Most young children have no difficulty expressing what they feel at any given moment.
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When they are happy, they skip, dance, run and scream in joy!
When they are sad, they cry and cry and cry till there are no more tears left to shed.
When they are upset, frustrated or want your attention, they throw tantrums.
They are very frank in their expression of different emotions. However, not all children retain this ability to express their emotions. As they move closer to adulthood, many of them lose this ability.
Why is that so?
Remember an instance from your childhood when you were really troubled by something.
Maybe you fell sick and could not go to a friend's birthday party. How did you feel? Probably disappointed?
Maybe your younger sister got away with some mischief on grounds of being young while you were reprimanded for the same? How did you feel? Angry?
Maybe you were told by your teacher that you are dumb and you felt sad and cried about the same. How did it feel?
Under such circumstances, maybe you were frank enough to express all that you felt- in your own way. But you were not understood. You were also ridiculed for feeling in certain ways.
Maybe you were told, "Only bad children feel this way? Are you good or bad?" And then you suppressed your emotions for fear of being labelled bad.
Or maybe you were told, " Only babies feel this way. Are you a baby or a big boy/girl?" And then you suppressed your emotions for fear of being labelled a 'baby'.
So, now you see how most of us lose our ability to express our emotions.
We were always afraid of expressing our emotions for that would make us seem inadequate. In order to be accepted by people and look 'GOOD' in their eyes, we learnt to put on a mask. And as an adult, it is so difficult to remove this mask and throw it away for good- unless one makes a conscious effort over a period of time.
As children many of us were not guided on how to express our emotions in a healthy manner and that made us throw tantrums and behave in unacceptable ways at times.
Think about it. Is there anything wrong with expressing what we feel? We are human beings after all and that means it is perfectly normal for us to have emotions. Expressing our emotions does not mean throwing tantrums or behaving in unacceptable ways. Children do the same because most of them are not taught how to express emotions in a healthy manner. They were born with the ability to express emotions naturally but lost it somewhere along the way.
And this is the case with most of us today.
Can we regain this ability?
Can we express our emotions without feeling bad about it?
Can we be like children-natural and spontaneous in our expression of emotions?
Yes, we can. It takes a bit of conscious effort and practice. But it is certainly possible.
Observe children! See how they express. Learn from them.
We don't have to throw child-like tantrums but we can certainly learn to express emotions as spontaneously as children do!
Observe a young child involved in different activities- such as playing with friends, dancing, talking, playing in the sand, or just walking up and down. Observe to what level the child is involved in the activity.
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Let us take one example of a child busy playing with friends, As the child plays, do you think he is worried about his upcoming lunch or about whether he is going to be successful in life once he grows up? Is he sulking about the friend who hurt him one year ago or worrying about what the teacher thought of him when he did not know a spelling?
The answer to all of these is a big fat NO!
Most children have no problem living completely in the present moment. They have no difficulty immersing themselves in the present, with no regrets about the past or worries about the future. When they feel an emotion, they are equally at ease expressing what they feel at that very instant. Very rarely do they carry the burdens of each day on to the next.
It is almost like they come alive with fresh energy each day and live their life all over again. It is like they are given a blank slate to write the story of their life anew every single day.
Now compare this to the state most of us adults live in. As we wake up, we are worried about whether we will make it to work on time. At work, we think about how the child is doing at school or what we need to cook for dinner that night, After work, we are tense about the next day's meeting or about whether the boss would criticise our project report. Once home. we worry about the fact that the child did not eat his lunch and how he is ever going to be healthy if he does not eat.To top it all, we also tend to think of all the people who hurt us in the past and the possibilities of being hurt again in the future. We tend to live in the past or the future most if the time. And usually, it is some kind of a worry or an anxiety that consumes us. .
What would happen if we could make a conscious effort to catch ourselves when we are drifting into the past or the future and gently bring ourselves back to the present moment? What if we could just live in the moment and live it fully?
Life would feel fresh and vibrant to us too. Just as it does to young children.
Living in the moment does not mean not learning from a past experience nor does it mean not planning for the future. Those are practical aspects of life that must be dealt with on an ongoing basis. It only means keeping our mind in the present, thinking of what needs to be done today and doing that, enjoying what is on our plate at the moment and feeling gratitude for the same. This shift in attitude would make our lives more joyful and meaningful. All we ever have to think about is only what this moment presents. And then we begin to enjoy life so much more just as children do!
Think about it. No matter how much you reflect on the past and all its glories or problems, it is never going to come back. And the future? Well, we are not there yet. And there is no way to know for sure about how life will turn out to be in the future. No amount of worrying is going to change a thing. So, it makes more sense to be optimistic about the future and think about it only when really necessary for practical purposes.
What about this moment? Do you have this moment? Are you alive? If you are reading this, you most certainly are! So, seize the moment and make the most of it! The past is gone forever. The future will take care of itself. Drop all worries and anxieties and live this minute.
