Thursday, 21 June 2012

Children and Making Choices

How often do you find yourself struggling to make a choice?

From simple everyday matters, like not knowing which dress to buy or which restaurant to eat at to more complex decisions related to your personal and professional lives.

How often do you rely on others to make choices for you or to approve of your choices, before you go ahead and implement them?

How often do you doubt your own choices and feel that you are not capable of making the right choices?

Well, no one makes right choices all the time. But the fear of not making the right choice must not stop us from going ahead and making a choice that seems best under any given circumstance.

This is exactly what happened to many of us when we were children. Often, the adults in our lives,well intentioned no doubt, did not trust us enough to let us make our own choices. We were thought of as young and inexperienced and thereby incapable of making choices. And many of us continue to feel the same way well into adulthood.

What if we were given the opportunity to make choices from a very young age? Right from what we liked to eat at a restaurant, to which dress we would want to wear to a party, to how much we would like to eat for lunch and what hobbies we would like to pursue. We would probably be better equipped to make bigger choices today.

Encourage children, yes even the very young ones, to make several choices that they are capable of making. Whenever there is scope for the child to make a choice, allow her to make it. This habit ingrained in the child from a young age, will build confidence in the self and the child would carry the same in her consciousness as she grows into an adult.

Trust the child.

Sounds difficult?

Start practising.

Remember how you felt as a child when you were not trusted by the adults around you? When you knew something was right for you at that moment but no one seemed to understand. That is exactly how the children in our lives feel right now when we make all their choices for them.

Trusting the child does not mean that she will make perfect choices all the time. It means giving her the freedom to choose, while ensuring her safety and well being at the same time. It also means being willing to accept the fact that some choices could be wrong. But then making wrong choices is also part of learning in life!

So, go ahead. Do not be afraid. Encourage children to make choices wherever possible and watch them blossom into confident young people, capable of making choices whenever life requires them to do so. 

Friday, 1 June 2012

Children and Exploratory Learning

Imagine you land on a distant planet, which is going to be your home for the rest of your life. The planet is very different from earth and nothing on that planet resembles anything that you’ve seen on earth. The air smells different, the water looks peculiar, the food tastes unique, everything you touch has a different feel to it and the land looks like nothing you’ve ever seen on earth.

How would you make sense of everything around you?
You would go around, explore the planet, touch things to see how they feel, taste some things to see if they are edible, stop to look at all that is around you, try to understand the sounds in the environment and take in the various smells that you may encounter. As you explore this planet, you begin to make lots of discoveries.

One day, you encounter a bunch of aliens. Now, would you like these aliens to stop you from exploring their planet? Or would you rather that they permit you to explore and probably even encourage you to explore?  Of course, you would also hope that they would stop you when you are about to enter unsafe territory.

Now, come back to planet earth.

The child is the new entrant to this planet, this world that is completely alien to him, HE is the explorer and WE are the aliens. So, would the child rather have us stopping him at every step or would he prefer having the freedom to explore?

When very young children touch a stone, smell a flower, stop to watch a dog, listen intently to the sound of an aeroplane or try to taste things that are not even edible, they are NOT doing it to be naughty or to trouble you. That is their way of exploring the world around them. They understand the world by exploring it through their all their senses. That is why they are always on the move and cannot sit still in one place as mere spectators.

The urge to explore seems particularly strong at a tender age. That is why when adults try to stop them, they get a negative response from them. That is because the child does not want anyone interfering in his exploration. They are also labelled as hyper or stubborn by the adult community when they refuse to stop doing the things they are asked to. Once again, young children are not on the move to be stubborn or hyper. When you understand that this need to explore is part of their nature at that stage of development, you step back and learn to relax. You embrace their learning and their journey.

As adults, while we certainly are responsible for their safety (just as the aliens would be while we explore unsafe territory), let us not become so protective as to stop them at every step. When a young child wants to explore something in this world, let him have the freedom to do it, while we keep a gentle watch.  Let him experience the beauty of this fabulous world through sensory exploration!