Friday, 24 January 2014


As parents we are instinctively protective of our children; sometimes overmuch so. In fact it is very difficult to draw the line for overproctectiveness.
We are often confused about how much sheltering is good for our children. Our instincts tell us to always shield our children from unpleasantness, sickness, disease, poverty, unwholesome environment …anything which we perceive as being a threat to a child’s sense of stability and equilibrium. So when things are not pleasant we feel children are better off not knowing them. Now of course in a wide range of circumstances this may be true and children need not be exposed to unnecessary unpleasantness but sometimes when some not so nice situations become a way of life, it is best to let children face these situations along with you.
A child cannot be shielded if there a chronically sick member in the family or if a sibling is handicapped, in case of sudden death of a member or the moving away of any one parent due to any circumstance. Even if there have been major financial losses children cannot be sheltered from such realities for prolonged periods. Children of very young ages till about 6 to 7 yrs may not understand but older children quickly notice any change in the family set-up
 These situations can be long drawn and a child who is confused about the changed situation at home is extremely vulnerable. The half answers that we are supplying in order to spare him the pain often make the child more baffled , nervous and insecure.  and your reluctance in sharing  with him will only increase his apprehensions    Very young children can be pacified with doctored answers but a child who can sense the change in his surroundings but is still not given any explanations may become more confused.
Sometimes our frankness with children gives them a sense of assurance and security and tells them that as parents you are in control of the situation and will eventually tide over these adverse circumstances somehow. Children trust their parents and their sense of wellbeing is closely linked to the confidence displayed by their parents.
So if you are nursing a sick person at home, make the child aware of what is happening. For instance if your child watches you take care of  sick  or handicapped people at home ,he is learning  a lot from you. He is becoming emotionally stronger, is learning to appreciate that families are about taking care of each other and will not lose his nerve if he is faced with such situations later in life. In times of financial stress gently explain how some of their demands cannot be met just yet but as soon as situation becomes better you will make it up to them. Just yelling at them and getting irritated to give vent to your frustration will only make them feel miserable
Sometimes it is best to let children watch you  deal with trying situations as it can  be a good learning experience for them  and watching you  handle difficult situations can teach them a lot more than anything  you can  tell them verbally,
Children who grow up facing difficult and trying situations are often emotionally more mature than their more sheltered counterparts   they are usually better equipped to handle the ups and downs of life at a later stage
Children are extremely perceptive --they understand a lot more than we can imagine and giving them roundabout answers will only confuse them. If they feel you are hiding something they will fear the worst and become uneasy anyway.  Do not underestimate their comprehension  power .If they are sure that you are in control of the situation they  will not only feel  more comfortable  in adverse situations but will also respect you for trying to handle it to the best of your ability.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014



When I was growing up my whole treasure trove of toys comprised of a few hand -me -down dolls, missing a few limbs; a rusted bicycle which was a remnant of the lost childhood of some older cousin and a whole lot of books. I would often dream about the fairy tale like toy collections of my friends and if I could have one wish come true I would have asked for the replica of the fancy dolls my friends, aunties and uncles brought from their foreign trips. Since I was not lucky enough to have any such strategically placed relations, my father tried to make my wish come true by buying me a doll from the local market. Today I do not, for the life of me, remember anything about that much cherished doll. What I do   remember however, is the little wooden doll house he built and the fun we had designing and decorating it with cardboard cut-out furniture and painting it with left over wall-paints.
   When I look back  the fondest memories of my childhood 
have very little to do with that much coveted and cherished doll What I recall best is the time I spent watching him build that wooden house out of old odds and ends and getting that paper furniture together. I have vivid memories of Papa and me, our hands covered in white enamel paint, sitting in our balcony and painting our old garden chairs. I hated science till Papa fashioned a magnifying glass for me from an old lens and helped me discover intricate patterns in leaves, fabric, hair etc. My happiest memories  are of  me and my father  reading and sharing interesting  bits of information from numerous periodicals and him , recounting tales from his own childhood And in all this ,  that much coveted imported doll figures  nowhere in my memories.