Children are full of energy and enthusiasm. They seem to have this energy naturally. They retain it almost effortlessly up to a certain age, depending on each individual child. Once the same child grows up and becomes an adult, what happens to his energy? His enthusiasm for life? Where is the skip in his walk? The glitter in his eye? The zest for life? The appreciation for the small blessings of life? The patience to stare at a butterfly for extended lengths of time? Or play in the sand without ever feeling tired?
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As adults, many of us lose that energy and enthusiasm for life that came to us so naturally when we were children. We almost drag ourselves around, taking life a tad too seriously. We feel we have important work to do and there is no time to play around as children do.
As adults, we also develop a serious view that sees a child's life as just that- a child's life. We make a huge distinction between the world of adults and the world of children. We sincerely believe that the life of a child is not meant for an adult who has grown up and has more important things to accomplish than stop to stare at a fluttering butterfly with colourful wings.
However, if you analyse carefully, you will begin to see that the natural qualities of children would be very helpful to us as adults. That is, if only we could posses them. If only we are willing to acquire all over again what came naturally to us as children. They can help us deal with life more effectively. They can ease many of the burdens we carry. They can help us live one day at a time and make the most of our experiences. They can bless us with a renewed sense of appreciation for the world we live in and everything beyond. They can help us establish a connection with our own selves and rediscover ourselves. When we are able to see the world through the eyes of a child, our lives become more meaningful.We feel a sense of joy and wonder. We develop more enthusiasm. We learn to love unconditionally.And the list can go and on...
Here, I present a new series, "LIFE LESSONS to Learn from Children". This series will explore the various positive qualities that are naturally present in young children and how we as adults can learn to build a meaningful life by observing these qualities in children and train ourselves to reacquire them.
The first post in the series will be out shortly. Until then, keep observing children and see if you can find what is nice about their approach to life!
The cheery festival of Christmas holds universal appeal. We can almost sense the love, joy and good will permeating the world. It gives us an opportunity to spend time with near and dear ones, cook and eat together, decorate our homes, exchange presents and revel in the spirit of the season.
Does it also have something in store for children? (Apart from the presents!)
Yes it does!
It presents a wonderful opportunity for children to experience all that the season has to offer. However, this is possible only if we, as adults, can create an environment that would inspire them to participate and thereby experience all the good things the season has to offer. And it is only when they experience for themselves the joys of the season, that they would feel the desire to share the same with others, probably once they are a little older.
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Listed below are some ways that would make this possible.
Be open about your enthusiasm for the festival and tell your child how excited you are about the upcoming celebrations.
Make a list of all that you wish to do for the festival and let your child know about the same.
Ask your child if he or she would like to do something to celebrate Christmas.
Be prepared beforehand about the options you would like to give her to contribute to the celebrations.
Decide if you both would like to work together or if you would like her to plan her own Christmas celebration.
Some options for the child would include- decorating a Christmas tree, making greetings for friends and family, calling her friends over to see her tree, planning a menu for the day when her friends visit, and hosting her friends when they visit.
You can give her some exclusive space in your home. The child can decorate that space with her Christmas tree, art work or anything else that she has made for the celebration.
Last but not the least, remember to involve her in anything that she shows interest in. For example, if you are cooking a special meal and she shows interest in the same, encourage her participation to whatever extent possible. The best way for children to experience the spirit of festivals is by being an integral part of them, rather than just watching all that is being performed by the adults around them.
Involve your child, encourage her participation and allow her to experience the flavour of this merry season! For it is only when we experience the joy of something ourselves that we feel inspired to share the same with the world!
Your neighbour's child can count to 100 effortlessly. Your child is struggling to count even up to 50. No matter how many times you get him to practise, he always ends up forgetting the sequence. How do you feel?
Your sister's child has started reading. Your child is still confused with some of the letters and will take some more time to begin reading. What would you do?
On Sports Day at school, your child's best friend wins several prizes while your child gets none. What will you say to him?
Have you ever found yourself trapped in such situations? How do you feel when you think that your child is lagging behind when compared to other children his age?
Disappointed? Worried about his future? Anxious that he might never improve? Guilty that you might not be paying enough attention to his growth and development?
What do you do when you feel any of these emotions?
Do you let your child know about how disappointed you feel? Do you tell him that he needs to work harder? Do you in any way, directly or indirectly, convey to him that his worth is dependent on him winning all those prizes or rattling off those numbers? And to top it all, do you also feel guilty at a later point that you probably hurt your child's feelings by telling him all that you did?
If that is the case, fret not. There is a better way to handle these issues.
Just do the following exercise.
Make a list of your child's strengths. The list should include all the things that he is already good at, not just related to academics but also to other areas such as emotional development, mental makeup and social behaviour. Also include any other innate traits of the child that you think are contributing to the development of his personality. You are likely to find many.
Make another list that includes all the areas that you think your child needs to work on, that is, areas of improvement. You are again likely to find many.
