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.

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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?

PostHeaderIcon Resistance is futile…

Have you heard of iPotty? The Consumer Electronics Show in 2013 unveiled a portable potty trainer that comes with an iPad holder to keep a child entertained during potty-training moments. I’m not sure if this invention is necessary. It seems more like a tool for our already prevalent parenting predicament, and will make us lazy parents, given that many homes have practically left child-rearing to electronic gadgets.

Technology isn’t a replacement for parenting or for personal interactions, but leave it to us human beings to abuse any good thing that comes our way. Tsk Tsk.

Like food, it’s up to us to choose the whats and hows and know the whens and whys. And as parents, it is our responsibility to set the rules and guidelines. It is all about attaining the perfect balance and understanding how technology can be used to an advantage. Let’s talk about education for a minute. Look at the wide selection of apps one could use to teach children math and vocabulary for example. Getting connected with libraries and other resources for research has never been easier and homework can be completed with so much motivation and ease. As a parent, I have access to my children’s homework, progress reports and can effectively communicate with the teachers when needed. Think of how much paper we are saving when we can actually read what is urgent and important on a website instead of going through piles of colored sheets that are sent home every day containing vital information that lands up in the recycle bin.

I can go on and on about the benefits of using visual technology such as Skype, and how my family can connect with other family members in different parts of the world and bridge the geographical gap. While it can never be a replacement for the touch and feel experience, it is certainly a more interpersonal association than a simple phonecall.

And so to think that we do not need technology in this day and age is naive, perhaps a denial combined with a lack of willingness to transition from the more familiar times. It provides an enhancement to our everyday lives, the doses of which need to be determined by our personal situations. I don’t think we should deter our children from embracing technology, just keep a check on their indulgence. But resistance, my friends, is futile…

PostHeaderIcon So what if there’s a little mess…

Children are little people. They are allowed to spill, to make a mess, to break things, to play, to make noise, to play with more than one toy at one time without putting the others back in place…it’s all part of growing up. That’s how they learn, that’s how they get in touch with their inner feelings. When a favorite toy falls apart, a child struggles to fix it or to find an alibi or to discover ways to replace it. It’s a mental exercise towards problem solving. Even someone as old as me loves to buy houses in Monopoly and see my opponent pay rent. So what if I scream when they get to go to jail and miss a turn.

Yes we all need some quiet and alone time, but just imagine if all our homes were empty. The silence would be claustrophobic. There wouldn’t be any random, out of place laughter. There wouldn’t be anyone who’d come from behind and give us a hug, all of a sudden, and then hide under the table! And if everything were always in order, we’d be like robots or soldiers, marching through life with stiff arms, too rigid to feel the warmth of living… 🙂

PostHeaderIcon “Back in my day”

A few days ago, I heard a parent yelling at her 5 year old kindergartner. “Stop crying! Back in my day, I used to walk to school alone, and I didn’t have my mother drop me off and take care of my crying business!”

The little kid, hurt and torn, then waited quietly in the gym for the school bell to ring.

I hear that more often that I’d like to hear. What happened with me back in my day is my memory, my circumstances. It isn’t my kid’s fault. It is also not fair to expect my child to go through what I went through, good or bad, because the times have changed. If I walked to school alone at age 5-6, it’s probably because I could do so without getting hit by a drunk driver or a mad rush. If I had only 4 outfits in my closet it’s probably because that’s all my parents could afford. If I didn’t watch any TV it’s because darn it, there weren’t any shows for kids and there was only one TV in the neighborhood. And the list goes on. And if everything was so perfect way back in my day, I would be the most amazing person with absolutely no flaws…and we all know that’s not possible, is it now?

So then is it fair to repeatedly take our children on guilt trips? It was my trip, not theirs. Why let my not so savvy parenting present itself in a barbaric manner? Why must my children suffer because I have not been able to handle that project that was due last week or because I had an argument with my spouse earlier this morning?

It is one thing to share stories of our childhood with our children…in fact, it’s an amazing way to bond with our kids. But just because I drank water from a well isn’t justification for slamming at them for drinking treated water.

The goal is to enhance our kids life, make it a bit better than what ours was, enable them to make good decisions, expose them to the world as we see it today. And it isn’t that I’m not guilty of telling my kids that I knew how to make roti at age 11…but as soon as I say that, I realize that it would have made no difference in my life if I had learned it at 18 instead. 🙂

 

PostHeaderIcon Time Capsule

If I could record every lovely act or every beautiful story of my children, it would take time, pages, but mostly tears of joy and gratitude. It isn’t that they don’t have their share of tantrums or moments of breakdown. Trust me; we have plenty. They are little people with real emotions and feelings, but maybe I’m the kind of parent who looks at problems as opportunities for character enhancement so I try to focus on them with an open mind and even a challenge to make a better connection with my children.

The bounties, though, are heart-warming. And I collect them in my mental time capsule, relishing each memory and saying a prayer for more blessings.

One day I will be old, and my children will be big people. I’ll shake up my time capsule over a cup of coffee and wait for one of the memories to unfold. I know I will smile, perhaps have a few regrets and maybe even the urge to find a time machine to go back and change a few things. But I won’t be able to, and so I think that today I need to iron my attitude with a spray of stability and the warmth of nurturing, and hope that I won’t have as many what ifs or I wish I hads.

Cheers.

 

PostHeaderIcon Mom, a human after all

It’s heart-warming to know that your children realize you’re human and can make mistakes too, that underneath the supermom status, you’re very capable of breaking a cup, or spilling coffee, or even forgetting that they wanted something else for lunch. Even more humbling is when they tell you “it’s alright mama, everyone makes mistakes.”

I think that while it is important to set standards for children, it is necessary also to stay relatable, so somewhere in the middle of it all, they can find themselves.

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