Know where to draw the line

Mother & Baby - - CONTENTS -

When a baby reaches a mile­stone, it’s a mo­ment of joy and per­sonal vic­tory for the par­ents— an af­fir­ma­tion that they are do­ing some­thing right. If the baby misses a mile­stone, how­ever, or there’s a de­lay, a par­ent might end up feel­ing crest­fallen. At a very early stage, a sense of com­pe­ti­tion slith­ers into the hearts of par­ents, with­out warn­ing, com­pelling par­ents to push their chil­dren a lit­tle more each time. Be­tween aca­demics (al­pha­bet, num­ber, nurs­ery rhymes) and EVS (En­vi­ron­men­tal Sci­ence) how much should we teach a child in the af­ter school hours, (in­clud­ing school home­work)? Mum Sh­weta Sayanakar shares her ex­pe­ri­ences: “I have al­ways be­lieved in strik­ing a bal­ance be­tween play and stud­ies like my par­ents did. But, I did get car­ried away ini­tially with more fo­cus on stud­ies due to peer pres­sure. Ev­ery mother usu­ally loves to tell peo­ple an other par­ents about their child’s lat­est achieve­ments and the new ed­u­ca­tional stuff we bought for them... I was judged

for not get­ting my child to lis­ten to nurs­ery rhymes at the age of three to four months. And soon, our son had many touch­feel books and BBC recorded clips for in­fants and tod­dlers. In ret­ro­spect, I think it’s not fair on lit­tle chil­dren to be pres­surised in this way.” Sh­weta urges par­ents to have faith that chil­dren will meet all their mile­stones in their own time. She rem­i­nisces, “From age one and a half years, we be­gan ex­pos­ing our son to the out­doors—parks, gar­dens, zoos, malls and na­ture trails—and he took to it like a fish to the wa­ter. He loved all the ex­po­sure and learned a lot along the way. Once school­ing starts, the aca­demic learn­ing does fall in place. Now at four and a half years, he is ha­bit­u­ated to learn­ing be­yond books and yet knows which book to pick up at the li­brary that will in­ter­est him.” Coun­sel­lor and M&B panel­list, Son­ali Shivlani ex­plains, “The age 0 to 3 years is the age for un­struc­tured learn­ing. A child can be given a wide va­ri­ety of ex­po­sures. Ac­tiv­i­ties re­lated to the five senses can be in­dulged in, and re­peated. The rep­e­ti­tion helps brain con­nec­tions be­come stronger and hence, en­sures long-term re­ten­tion. At this age, chil­dren have a very short at­ten­tion span of just a few sec­onds, so one must use short sen­tences. Long lec­tures make no sense to them and they switch off.” She cau­tions par­ents against get­ting wor­ried if the child is not mix­ing well with oth­ers. “At such a young age, your child is not very so­cial, and the con­cept of shar­ing and play­ing to­gether has not de­vel­oped. In­stead, you can read to your child. They love it. Talk a lot with them; ex­plain things from the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment of the child. For ex­am­ple, if you see a bus say; it’s a bus, it is red, it has wheels, car­ries many peo­ple, is pub­lic trans­port, and so on...” Son­ali goes on to add that from three to four years, chil­dren start be­com­ing so­cial. “At this age, they are ready to min­gle and can be trained to ease into struc­tured work. Now is the time to re­in­force the con­cepts learned dur­ing the un­struc­tured play­time. They are ready for school, and rou­tines.” As for dis­ci­pline, it starts at birth, says Son­ali. “If you say ‘no’ to your child for some­thing, but give in as soon as she throws a tantrum, you are in for a lot of trou­ble. Dis­ci­pline is a con­tin­u­ous ef­fort.” she says. Ide­ally, home­work or any stud­ies done with the child at home, at an age as ten­der as four or five is at best, meant to get a sense of

dis­ci­pline in­cul­cated into a child (and for par­ents to con­nect with their chil­dren). To make a child sit with a pa­per and pen­cil for about 15 min­utes a day, a few days a week is suf­fi­cient. To cite a per­sonal ex­am­ple, our five-year- old gets a few pages of home­work ev­ery Thurs­day from school, and the hus­band and I feel it’s more than enough (for the whole week). I was shocked when a co-par­ent com­plained to the prin­ci­pal, ‘Why is the home work so lit­tle?’ Thank­fully the prin­ci­pal stood firm with her min­i­mum home­work pol­icy and the rest of us heaved a sigh of re­lief! Home­work or the ac­tiv­i­ties that a child is made to do, should be used to get a sense of cu­rios­ity go­ing on in chil­dren. It can’t be a race to see who learnt the al­pha­bet first. Chan­dini Se­h­gal, mum to Arhaan, feels strongly about the sub­ject. “Play­time. Play­time. Play­time is what I will say. Zero time for of­fi­cial stud­ies—not more than an hour per week at best. Lots of time should be spent on read­ing books to chil­dren, play­ing in the park, teach­ing them new things through reg­u­lar in­for­ma­tive and fun con­ver­sa­tions like nurs­ery rhymes, songs, sounds of an­i­mals, gen­eral aware­ness top­ics, point­ing out to things while driv­ing, qual­ity de­vel­op­men­tal toys and games. Be it school or home, learn­ing should be a fun process and not stress­ful for kids. I saw my son en­joy free play the most and so my hus­band and I let him spend max­i­mum time do­ing just that. It helped nur­ture his in­di­vid­ual likes and de­vel­op­ment. My son was en­cour­aged to pick up toys with­out gen­der bias, and so I think it helped him de­velop his love for cook­ing and also made him a gen­tle lov­ing child.” Lina Asher, founder of Kan­ga­roo Kids Ed­u­ca­tion Lim­ited that runs the Kan­ga­roo Kids preschools & the Bil­l­abong High in­ter­na­tional schools), sums it up beau­ti­fully, “Don’t lead the child. Be led by the child.” She elab­o­rates, “The most im­por­tant thing a child needs is love; lots and lots of love, hugs, kisses and fun time with the fam­ily. The child needs to ‘feel loved’. And then, with time, if you are an ob­ser­vant par­ent, you will see what the child en­joys do­ing the most. The child her­self will show you what she is pas­sion­ate about. Colour­ing, run­ning, skat­ing, gar­den­ing, build­ing things... that’s how a child leads us. And then it is up to you to guide, coach or coun­sel her to be suc­cess­ful while pur­su­ing that pas­sion.” The ed­u­ca­tor warns against par­ents try­ing to live their own dreams through their chil­dren. “That’s just un­fair.”

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