Archive for the ‘Tender Minds’ Category

PostHeaderIcon A few sleepless nights…

Since the Florida school shooting, I have woken up a few times in the middle of the night and walked up to my children’s rooms. As I saw them fast asleep, I thought of those parents who lost their sons and daughters in what was once an inconceivable event, but has, in recent times, become a somewhat usual occurrence in the schools of today. I’ve been troubled — as a parent, as a teacher and as a human being. I know I share the same sentiments as everyone reading this.

These kinds of events lead us to thinking of the why, and while we all are entitled to our opinions, there has to be a plan in place to fix this broken part of our societal structure. I am of the opinion that the common man who is not in military or armed forces should not have such ease of access to firearms. While this isn’t the only matter of concern, here’s something I have been thinking, only that someone else said it before me about the “guns don’t kill people, people do” argument: well cars don’t kill people either but we have excellent car control laws to limit people killing themselves and others and when that fails we have mandatory insurance to provide coverage for losses incurred (excerpt from another Facebook user’s comment).

It’s like that touchy technology topic… kids and gadgets. Technology isn’t bad but unless we have rules and consequences laid out for our kids, technology can be misused or overused. If we set proper guidelines and train kids to utilize technology as a tool, they can become developers and programmers and engineers and scientists or just even prepare sophisticated documents for school and college.

So then it all comes down to parenting or the lack of it. It comes down to community and our moral values. It comes down to what I read a long time ago: The difference between a successful person and the one who isn’t — is what they do in their free time. It’s about the company you keep and the books you read. It’s about manners and ethics, and about social consciousness. It’s about people getting so busy that they forget to stop and reflect. It’s about the lack of connections and the ongoing race with ourselves to reach an unknown destination. It’s about confusing our goals with finding contentment. It’s about taking all that time trying to change everyone instead of first fixing ourselves. It’s about not being available for our children because we are so busy trying to build them a material world without building them and their mindsets first.

I don’t have answers or solutions but I want to be part of the change as much as you all do. I hope that as a teacher I don’t ever have to barricade my classroom doors and protect my students. I hope all our children can go to school to learn and mingle blissfully with their peers without fear of undesirable intruders. This is as real as it gets, but guess what, if we take ownership of this world we call ours, then perhaps we can experience the change we’re looking for.

PostHeaderIcon Handling Failure

The topic of failure and how kids these days react to it came up at my class yesterday when we were discussing the trends and history in education. Some of the issues covered were dress code, discipline, legislature… but the topic of failure caught my attention a bit more than the others.

I remember failing as a child. My parents didn’t try to make up for it or make me feel better by compensating with a gift. They also didn’t tell me a fake story about how it was actually someone else’s fault and not mine. I was raised to take ownership of my choices and understand the consequences of those choices.

Many kids today are very fragile. One life skill that is not being modeled or communicated is handling failure. We are always trying to protect the emotional space of a child but in turn making them weak individuals. We have more kids with emotional issues now than ever before. The helicopter parenting, the “every child is a winner” mentality is crippling.

I’m all for positive reinforcement, I’m all for empathy, but true nourishment of the mind comes from experiencing a variety of emotions and getting skilled at dealing with them.

“Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.”
– Truman Capote

PostHeaderIcon Helicopters! I’m talking about parents here.

In 1969, Dr. Ginott used the term helicopter parents in his book entitled Parents and Teenagers.

I came across this term a few years ago and didn’t pay much attention to it until I became a teacher and ran into a few parents who fit that term perfectly. Helicopter parents hover over their children excessively, controlling and managing their routines, tasks and decisions, and take responsibility of their child’s failures or successes.

As a parent and a teacher, I have learned that allowing a child to do what they can do by themselves helps empower them. Overcontrolling and overprotection can deplete their natural strengths and curiosity, and hamper their spirit of learning. This can make them overdependent. Many helicopter parents start off by simply helping their children become engaged in various activities and providing direction but their involvement deepens as competition with other parents sets in, or the fear of their child’s poor performance keeps them from letting their child work independently. Sadly, more often that not, children of helicopter parents end up losing self confidence and self esteem, and because they have always had an adult hovering over them, they become afraid of making decisions and coping with real life challenges.

I like to ask my kids and students to figure out how to do things when I’m sure I’ve give them instructions and they are capable of completing certain tasks. Our brain behaves like a muscle that needs to be used so it stays supple and active. Creating an environment for children to learn from failure is vital for mastering life skills. While we need to provide direction and watch out for our child’s emotional status, we need to remind ourselves of our primary goal: shaping children as self reliant individuals.

