“We, as parents, must understand the serious responsibility that we have in inculcating love for God in the hearts of children. If our children do not feel love they will not understand God’s love because the love of the parent is translated to the children as the love of God. When they feel their parents’ love, they can actually begin to understand God’s love.” – Radhanath Swami
I was recently attending a workshop on ‘happiness in marriage’ and the trainer asked the gathered members (about 100) how many of us had a happy childhood. Much to my shock, only 3 hands went up and everybody else thought they had a rather unhappy childhood. What do you think? Did you have a happy or an unhappy childhood? The trainer said that in his various training programs across the globe, this has been a common factor–most of us were victims of bad parenting and bad schooling!
Children are an integral part of our married life. We expect that our child will bring good fortune and happiness to us but do we try to give it a loving and nurturing environment for it to grow & blossom happily?
With the start of the school season, I hear familiar morning routine sound coming out of homes with young ones, ‘Get up or you’ll get late for school,’ ‘brush your teeth fast,’ ‘haven’t you finished taking your bath yet?’ ‘hurry up or you’ll miss your school bus!’
Sounds an all too familiar routine? Today, as parents and as responsible creators of a bright future, we seem to be bringing up the next generation in a constant mode of threat and hurry thereby unwittingly pushing the child into a childhood he hardly deserves, a childhood which he would as a grown up man wants to forget fast (just like many of us!)! Place yourself into the shoes of your child just for a day and you will know how difficult it is even for a fully grown up adult to bear & fulfill the constant demands placed on you. We seem to have placed great expectations on the tender child who is yet to learn to fully express himself, who is yet fully blossom into an independent thinker and decision maker.
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness rightly called ‘modern education institutions’ as killer of the soul. In the name of disciplining the child, the free child is forced to sit in rows in a classroom, without fidgeting, without talking and is expected to behave unlike a child and in the name of educating the child, he is overburdened with reading and writing & bombarded with a lot of information, more than his little brain is able to process and his memory is overloaded with age inappropriate study material! Catch them young has made more harm than good. If we teach the child to write, read and spell in preschool, they will not become better writers, readers and spellers by the time they reach 1st grade. According to the physiological developmental of a child, his neurological pathways for writing, reading and spelling haven’t fully formed. The result is greater number of children, particularly boys, diagnosed with learning disabilities such as dyslexia and attention deficiency problems. Research shows strong linkages between learning disabilities and starting schooling way too early. Furthermore, children will develop hatred for reading and writing and will not want to go to school. Reading & writing should be taught in school only after children have developed both their right and left reading centers in the brain (ie by the age of 6+) and have developed the “bridge” pathway that connects the two reading centers (bilateral integration).
The deeper issue is when parents, in their own day today busyness don’t have time for the child! Parents who are themselves ill-equipped to reason out their child’s behavior or invest time and effort in deeply understanding and catering to their child’s needs are looking for quick solutions & sending them to kindergarten or to school at the earliest possible as it seems to be the most feasible option that they have on hand today. Parents’ own rat races, work and social pressures make them anxious about their
kids’ behavior and performance. They are often preoccupied in seeing their child succeed and are intolerant of anything other than excellence, causing far too many expectations on the young child and stretching his natural limits. Mistakes & experimenting seem unpardonable. But, wait a minute….why are we forgetting that our child is just a child who wants his time and space to discover himself! He will, sooner or later, respond to inspiration and perform and give you happiness and joy. Remember, our forceful actions and unrealistic demands on them will only produce contrary results! If you were able to observe this same child at the age of fifty, you should probably find him suffering from terrible sclerosis or arterial hardening, the cause of which will be unknown at that point in time but it was actually planted in him when he was a child of five due to the constant pressures and burdens which robbed away his childhood and brought adulthood and old age early on! We must therefore know how it all adds up forty or fifty years later, of our management of the child.
We are quick to brand a child as ‘attention deficient’ or ‘hyperactive’ or ‘unmanageable’ but have we taken a closer look at our contribution to this as well? Do we know how our fast-paced lifestyle, media heavy culture and fast food culture is affecting
the child’s physiology and psychology? Do we want to know how our children are victims, for want of meaningful learning environment, of the detours erected in our culture, schools and homes? Step into the child’s shoes to really understand what it is looking for? His deepest need is your love, your time and your attention, dear parents and nothing else! Let’s look at how we can create a difference in the life of our child in three different dimensions that affect his/her happiness- a. taking the right decision of his/her schooling b. creating the right atmosphere for his/her natural growth in a stress free atmosphere c. how to be loving authorities as against strict disciplinarians.
