The case against expecting the world from our children

The case against expecting the world from our children

By KORAL DASGUPTA | | 23 April, 2016
Unlearning is the process of giving up your rigidities and being more flexible regarding your child’s pursuits as he or she wishes, instead of burdening them with your own misplaced expectations.

All of us want our children to be Einsteins and Shakespeares. The very Indian expectations that the progeny would excel in everything where the parents excel, they would simultaneously not adapt the limitations that bind the parents, and that they would fulfil the unachieved dreams of parents, is quite a Herculean task on whomsoever it is bestowed. Just think of a situation where you are told that you are supposed to score well in Mathematics since your father did; you shouldn’t be short-tempered because your father had suffered his temperamental fangs all his life and it is your job to learn from his mistakes; and since your father is a doctor, you should prefer that profession as well!

Doesn’t the last sentence sound like a jinx? And if that is what it sounds like to you, then what would it be for a child?

That is where it is important for all of us to stop being ourselves and be less complicated for our children. There are endless things that we know. We have picked up those information by choice, or they have been forced into our system by the environment we live in. many of those information are such that we don’t ever need them. But since we know them, they affect us without our knowledge. For example, your neighbour has bought a new car which is bigger than yours. And you are immediately tempted to do something about this. Either you buy yourself something else to feel equal; or you just live sulking.

Unlearning is exactly the process of identifying all those stuff that you don’t need to know and throw them in the air. Unlearning is also the process of giving up your rigidities and turning more flexible towards your pursuits. When my child was found allergic towards milk, we shifted to soya milk. It took us some time to “unlearn” the fact that milk is must for the growth of children. The truth was, though milk has fantastic food values, it was not meant for my child. It didn’t make sense that we keep trying to feed him white because we have grown up on it ourselves and discomfort the child. Rather, finding the best possible alternative was a good way to handle the situation.  But of course, these are tasks easier said than done. It is certainly not so easy to unlearn and break free from all the junk we have picked up.

We often end up putting our children through too many activities and learning courses. But they would learn better if they focus on fewer things and not burden their heads with too many skills.

Given below are some simpler ways to approach this:

Simplicity: Let’s make life simple for our children. My child receives many expensive toys from family and friends. But he enjoys those that are the easiest for him to handle. We often end up putting our children through too many activities and learning courses. But they would learn better if they focus on fewer things and not burden their heads with too many skills.In the first five or six years, the best skill for the child would be physical activities where they can run into open air, play with sand and leafs, make friends and breathe fresh. Engaging them with toys or television indoors would not contribute to the healthy growth of their minds.

Also these days, the schools and day-cares follow such curriculums that have intellectual targets towards brain developments. Perhaps it is better for the child hence, to remain free at home. Too much of academic inputs might rob him of his interests at a very early stage. Treat the home as a place for simple practices and not for excess learning. Many kindergarten teachers and psychologists have advised that since the child is picking up academic lessons in a particular way at his school, parents should rather stay informed and burden them no more than a positive reinforcement at home.

Story: There is a stage when the child would speak a lot of imaginary things. Ensure that you never discourage that. At their stage, it is one of the simplest ways to exhibit creativity. Ask them more questions on what they say, allow them to expand their thoughts. After you have had enough, explain to them that all that were discussed were from the fantasy land. Don’t get worn out if their fantasies don’t match your ambitions. Don’t try to teach them something on your dreams. The temptation of forcing our ideas on them is what we need to unlearn!

My four years old one day woke up in the morning and started playing with his little water bottle. He would swing it on top of his head, run it in the air from one side to the other, and make a strange sound with his mouth. “What are you doing?” I asked. He said, “I am driving a rocket!” Quite happily I asked, “So would you be a rocketeer when you grow up?” “No.” He said. “I’ll drive a train then.” Futile it would be to explain that his mother did not see him driving a train in future. But it helps to understand where he comes from. He had been into toy trains and the sound, the colours, the dreamy image of the train is what attracts him. Those references obviously, are good for him.  

A great habit it is to read out stories to them, or simply tell them stuff that get them to think. When they hear stories from someone else, they try to see those images in their mind, which again helps stimulate their brain.

Play with them: Another way to unlearn is to play with them the way they want. Give them dough or clay, and they will make their own designs out of them. Go with that spirit. Try to discover new things with them and surprise yourself, as much as it startles them. Learn new games together and observe how they approach it. With the complications that we have picked up over the years, often we end up being problem oriented. We do simple things in a difficult way just because we are obsessed with the correct process of doing them. A child, however, is solution oriented. Their ability to simplify things will amaze you. Try to encourage that in him and also within yourself. Children are often obsessed about disassembling their toys and taking out the batteries. Pamper that. Let them explore, search, understand. Just keep a watch that they don’t put it in the mouth or harm themselves in some other way.

Let them identify their favourites. Be it their toys or shoes or clothes. Don’t try to force your choice on them just because you think they’ll look better with a red shirt and blue pant. Give them the freedom to develop their tastes. What they choose for themselves will tell you a lot about the personality that is coming up. If your child is careful about the colour combinations and wants to be dressed up neatly with the shirt tucked inside the skirt, you know that style is important for her. And if the child likes to keep it easy, you know that comfort is more important for him than his appearance. The list goes on. 

Reduce stress: Stress comes naturally to all of us since we are pursuing a million things at the same time and trying to excel in each. Of course we can’t avoid multi-tasking. We don’t have the luxury of going for one job at a time in between demanding professional commitments. But, with a child to parent, we don’t have a choice. We compulsorily have to choose to reduce stress and live it easy. Otherwise, the same stress would reflect on our children too. I remember being scared every time I spotted mosquitos in the room. With words like dengue and malaria entering scaringly into our medical vocabularies, I grew very particular with mosquito repellents and sprays and closed windows. Soon I found my child picking up the trait. The moment he found a mosquito anywhere he would run up and down the furniture, forcing everyone to get up from their places and chase it to death. He would be frightened and that showed on his face!

Social media also ushers stress. It constantly judges you, tells you the achievements and failures of others, and shows you all the horrible things happening to the world today. While it is important to stay informed, it is equally crucial to know when to stop. For some time during the day, hide your mobiles from yourself and switch off. Give that time to your child.

Reintroduce people: Last but not the least, help your child to know the people around you. Every time he meets someone from the family or friends, introduce them again. Tell the child about one good quality that the person possesses. Let him know and appreciate naturally the goodness that prevails in the people around him. Show the photographs and videos of relatives and friends who stay far away. If there are motion images of those relatives loving your child, play them often so that their love and care in reinforced in the tender brain. And keep discussing with the child all the good qualities that all the people around you exhibits. This will not only be extremely constructive and pleasant for the mental growth of your child, but you will also be surprised with the kind of positivity it brings to your life! Lots of grouses disappear when you unlearn them and discuss nice things about people. It reassures your brain and help you restore faith. The resultant trust with which you secure yourself thus, is eventually good for your child as well.


Add new comment

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.