Much later in life when I had   my own children I tried to give them all that I had dreamed about when I was that young. The latest    toys, gadgets, stationary anything… the best that we could afford and   I was satisfied that they would have a ‘complete’ childhood

One day while looking at old family photographs I was amazed to see how my kids recalled each tiny detail of the trips we had taken together. Our first trip abroad  when they were 7 &10, yet they remembered names of places, the hotels ,the things that had gone wrong, how much trouble we had with language, how much fun we had grocery shopping and cooking in our studio apartments in the various cities we stayed in, trying to decipher maps and dragging our suitcases where escalators were out of order…… everything we did together.  Everything was etched in their minds with amazing clarity and warmth.   On an impulse I asked them about some of their most  prized possessions of their childhood… expensive  model of a Cadillac my son had bought on a trip to Canada,  a Disney trinket my daughter  had bought  and kept carefully wrapped up … were  vague recollections now but the good times we had had  were vivid memories years later  .

I felt so contented that just like me ,my  children had a whole treasury  of  happy , wholesome  family  memories of our “together ‘times, and that somehow makes me convinced that we  have been successful, to some extent ,as  parents.
As parents we are so preoccupied with providing the latest gadgets, toys, playthings to our kids, to fulfill their endless demands thinking that we are providing them a happy, complete childhood. Instead, try to focus on how much of your time and yourself you can give to them. What they are likely to remember and cherish most when they are older is not their playthings but who they played with. Children recall pleasant times spent with loved ones with more warmth and accuracy than any fancy toys you might buy them. What we buy for their momentary distraction, or to make up for the lack of time that we spend with them remains just that---- momentary. What children remember and cherish for a lifetime is what they do with you not what you buy for them. So spend more time ---it doesn't’ matter whether we do anything productive or just fool around with them ---the dividend would be much higher than by buying them mindless toys just to keep them occupied when we are too busy to be with them

Tuesday, 7 January 2014


Mark Twain once rightly wrote,”   I have never let my schooling interfere with my education”. Strange as it may sound this quote has taken on a new relevance today . Formal school education   today undoubtedly gears kids to be brilliant in their careers and make the sort of money our parents only dreamt about. But in the whole rat race ‘education’ as a means   of developing a more evolved individual sadly seems to have taken a back seat.
The whole idea of formal education was to make children more open to new learning and thereby inculcate values like tolerance, consideration for others, politeness, civic sense and a sense of responsibility. Which  is why I cringe every time I see young students go on a rampage while showing their displeasure about various issues and destroy public property without a thought.
All the time we were trying to teach kids to be competitive and be winners, we forgot to teach them a little decency while dealing with competition. Today their only focus is to get ahead of the others by hook or by crook, stepping on others backs and bending any number of rules in the process----because the end justifies the means.
May be we should redesign the education system so that our children should learn a basic human skill –to be nice to others and learn to adjust and accommodate others. School  curricula has managed to overlook this dire need to teach restraint to our youngsters. After all man is a social animal and needs to co-inhabit this planet in harmony with others. In trying to express their individuality they must learn to respect others ‘  individuality too. Education should  also focus on teaching this generation peaceful, amiable co-existence—living with quirks of others, sharing their space with those less fortunate or less intellectual than themselves. Otherwise we can look forward to a whole new generation of extremely selfish, goal oriented, opportunist youngsters who think nothing of stepping over others’
space, abusing peers, seniors, teachers, parents, taking advantage those  less aggressive than them and bullying subordinates, siblings and domestic helpers.
The growing rate of crime by educated youth is alarming. Incidents of burglaries, jewellery snatching, rapes, bullying are increasing. In fact even the growth in the rate of divorces and failed relationships would justify the claim that somewhere education has failed to inculcate the basic skill of controlling our negative emotions, more specifically –anger. Try giving advice to a teenager and they promptly put you in your place. Criticism is not acceptable and is seen as a deep insult evoking, passionate responses. Faced with an unpleasant situation they either sink into depression, often taking drastic steps, or else become hyper -active , venting their emotions by bullying juniors and  insulting parents and teachers.
It’s time we designed a special course in schools to teach basic human skills
Such as
1) Living harmoniously in a family or school set up.
2) Dealing with unpleasant/ unexpected/ disappointing situations.
3) Expressing anger in a non -violent way.
4) Competing in a fair manner with due respect to peers.
5) Respect other’s space while expressing their individuality.
6) Being responsible for their actions and have respect for property.
7) Learning to sometimes give in to others and not assert  their own will  --sometimes it can give immense pleasure specially to those who love them
8) Learn gratitude and express it. To not take parents and friends for granted.
9) They can be effective leaders only when they have an emotional connect with their team.
10) When they are trying to win they should also learn how to lose  with grace.