Play in the formative years is an essential seed which bears fruit for the whole lifetime. Play dominates the lives of young children. A healthy child wants to play from morning to night. His play bubbles up from deep within and helps keep the life forces, so necessary for his growth. If a child loses interest in play, it is usually a sign of illness. Children who play significantly during early childhood have an advantage in physical development, socio-emotional development and in cognitive development including areas of language, intelligence, curiosity, innovation and imagination.
Children should be taught in a noncompetitive environment to fully blossom their innate talents. They need a regular day today rhythm to develop a sense of security. Therefore, they need to eat, play & sleep at proper times & not according to our convenience. Family time must be introduced wherein the family gets healthy time in the evening to play together at a park or in the playground with the kids and the whole family gets time to eat their dinner together at the table speaking to each other and quietly settling into the night. Such regular and natural rhythms and routines in eating and sleeping as well as daily activities will promote a more relaxed atmosphere and a stress free environment for the natural growth of a child.
In the rigmarole of life, unconsciously and unwittingly, we become bad parents whereas when our precious little one is born, we dream of being his best parents. We can still do it because a child is so loving and forgiving that it takes him hardly anytime to start reciprocating to your new loving ways. Believe me, try it! When the child sees us as loving authorities and not as someone that he is forced to comply to, we will automatically get the result we want i,e the child starts listening to the parent. Its almost like magic. But it will not come easy. You have to invest time and be an integral part of his childhood. It means when the child wants you to listen to him, you have to listen to him! It may be one thousand times a day. This is the single most important investment you will do to secure your child’s future. You will be amazed at how it works. A child learns by imitating and it looks out for adult role models to imitate. Without adult models, children cannot shape their own brains. If you are inattentive when the child wants attention, the child learns to be inattentive and is uninterested in what you have to say to him! When you listen to your child with full attention, the child learns to be attentive.
The child is usually not looking for solutions from adults but is looking for some empathy. So, instead of correcting the behavior of the child every-time the child brings a complaint or shares some unpleasant incident with you, just give him a patient hearing. When you are empathetic to the child and listen to the child, you are laying foundation to establish vital lines of communication between you and your child and slowly the child begins to trust you and will soon start looking upto you to solve his life problems. Secondly, you have to be a part of his childhood in that you must take out time to play with him, read out stories to him, build models/do craft with him, take him out to the park/playground and be involved in his childhood. This is the second most important investment you will do that goes a long way in giving security to the child.
A child feel secure when he knows that you, as a parent, love him and are interested in him. Love is a verb, it is action oriented. When you invest time in building a relationship with the child, he sees it as love. Love isn’t buying him an expensive toy in lieu of your time! Mind you, when you buy him things in place of giving your time to him, he is learning to replace things with people from you! Third and a very important aspect in the art of parenting is to soften the frenetic scheduling of the lives of children, giving them some quiet time to play, to ponder, to reflect and to use their inner voice. Replace your list of ‘Don’t do this, don’t do that,’ by defining large boundaries for them. They have a need to explore and repetitive don’ts will only lead the child to experience a frustrated childhood! Remember it from your own childhood experience, don’t you? As adults need their space, children too need to have their own space and time–a time for them to be with themselves, not with school or studies or homework or tuitions or any other extra-curricular classes that frenzied parents subscribe their young ones to such as violin class, tennis class, bharatanatyam class, karate class or swimming class. You might think that it will provide entertainment value for your child but these classes are way too organized and regulated to provide any entertainment value and must not be enforced upon the child unless the child has some definitive talent and willfully wants to take up to it.
Remember always, parents’ love, time and attention are non-tradable items for the child. When we understand this aspect and not neglect it, we allow the child to grow up and blossom naturally. We then enable them to grow up as confident young adults ready to face the world! Childhood years are foundational to the long term health and happiness of an individual. So, as parents, we hold the responsibility of executing our duty with as much seriousness as we would on our work front. As a society, we might have already lost our traditional knowledge in bringing up kids in a cultured, loving and protective environment but we can, as responsible parents do some soul searching and be genuinely interested in attending to the needs and cares of our child. When we are deeply interested in the child, pathways will emerge. See the world from the hopeful and happy eyes of your child! You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth….Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness; For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.- Khalil Gibran