PostHeaderIcon Inspiring a child

Teaching my kids to be fearless dreamers has been on top of my agenda. Dreams evolve, dreams change, but the process of dreaming keeps a child inspired. I share my dreams with my children regardless of how silly they may sound. Inside every dream lies a clue or representation of what could make us passionate. A few days ago, I shared my bucket list with my children who are now fourteen and ten. I started writing out lists from a very early age when my mother, one evening during a thunderstorm blackout, told me that writing thoughts helps make a stronger mark in our minds. Since then, it has become a habit. I make lists for everything, even my dreams for there is great power in visualization, in retrospection, and intention.

I also discovered how keeping my children in a safe box kills their spirit. Many a time, parents want children to follow a traditional path or a familiar route hoping for predictable outcomes. While that may be in order, a lot of times, we end up suppressing the process of self-discovery and self-exploration. As a parent, I am learning to keep my involvement with my children as guidelines from my experience instead of inadvertently pushing my opinions or desires upon them. As my children grow, I grow along with them and as they experience the journey of life with me, I know they are watching me grow every day. Hopefully, they see me as an inspiration, as a person who decided not to dwell in a comfort zone and get bored.

PostHeaderIcon Crosswalk Culture

One of the many rewarding duties at my job is safety patrol. My permanent spot is at the flag crossing. It is where children and parents walk over the drive-thru lane from the side of the school to the parking lot by the main road. My patrol vest is a shabby orange one that needs a makeover but it grabs attention for sure. I have two student safety patrol members with me in trendy bright green vests and matching neon hard hats. These students and I share a special bond. We are a team. This is where I receive my showering of morning greetings from children crossing the lane and their lovely parents. This is where a few enthusiastic toddlers who accompany their older siblings give me high-five or a good mornin’ cheer. This is where my legs get squeezed with affection by little crossers as I firmly hold the sign to stop oncoming traffic. As parents drop off their children, I am bombarded with many different versions of have a good day. Some are subtle utterings, some are more vivacious, but all impact my daily life in a significant way, like little doses of energy to fuel my day.

But the crosswalk isn’t always as positive a junction. Often times a rushed parent disobeys a rule and leaves us all alarmed and confused. Perhaps they are late for a meeting, or they aren’t feeling well, or maybe something is going on in their lives that is occupying their mental space. And so they make a choice that leaves us all bewildered.

We also witness pockets of social exchanges. I’ve heard stories of travels and weekend shenanigans. Once in a while there’s a whiff of tale that scratches my ears. Other times, I am invited for a deeper involvement.

As I look back on the days when I was younger and kids walked to school alone, I realize how the world has evolved into a more complex setting. Stranger danger, street crime, or reckless drivers are all fears a parent has. But are these fears misplaced and are we too obsessed with our overprotective quirks and helicopter parenting? Have the times really changed or are we living amidst a self-created social paranoia? I don’t know the answer. All I know that when I am on the crosswalk every morning, it is endearing to see a daddy hold his child’s little and trusting hand across the street safely and give him a reassuring hug. It is heartwarming to see a mom take the extra two minutes before her incredibly busy day and listen to her child’s early morning rant. It doesn’t matter if the world has changed or not. What matters is that we readjust our lives to keep the bonds steady and strong. And so if it means walking my child across the crosswalk, I would totally embrace it!

PostHeaderIcon Depositing into the minds of our children

There isn’t a 100% sure shot method of ensuring that children don’t get into messy situations while growing up. The only thing I know is that if children are engaged in enough productive activities that keep them busy, nurture their creativity and help them feel accomplished, they may not wander off looking for time-fillers or friends that could be a bad influence. Also, as a parent, we need to spend time with our children in activities they enjoy so they feel respected. Often times, we try to fulfill our dreams and desires through our children instead of focusing on their interests and talents. Every act of ours is a mental deposit into the minds of our children. Only time will tell how well we did as parents. For now, we’ve got to keep them close to our hearts and our presence.

PostHeaderIcon Can you make your child sing?

Recently at our school open-house, a few parents talked to me about having trouble getting their kids to read and if I could suggest an “app” or technological technique to enhance their interest. So I told them how some kids read because they have to and some kids read because they want to. Some kids feel fulfilled when they read. Some take it to the next level and become avid writers.

