Sunday, 16 December 2012

Christmas:Hidden Gifts of Learning For Children!

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.

Image Courtesy of  Theeradech Sanin/

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!

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Comparing Children: Does It Help Them Become Better?

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?

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.

Image Courtesy of  Idea go/

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.