Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The Learning Route...

Have you ever felt while travelling that the journey is more fun than the destination? The process of learning is similar. The process of learning holds more thrill than the end result.And this poem from the heart expresses exactly where I stand as an adult in my child's learning journey. I think I have tremendous power to choose a beautiful route for my child

My child’s learning is a journey,

A unique journey,

It has some milestones,

But no destinations,

I am the travel guide,

And my child the traveller,

I get to decide the route she will travel on,

I choose the route that is full of fruit,

With sunshine, flowers, birds and lakes aplenty,

The route that has treasures for her to discover

This unique learning journey

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Emotional Development : Responding to Emotional Outbursts

Some ways to respond when faced with emotional outbursts from children are listed below.
These responses can be modified to suit individual children. The only requirement is that they convey to the child a feeling of being understood.The examples in this post are related to the ones in the prior post In case you missed the previous post, do check it out by clicking on the above link.

Before reading further, do this simple exercise- Recall an incident in your life when you were really angry, upset, disappointed or sad because of an incident. You shared that incident with a dear one and he didn’t really understand your feelings. Maybe he downplayed the incident or dismissed your feelings. Maybe he denied your emotion or asked you to just forget about the unpleasant incident. Did it help you? May be you were not seeking a solution. You just wanted him to understand. Or be there for you. But you got everything except what you most needed- a feeling of being understood.

Now, read on.

1.Child (afraid and crying): Do I have to get an injection? I am so scared.
Adult: I know you feel scared. Though injections can be scary, sometimes everyone needs to get injections. I promise I’ll be by your side while you get yours.

Sometimes, all that is necessary is an acknowledgement of the child’s fear and a gentle reassurance. In this example, neither can the child escape taking the injection nor can his fear vanish magically. But the presence of an empathetic and supportive adult would help him deal with his fears. Accepting the fear and dealing with it is a healthier option than pretending it doesn’t exist or putting pressure on the child by saying that brave people are not afraid of injections. Many people, adults included, fear medical procedures at some point in their lives and there is nothing wrong in being aware of that fear. 

2. Child to Friend (angry and shouting): You ate my cake! How dare you? What the hell am I supposed to eat now?
Adult: You are angry. Eating your cake when you were away was certainly not fair. 

Wouldn’t most people feel angry to have to have their posessions stolen? In this case, the cake was the child's possession. So, the first step would be to acknowledge the angry feelings of the child and not make him feel that his anger is inappropriate. Once his anger has been acknowledged, you can focus on calming him down or finding a solution to the problem. A child who feels understood is more likely to calm down and think clearly.

3. Child (upset and crying): I lost my new cap.
Adult: You are feeling upset. Would you like me to help you find it?

Most people would feel upset when they lose their belongings. Hence, the first step would be to acknowledge the child’s upset feelings at that moment. Second comes an offer to help find the cap (if necessary). If the child loses his belongings rarely, there is nothing more to do. But if it is a regular occurrence, the time to discuss caring for belongings is not when the child is upset. The issue can be addressed once the child has calmed down and is in a neutral frame of mind

4. Child (feeling disappointed and upset): You said you would take me to visit Grandma tonight. But you are home so late. When will I ever get to see her?
Adult: I know how disappointed you must feel. I am sorry I could not keep my promise. We shall certainly visit her soon.
The first step again is to acknowledge the child’s feelings of disappointment.

As adults, we may wonder why all this fuss over emotions. Why bother to acknowledge emotions and feelings. What is the big deal? Can’t one handle feelings and learn to control them? Of course, all of us can  control our emotions and we do it often.

But the goal should not be to control emotions only because we don’t know how to express them comfortably. The goal should be to express emotions in a more positive manner and this happens easily when we feel acknowledged and understood by the people we share our emotions with. 

When we identify or acknowledge feelings and emotions, it does not mean we are encouraging children to develop negative traits. In other words, acknowledging the feelings of an angry child will not encourage him to get angry more often. It is a healthy way of being aware of and comfortable with our emotions. Being comfortable with emotions also makes it easier for us to deal with trials, setbacks, disappointments and all other negatives in life. Same for children too. 

Encourage healthy emotional development from a young age. 

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Emotional Development : Adult-Child Encounters

All human beings have emotions. It is an integral part of being human. Yet, many of us are rarely trained to either identify our emotions (especially negative emotions) or look at them in a positive light. We even feel guilty when a negative emotion gets the better of us and wonder why we cannot suppress it. Many people train themselves to hide or suppress their emotions. Often, such people are labelled “strong folks” by family and friends. While there is nothing wrong with being emotionally strong, being emotionally strong is not the same as suppressing emotions or denying their existence. Often, denial is considered equivalent to strength. But it gets you wondering on why emotions ought to be denied or suppressed when they are such a natural part of being human- adult or child.