At recess, I see some students who find a quiet spot under a tree or on a bench, engrossed in a book, eyes moving intensely with the words, and I can almost see them become a part of the pages, and when the bell rings, I have to tell them to go back in. While I’m secretly impressed by that passion, I’m also fully aware of the fact that sources for passion are different for everybody. And they can even change with time.

I can list a ton of apps that help a child to learn “how-to” read, sound out words and such, but really, our interests come from what stimulates our mind, which in turn reinforce our behavior and determine what we do in our spare time. Our hearts race with different stimulants, and as long as we’re productive, it’s all good.

Can you make your child sing?

PostHeaderIcon Eating and drinking right

Should that even be something to talk about? Kids need to eat and drink abundantly, don’t they? I suppose they do, but if you’ve taken time to understand nutrition, you’ll know that even children need to eat the right foods in order to grow with good health! With obesity and other disorders plaguing the world today, it only makes sense to start early. But like anything else, we as parents need to set the right example by making the right food choices.

Here’s a few things I learned over the years:

  • Variety is the way to go. Offer your children a variety of foods, cooked in different styles so they can learn to enjoy mealtimes and experience different flavors.
  • Control your portions so they see the value of not overfilling a plate. When they see you savor every bite, they will eat slowly and eat enough.
  • Offer fruits and vegetables as snacks and learn simple and healthy alternatives to fried foods. This way, the food is packed with nutrients and still tastes delicious.
  • Find out what appeals to your child’s appetite. Is it color, smell, presentation? Focus your meal using those guidelines so a picky eater will be attracted to what is being served.
  • Cut out soda from your life. It’s the worst thing that happened to earth in every way.

More to come…

PostHeaderIcon Let’s brush it under the carpet

When parents don’t have appropriate answers to queries our children shower on us, or if we’re too busy catching up on our TV shows, we hush them up and change the topic hoping the child forgets and the curiosity gets sucked in a black hole.

It doesn’t really happen. Kids are clever, smart and receptive. They may appear distracted but deep inside, their curiosity lives on. And with the endless resources available to children these days, it may be a mistake to brush their questions under the carpet. I prefer to be the person answering my children’s questions in a well designed format, not a random website or an equally confused classmate of my child.

What has worked with me is — not be a reactive parent. I like to listen carefully when my children are discussing an issue with me, however insignificant or uninteresting it may seem. Often times, just the narration of a thought is enough to release a concern and an answer or clarification is unnecessary. And sometimes, a brief answer or tactful example can be satisfactory for the tender minds.

I feel that asking questions helps develop a child’s creativity as well as establish a strong bond between the parent and child. At school we reward our students when they answer questions and discourage when they ask because the time is never right! At home, we often get agitated when they come to us. I think if parents help children redirect their thoughts to productively question, we may be able to motivate them towards becoming possibility thinkers.


PostHeaderIcon Teaching and Learning

I don’t believe that a child can learn through intimidation. I don’t believe a child can learn through  sarcasm either. I am not sure why some teachers never appreciate a child’s efforts or for a moment, think about understanding a child’s mindset. And I’m not talking about a teacher in a class of 30 students.

Recently, I had a firm word with my daughter’s online religious studies instructor. I put my mother’s hat down and spoke to him, teacher-to-teacher. Needless to say, he was shocked at my suggestions. He’s old school and thinks we can make a child learn by instilling fear in them. I told him a child can memorize prepackaged lessons via that method but never learn, understand or appreciate. If lessons become a mechanical task completion where a child makes a check mark next to a list, then no learning has occurred. I also told him that punishment is different from reprimand.

Another issue I have is with teachers comparing children. No one’s in a hurry here. I don’t really care if my 11 year old doesn’t know as much as a 9 year old. There are ways of bringing out the best in a child. One way is to focus on a child’s strength, and while setting expectations, making sure they are realistic.

Putting my mother’s hat back on, I made sure my kid wasn’t aware of my discussion with her teacher. Regardless of the teaching style, a teacher must be respected and honored. Doubts in my mind can be transferred to her mind and that can start a problem that isn’t even in her thoughts.

As parents we want to make sure we don’t injure a child’s emotional stability. Taking them on guilt trips and long dramatic sequences of extreme consequences is not only demoralizing but demotivating. It never works. It isn’t necessary either. If we can learn how to awaken a child’s potential for learning and expression, then we’ve succeeded at one of parenting’s most daunting roles. But for that we need patience. How many of us have it?