Tuesday, March 31, 2009
A must-have hand book for parents
Wanting the ‘best’ and doing one’s utmost to facilitate that ‘best’ in our children, comes naturally to most parents. We stretch beyond the available resources-time, energy, finances, efforts etc. to provide an environment which would enable optimal growth in them. Our dreams for them are noble-we want them to be responsible, confident, intelligent, independent, creative, ethical and good.
The right dreams, passion for those dreams, sustained efforts commensurate to that passion is there in us parents, yet the results that we should have, are not. Despite all our industry we see our children struggling with- low self–esteem, anxiety, packed-schedules leading to burn-outs, stress, loneliness, boredom, obesity, depression, to name a few. We often find ourselves lost, exhausted and uncertain on the righteousness and efficacy of our parental efforts. Our parenting style comes from what we value; what we see around us; what influences us; how we were raised ourselves; others' opinions. Often we struggle, as new parents, with our own values versus the values of others. Consciously/unconsciously we get into the measurable achievement trap (grades, trophies, variety of extra-curricular etc.) where the ‘child’ becomes the product that we are developing rather than thinking, intelligent, whole with his/her unique desires talents and individuality.
Our instincts tell us that something is not right, yet what is, we do not know. Kids do not come with a manual and the jargon of work on parenting is often conflicting and polarized. We have all felt and still feel this lack- lack of proper understanding, knowledge and information on:
The child vis-à-vis himself/herself (child’s native interests, strengths and level)
The child vis-à-vis us (our expectations of/from him/her)
The child vis-à-vis the world
This book essentially addresses these three issues.
Some questions which I struggled with during the course of writing this book are:
Is parenting about my child or about ME?
Unconsciously, our parenting is so loaded with our expectations of what we want from our children and what we think is right for them, that we disregard their native endowments, interests and strengths. Our knowledge of the child is also clouded with the overwhelming anxiety of the child vis-à-vis the world. The omnipresent fear, ‘will my child carve a successful and happy life in this fast-paced over-competitive global world’ influences and shapes most of our parenting strategies.
We forget that each child is endowed with unique qualities and the fundamental need to discover his/her place in "the world." But before he discovers his place, he has to discover himself. Each child has the inner desire to learn, grow, and become independent. And most importantly he has the right to his own bent. We need to trust that our children are following their individual timetable for development. Can we trust in the bigger picture even when we don't see it?
►Growth and learning
Is learning the result of teaching, or the logical outcome of curiosity, observation, experiments, mistakes and understanding of the learner?
We must provide a congenial environment for that learning to occur. Children are like sponges - absorbing all that surrounds them. We can provide them with the tools-materials, exposure, space, guidance, security and freedom in a loving, supportive and encouraging environment and hope that they reach their potential; we can’t reach it for them. A certain sense of humility and faith is required-humility that I can provide him the tools for success but not the success itself and faith that my child has his unique endowments which he will actualize at his own pace. My focus should be to help my child transform his/her natural curiosity and interest into a strong inner discipline and motivation. A question that I have often asked myself in this context is, ‘Am I going to let my child find his own level?’ Winston Churchill said, “Where my reason, imagination or interest were not engaged, I would not or I could not learn.”
As a conscious parent I must always strive to understand afresh:
How do I draw a line between:-
Freedom and guidance
Discipline and permissiveness
Space and control
Structured time and unstructured time
Independence and scrutiny
Being a guide and being a friend
Challenging and supporting
►Children as witnesses to our path
I am my child’s living example. What am I modeling?
If we do not model what we teach, then we are teaching something else.
I want my child to be persevering, am I so?
I want my child to be a good human, am I so?
I want my child to grow, am I growing-as a parent, individual, human?
My children are watching me make my way. Not about what I do, but how I do it. Not about my parenting style, but my personal style.
Says Joyce Maynard, “As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. I can't tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it, myself.”
This book is a compilation of:
I am a mother of two girls and we often had open discussions and debates; question/answer sessions; introspection sessions; experiments in handling issues such as anger, fear, failure, relationships, education, learning, absorbing, etc. My children struggle with me almost as much as I struggle with them.
Research- from books, journals, magazines, Universities, Institutions, etc. dealing in child psychology, philosophy, behavioural sciences, pedagogy, strategies, attitudes which work etc.
Of childhoods which have worked-I interviewed people we look upon to, from all walks of life. I went behind their passions and challenges, their everyday life experiences and influences which have shaped and chiseled them to what they are. Some names are Kumar Mangalam Birla, Jaya Bachchan, Sachin Tendulkar, Jogen Chowdhary, Mrinal Sen, Hemant Trivedi, Kiran Bedi, Javed Akhtar, Shreya Ghoshal, Jonny Lever, Pandit Jasraj, Harsh Neotia, Anup Jalota, Jatin Das, Darshana Zhaveri, Tanuja Chandra and Sanjeev Kapoor.
I interviewed ordinary parents-neighbours, friends, colleagues for their experiences which made for insightful learning.
I interviewed about 500 children aged between 5 and 12 to know what really goes on in their thinking minds and their magical world.
This book deals with:
Attitudes that we want to develop in our children
Love of learning
An open mind
Sense of humour
Ethical values that we want to inculcate in our children
Gifts that we need to give them
There is no one right way, but there is a right direction-which is to keep in tandem with the child’s natural self, if we can do this in a loving and respectful manner, we will have done enough. As Osho said, “Everybody is trying to make you somebody else, whom you cannot become. You can only become yourself, or you can miss becoming.”
Lastly as parents the healthiest thing we can do both for ourselves and our children is to grant ourselves the freedom of a few mistakes which we will inevitably make along the way. For a planned parenting strategy however detailed, falls short in many real situations. Besides children are resilient – we will not lose them through a few mistakes.