Read the following emotional encounters between adult and child.

Child (afraid and crying): Do I have to get an injection? I am so scared.
Adult: Come on, you are a brave little girl, aren’t you? Brave girls are not afraid of injections. Come on, stop crying.

Child to Friend (angry and shouting): You ate my cake! How dare you? What the hell am I supposed to eat now?
Adult: Stop shouting. Why are you so angry? This is not the way to behave.
Child (protesting): But he ate my cake.
Adult: I know. But that doesn’t mean you shout or get so angry.

Child (upset and crying): I lost my new cap.
Adult: You are so irresponsible. Stop crying and try to remember where you left it. What’s the point in crying once it’s lost?

Child (feeling disappointed and upset): You said you would take me to visit Grandma tonight. But you are back home so late. When will I ever get to see her? 
Adult: For heaven's sake, stop whining. These things happen.
Child (crying and protesting): But I wanted to see Grandma today and you promised you would take me.
Adult (losing her calm): What’s the big deal? We can visit her tomorrow. You know how busy it gets at work sometimes. 

Did you observe that in each of the above examples, the child was in varied emotional frames of mind while talking to the adult? He was angry, upset, afraid and disappointed in different instances. How did the adult react each time? If you noticed closely, each time the adult said something that denied the child’s emotion.

If denying emotions is not the done thing, does it mean we ought to let children feel as they wish to and say nothing about it. Certainly not! We do have a role and we can certainly say something. But our words should not be to deny or suppress their emotions. Rather, it should be to acknowledge their emotions and help them identify the same.  And this is can be a positive first step towards healthy emotional development. Also, it is equally healthy for us to identify and acknowledge our own emotions in front of children This would help children understand their emotions better as well. 

Identifying and being aware of emotions is a healthy approach to emotional development. It is best to work on healthy emotional development from childhood. As the adults in the life of children, we have a huge role to play in their emotional development.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Children and Colours : Colour Mixing Concepts

If your child has been introduced to colours and is familiar with at least red, yellow and blue, you can mix these colours and let your child discover new colours and learn about them. This is a fun colour activity even for those children who are familiar with most colours. It can be easily taught by teachers in schools as well as parents at home.

Materials Required: Non-toxic child paints (red, yellow, blue), paint brushes, palette, water, drawing sheets and newspapers.

  • Spread lots of newspapers on the floor.
  • Make sure you and your child wear an apron or an old dress before sitting down to paint.
  • Keep the blue, red and yellow paints and some water ready. 
  • Say to your child, “We’re going to mix some colours now. Shall we see what happens when we do that?”
  • Remember you don’t HAVE to use paintbrushes to do this activity. You can even use your fingers! Many children find that it is more fun to use their fingers to mix colours! However, if your child does not like the idea of getting messy by using her fingers, don’t insist.
  • First get your child to spread some yellow paint on the sheet. Next ask her to paint over it with a wee bit of red paint. You will get a new colour- Orange. Give her some time to observe the result. After a while, gently ask, “What do you think happened when we mixed yellow and red?” Your child may or may not tell you about what she observed. Don’t be disappointed if she does not. Learning happens irrespective of whether children talk about their observations or not. If you wish to, you can say “I just observed that by mixing red and yellow we got a new colour orange!” If your child wants to say something about it, hear her out patiently.
  • Get your child to spread some yellow paint on the sheet again. Now ask her to paint over it with a wee bit of blue. You will get a new colour- Green. As before, give her some time to observe the result. After a while, gently ask, “What do you think happened when we mixed yellow and blue?” Your child may tell you about what she observed. As before, if you wish to you can say, “I just observed that by mixing yellow and blue we got a new colour green!” If your child wants to say something about it, hear her out patiently.
  • Once done with this activity, leave your child free to do the activity by herself for as long as she wishes to. Let her explore mixing colours, painting and making discoveries, all of which happen when children are given the freedom to experiment. Observe her work. You may be stunned by all that she does and discovers!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Misbehaviour in Children:The Adult's Role

A few requisites for the management of persistent misbehaviour in children are listed below.

