated. Today, the gap of the generations is widening, the conflicts within the family members are surfacing and are dealt with in front of the child. Today, a child is expected to excel in numerous fields and is carrying the burden of incessant competition. If the kids are experiencing loneliness today, is it their fault? Did they ask their parents to be ambitious? These questions perturb me and I have to repeat time and again that we blame kids for our limitations.
In today’s all are stressed and in the process do not introspect but ask for actions and solutions against each other’s. In this respect I would like to cite an example of confession by a child through a song. Recently, inter school classical music competition took place in the school and the participants exhibited amazing patience and discipline. One of the kids sang a song which conveyed the idea that there were many shortcomings in him and he would have committed many mistakes and God should show him the right path.  This acceptance of mistake in the present times has become a lost practice. No one is ready to accept their mistake. When we adults aren’t ready to accept our mistakes then how would kids accept, confess, confide in us and finally improve?
Sometimes when I talk to the kids, a few of them confess their mistakes and even promise, crying, that they would never commit the mistake again and they are genuinely sorry.  But are these tears real in all the cases? Yes but not always because after a few minutes some children are found smirking and giggling. But the question arises that from where the kids have acquired this pretense?
On various tours with students, I get a chance to observe them. In some cases, it is observed that the students are veru well behaved and organized. They would have have acquired all the information about the places to be visited and their importance. These children are very punctual and follow the advice of the teachers. Their rooms are neat , tidy and well kept. But at the same there are many who would not even know by what mode and what time their travel is planned ,forget about the places to be visited. They are usually late without realizing that this approach will disturb the entire group. This first group of the children have been groomed well by the parents/family whereas in the second case this has not been so. Isn’t upbringing marking a drastic difference here? Well, it’s something to think about. Mobiles, motorcycles and other facilities are considered to be a token of pleasure and are used recklessly by the students and it’s disappointing that parents are promoting these.
Values cannot be brought with money. Values are imbibed and inculcated and the present generation needs it on a priority basis. Try listening and encouraging the kids to listen to educational All India Radio channels or such other media, inspirational books and motivational TV shows which showcase the traditional and historical tales of our country. If kids listen to the inspiring stories of Panna Dhai, MaharaniPadmini and Maharana Pratap,Sardar Patel and such other great people then we don’t need to lecture them on moral values. Kids do observe and they observe a lot so we need to take care of our conduct and activities in front of them.
Another important thing to make children aware of is the value of hard work. They should not be provided with all the possible luxuries which mould them to take things for granted. They will have to be shown that the facilities they are enjoying are a result of consistent hard work and sacrifices on the part of their parents and grandparents. They should be taught to lead a humble life with a realization that nothing would come easy in life and one should relish what one is worthy of as that gives the real satisfaction. Kids have to understand that even in 21st century, hard work is the key to success.
Another issue that kids today do not get the chance to accept defeat gracefully. Exposed to expensive and virtual video games they have lost the art of learning through failures. In these games (which are violent and vulgar) the character they associated themselves with usually wins, which is not always the case in real life hence they do not learn to take defeat in their stride. But this is our responsibility to make them understand that failure is a stepping stone and makes one strong and helps learn from mistakes.
Some parents do raise the concern that the change in exam system has created a lot of stress on students (I do not know whether these are the parents whose stress pass on to the students) and hence, to be thorough with the course tuitions become important. Talking about the trap of coaching and tuitions, I would request the patents to avoid this farce show of commercial education. Half of the problems are arising due to them. Self-study is thereby becoming a ‘lost art’. Parents need to make sure that students do not waste time in coaching and work hard on self-study. By providing the tuitions, are we not serving them on the plate; everything is cooked and soon fed? And in this way we are killing creativity and curiosity. Tuition is a disease and parents are promoting it again as a necessity which it is not. If students are consistent then they won’t face such problems.
To conclude, I would give a tribute to Prof Yashpal, who was known for his contributions to the study of cosmic rays, as well as for being an institution-builder. In 1993, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Government of India, set up a National Advisory Committee, with Yashpal as chairman, to go into the issue of overburdening of school children. The report of the committee, entitled "Learning without Burden", is now regarded as a seminal document in Indian education. He believed in letting students ask questions and lighten their burden. He encouraged the students to ask questions because learning is the process that takes place in the time between students asking a question and teacher’s reply.
So, let the kids explore their horizons and let us be the facilitators not ‘providers of facilities’. I request the parents and teachers to take care of these points to help the kids not just grow but to develop. It’s our duty to provide them with the correct environment. Start practicing positivity towards the kids. Scold them, guide them but don’t give up on them.