Now use a bit of logic and you will realise that no matter which child on earth you take, it will be possible to make the same two lists with respect to him or her. That is, every child is good at some things and not so good at other things. Some children learn a few things faster, while others take time.The same is true for adults too. Not everyone is good at everything but there is always scope for improvement. Also, some people are naturally gifted in some areas and others are naturally gifted in other areas.
When this is the case, is it really necessary to compare children with one another?
Being able to count fluently does not make a child any more intelligent than others.
Winning the first prize in a race does not make a child any smarter than others.
This is not to say that those are not achievements. They most certainly are. However, they are not the appropriate parameters to be used to make comparisons or draw conclusions about a child's intelligence or worth.
Human beings are unlike machines. Each person is a mix of talents, traits, abilities and intelligences, mixed and mashed in varied proportions. Hence, it is almost impossible and also unfair to compare two children or even adults for that matter.
Whenever you feel disappointed or anxious that your child is not doing as well as you think he should, go through the paper on which you listed out his strengths and work on-
Making the child aware of his strengths.
Encouraging him to develop his strengths.
Letting him know that you are proud of his strengths.
Getting him to feel good about his strengths.
Making him aware that his worth is dependent neither on his strengths nor on his weakness. He is a worthy child, in the exact package that he is.
Do you know what happens when you do this?
One thing is the child begins to work on his strengths and gets better and better at what he is already good at. For example, if he has a flair for writing and becomes aware of the same, he will feel encouraged to work on that and eventually excel in the same.
The second point is that the child develops a healthy self esteem and self image, that is independent of what he thinks he can accomplish. The benefit of this is that it results in the child also being willing to work on areas that he needs to improve in. And the best part is he works on improving without the extra baggage of feeling bad, unworthy, jealous or resentful.
Don't you think that's a healthier way to live, grow and develop?
Comparing children makes them lose focus on their personality and strengths. As a result, many of them spend their energy feeling resentful, jealous and unworthy. They think they are not good enough until they can be like some other child. If they could spend the same energy feeling good about themselves, they would soar to greater heights.
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If we can open our minds, we would see that every child is a bundle of talent seeds, that are waiting to sprout. However, those seeds will sprout only when they are planted in a garden that nurtures them with the essentials of encouragement, self worth and respectful love.
It is in our hands to create that garden for our children.
Quiet children face problems wherever they go.- at school, in the family, at social gatherings and everywhere else in the world. While many children are reprimanded for being very talkative, another group of children is constantly labelled 'quiet'. Often, being quiet is equated with being shy. And being shy is considered an undesirable trait by many adults. It is not uncommon to find an adult, usually a parent, pushing a quiet child to open up and talk more, often much against the child's wish.
Have you ever wondered why someone who is quiet must be forced to open his mouth? Especially when he is happy staying quiet?
Before we can answer that, we must first consider the fact that everybody is UNIQUE.
Some people talk more, some people talk less. Some people socialise more, some socialise less.
Some people are extroverts, some others are introverts. Some love the company of people, some others are happy in their own little world.
In short, the world has a mix of people who are as varied as the variety in the world itself.
Consider this-An apple has to look and taste like an apple. Only then would it do justice to the fact that it is an apple.
A deer has to be elegant and timid. Only then would it make sense for it be a deer.
Imagine a deer trying to acquire the traits of a lion or behaving like one. Would it succeed? Or in the unlikely event that it did, would it do justice to its own unique personality and purpose?
Imagine doing something to make an apple taste like a water melon? Would it serve any purpose?
An apple is meant to be an apple.
A deer is meant to be a deer.
Similarly, a human being is meant be a human being, with his or her own unique personality.
Now from this perspective, think if there is anything wrong with being quiet or even shy?
Considering the variety that exists in the world, can we allow people the freedom to be as they are?
Now, one might argue that a quiet or shy person cannot be as successful as a talkative or an outgoing one. But I am sure all of us have met enough and more quiet people who are as successful as anyone else and also quite a number of people who talk a lot but have not been successful.
Well, what does a quiet person do when talking becomes a necessity in life? One may argue that if someone is quiet by nature, they will not have the courage to speak when the need arises.
To this, we might say that an apple is an apple, but when the need arises, it can also be converted into an apple cake or apple juice. But its essential nature of being an apple remains the same.
Similarly, a quiet person will also talk when life demands it. Everyone is capable and will do what is necessary when the need arises. However, their essential nature is to stay quiet and that is perfectly fine.
When we respect quiet children for what they are, they grow in confidence and learn to love themselves. This causes them to build a positive self image. A person with a positive self image stands a greater chance of succeeding in life., irrespective of whether he is quiet or talkative.
So, the next time you feel like telling a quiet child to open up, stop yourself. Take a moment to appreciate the unique nature of this child and respect him for what he or she is. Trust that the child has the capability to talk and open up, when the need arises. Build a rapport and strengthen your relationship.