11) And this is perhaps most important and most difficult as well--- Learning to accept when they are wrong and to apologize.

My point is that education should teach us not only how to lead but also how to follow and respect authority; how to work as a team player; how to co-exist with people we may not like, and most importantly ---to learn restraint and try to  be genuinely nice to those around us.

Thursday, 2 January 2014



Last week I met a friend whose 8 year old son was becoming excessively quiet at school .He was not communicating with the teacher and even though had some friends yet was not very keen to attend school. However at home he was becoming abusive and violent. With parents who were extremely soft spoken and hailing from a typical joint family the child’s behavior   was baffling..Repeated enquiries as to why he was sitting alone, why he had his lunch alone etc met with a blunt denial, “No I’m not”..

Look for signs of aloofness and sudden   withdrawal in the child .Sometimes these may be early indicators of later problems.  Children stop communicating for a number of reasons.
1.   Sometimes a rude remark by the teacher and subsequent’ branding ‘of children as ‘duffer’’ naughty’ ‘ ‘thief’ etc makes his classmates target him and isolate him . He feels left out and withdraws into a shell. However the frustration comes out at home and he becomes abusive. You need to speak to the teacher and rest of the classmates to know what has occurred in class A teacher should not humiliate or’ brand ‘a child 
2.   If a child has fallen into bad company and feels compelled to do things he knows are wrong, he withdraws from contact with his parents. The peer pressure and the desire to belong outweigh the trust of the parents and to avoid lying, children simply avoid conversation. Keep track of their friends and make an effort to know their parents so you know what company they keep.
3.   Check the possibility of bullying. This could be in the classroom, play ground , cafeteria and most often in school buses. You are not likely to get any straight answers from the child directly so it may be worthwhile to get in touch with the child’s friends/teachers/coach etc to get a clearer picture. Report  any bullying immediately
4.   Do not hesitate to discuss any change in your child’s behavior with the school psychologist/ counselor (most schools have one) or the teacher in charge. They spend a good amount of time with your child and can give an unbiased view about his/her  conduct and relationship with other teachers and classmates
5.   Any unfair comparison with class mates or siblings who are more talented or competent can make the child withdraw into   a shell. Each child is unique and there are bound to be individual differences .Appreciate the child’s smallest achievements to make him/her more forthcoming.
6.   The child may be facing some kind of physical abuse and does not know how to tell you..Children often develop feelings of guilt Gently explain the concept of ‘good’ and ‘‘bad ‘touch without any reference to his /her behavior  and let him / her open up to you..
7.  The child may have an embarrassing habit such as bedwetting or thumb sucking or stammering for which he/she is being singled out for ridicule by the rest..Get medical help if needed to make the child more comfortable.
8.  Take   a look within your family setup. Parental discord or domestic violence can make the child clam up and aloof. Try to keep your home a happy and safe haven for your child.

 Whatever the reason the child holds back his emotions; the result  of this repression is usually angry outbursts and tantrums when he is in more familiar surrounding----home.
Parents and siblings are usually the punching bags. A little understanding and patience can usually work wonders.