(For a better understanding of this post and the character Sam mentioned here, please read the previous post here

  1. A Calm Adult and a Firm Rule- A misbehaving child would benefit maximum by the care of an adult who is calm, yet firm; an adult who is able to enforce a rule, while respecting the child at the same time. In Sam’s case, he would benefit most by an adult (teacher) who could just enforce a rule about not being rude to others. The adult would just have to say “Sam, we are not rude to others” and stop it at that, without asking him numerous questions about why he is rude. This rule (We are not rude to others) would have to be repeated over and over again in a calm yet firm tone of voice until the message seeped into Sam and he stopped being rude.
  2. Unconditional Acceptance- Misbehaving children are often made to feel like they are “bad little people”. They don’t feel accepted by the people around them, who seem to find only the bad in them. While it can certainly be challenging to accept a child despite his negative behaviour, acceptance is precisely what a misbehaving child needs in order to develop good behaviour. The adult need not accept his bad behaviour but must ideally accept the child. In Sam’s case, the teacher sounded judgemental when she said to Sam,“Sam, good boys are not rude to others. Are you a good boy or a bad boy? If you are a bad boy, you will not have any friends.”  All she needed to do was make it clear that his behaviour was not acceptable by saying, “Bad behaviour is not acceptable” or “Being rude to people is neither acceptable nor allowed”. Behaviour should not be used as a parameter to judge a child as "good" or "bad". Bad behaviour does not make a child a "bad" person. The child's behaviour may be labelled unacceptable but not the child himself. 
  3. Realistic Consequences- False threats and consequences may have an immediate effect but rarely work in the long run. Once an adult issues a false threat and fails to follow up on it, the child understands that the adult does not mean what he says. So, the next time a threat is issued, the adult may get nothing more than a look of indifference from the child! In Sam’s case, he had heard the empty threat “I will take you to the Principal’s office now” several times and hence it refused to carry any weight. It is important that consequences (if any) are realistic, fair and most importantly agreed upon by both the adult & the child beforehand. What this means is that both the adult and the child are aware of and have agreed upon the consequences of any kind of bad behaviour. It is similar to a law. People know beforehand that when they jump signals and get caught by the police, there’s no escaping the fine! It is the same with children who display persistent misbehaviour! Being aware of consequences beforehand makes them easier for the adult to enforce and for the child to accept. 

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Loving a Child: Ideas for the Season!

Loving a child is one of the most wonderful experiences in the world!

While love for our near and dear ones is certainly present throughout the year, the Season of Love is an opportunity to celebrate and cherish that special bond of love.

With Valentine’s Day round the corner and love in the air, why not make some time to celebrate the love we have for our children? It is also a wonderful opportunity to show children what love means and how it is cherished.

Here are some ideas to celebrate the love you share with children-

  1. A Special Meal- Ask your child what she would like to eat and cook the same for her. Alternately, you can surprise her by cooking her favourite dish for dinner! Cooking for someone is a wonderful way to show your love indeed.
  2. A Card- Make a card for your child. Write a few lines in the card on why your child is special to you.  You can even paste or draw a family picture in the card!
  3. Fun Story- Tell your child a story that has love as the theme. It can even be your own story that has all the people your child loves as the characters. Encourage your child to add to the story. Many children would love doing this.
  4. Child’s Own Expression- Finally, do not forget to ask your child if she would like to make or do something to celebrate her love for family and friends. Many children would love to do something special for others.  Give her the freedom to implement those ideas that are practically feasible. For instance, if she says she would like to paint a picture for her father, let her do it the way she wants to.  It is after all an expression of HER love for him! (Like in the picture below that depicts a unique expression of love, with the child probably trying to say that whole world seems full of love when she is with a loved one). 

     "Expression of Love" Art with heart shaped mountains, a heart shaped sun and heart shaped trees and flowers.

Showing our love to children in turn helps them learn to love.

Celebrating love helps children understand that love is something to be cherished.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Misbehaviour in Children: Four Funny Facts!

All children misbehave once in a while. However, persistent misbehaviour in children can be a complex issue that has no quick fix solutions. It can be the result of several factors and is usually a combination of the child’s environment and his temperament. There are four funny facts about misbehaving children, which you may have experienced at some point in your life, either as an adult dealing with a child or as a child yourself in your younger days!

  1. The more you focus on the misbehaviour of a child, the more of the same you will get- Look at misbehaviour as a wound. Constant scratching of any wound interferes in its healing. It is tempting to scratch a wound. Similarly, it is tempting for adults to focus all their energy and attention on misbehaving children. However, just as a wound takes longer to heal when constantly scratched, a misbehaving child will take longer to learn good behaviour if he is constantly reminded about his bad behaviour.
  2. The more you threaten a misbehaving child with false consequences, the less he starts fearing them and the more difficult it gets for you-  After a point, children understand that most threats issued by adults are empty and stop fearing them.
  3. The more you believe that a child is incapable of good behaviour, the more he will strive to show you that he is indeed incapableOften, adults take the bad behaviour of children personally and do not believe that such children are even capable of behaving well. Children sense the lack of trust that adults have in them. Hence, they lack the motivation to behave any better!
  4. The more you punish a misbehaving child, the more resentful he gets and the more opportunities you lose to guide the child towards good behaviour- Punishments always seem to produce instantaneous results. They are a convenient option when all else fails. They stop misbehaviour at that moment but do little else to guide the child towards good behaviour. How will a child behave well if he does not even now what good behaviour is and if the adults around him keep punishing him for his bad behaviour? Teaching a misbehaving child about good behaviour takes patience and persistence!

Read the story of four year old Sam to understand these points better-

A four year old boy Sam has the habit of talking rudely to his family, teachers and friends. One day on seeing Sam talking rudely to another child, his teacher says, “Sam, why are you being rude to your friend? Don’t you know how to behave well? Are you a bad boy?” To which Sam replies- “Teacher, why are you scolding me? I will beat you now”. The shocked teacher scolds him again and makes him sit in a corner. Once out of the corner, Sam goes around destroying every child’s work- he knocks down building blocks, tears drawing sheets and screams at the top of his voice.

The helpless teacher drags him out of the class, threatening to take him to the principal. Once out of the class, she gives him a lecture on why it is important to behave well. “Sam, good boys don’t behave this way. Are you a good boy or a bad boy? If you are a bad boy, you will not have any friends.. Remember that. Shall I take you to the Principal’s room now?” Sam just gives her a blank stare and does not say anything. 

Now, taking the child to the principal was just a threat to instil fear in Sam and not meant to be carried out. Sam was not affected by this threat, which he had heard from different teachers hundreds of times! As a result, the teacher got frustrated and not knowing what else to do, took him back to class. Day after day, the story repeated itself. Sam behaved badly. He was scolded, lectured to, threatened and isolated. Though there seemed to be spurts of  improvement in his behaviour at times, it was never long lasting.

Management and reversal of persistent misbehaviour requires an approach that is consistently patient and positive!

Monday, 6 February 2012

Instructing Children Effectively

Do you find yourself instructing children frequently every single day - be it as a parent at home or a teacher in school?

“Do this”.

“Don’t do that”.

“Put this back”.

“Don’t take that”.

“Finish your homework.”

“Stop playing.”

“Finish your lunch”.

“Switch off the TV”

“Don’t dream”.

‘Stop talking”.

Logic tells us that in order for children to know what they are supposed to do, they need frequent instructions from adults. Ironically, frequent instructions often come in the way of getting children to do whatever is expected of them.

How often have you felt that you keep telling a child something and he does not even seem to be listening? How often does this frustrate you and tire you out?

The secret to getting children to follow your instructions lies in instructing less and instructing effectively.

Here are a few thoughts on instructing effectively.

  • Establish a Routine- Establish a routine that clearly spells out what needs to be done at different times of the day. When children have a routine to follow every single day and are trained to follow it, you will need to instruct less. Children will automatically know what needs to be done next with fewer instructions.
  • Instruct at the Right Time- Have you heard people saying “It’s all about the right timing”. This is often applicable to instructing children as well. Timing is a crucial factor. For instance, if your child is busy building a tower with blocks and you suddenly instruct him to wind up, you may get no response from him. So, if the child is immersed in an activity, give him a few minutes to complete his activity and then instruct him to put it back. If the matter is urgent and you really need him to wind up immediately, go up to him and politely explain to him the reason you’re asking him to wind up. Most children understand when we have a fair attitude and explain our intentions to them politely.
  • Instruct in a Respectful Tone of Voice and Keep it Short- You are more likely to get a response to your instructions if they are short ones given out in a respectful tone of voice. Being respectful does not mean you need to plead. You just have to be respectful in your communication.Short instructions given out in a crisp neutral tone of voice fetch a better response than long ones given out in an aggressive tone of voice. 

Changing the way you instruct a child could take some initial effort, but it will be well worth the reward.

Practice makes perfect the art of instructing children!

So, keep practising. 

Be an effective instructor!

Friday, 3 February 2012

Children and Colours: Part 2

This is another fun way to learn about colours.

  1. Keep blocks of different colours on a mat.
  2. Pick up one block, let’s say a yellow block, and ask your child, “Do you know what colour this block is?”
  3. If your child recognises the colour, she will say so. If she does not recognise the colour, you can say “This is yellow”.
  4. Once that is done, tell your child to look around your living room/kitchen/bedroom and see if she can spot yellow anywhere. If she is confused about what that means, do the exercise a couple of times with her and then encourage her to do it independently. Go around with her and show her objects that are yellow in colour. Keep the yellow block with you and match it with the yellow objects that you find. Let’s say you find a banana on the dining table, you can casually comment to your child, “This block is yellow. This banana is also yellow!”
  5. Once you’re done with a block of one colour, move on to blocks of different colours. You don’t have to do all the colours in one day. Adjust it as per the interest level of your child. It should remain something that is fun to do. If you spot your child losing interest after a while, stop the activity and take it up on another day.

Expose your child to the colourful world that originates right at home!

<p><a href="">Image: Phiseksit /</a></p>