Do not try to stifle their curiosity, like our parents did, with a standard answer to every question
In this constantly-changing environment, raising well-rounded children sure is a challenge for new parents and especially those without extended families to help them or in nuclear families. The problem of raising children gets complex in a nuclear family because the power is with the parents.
This presents a challenging situation in dealing with children because of the power struggle between the parents and children. When children are small, power struggles are also small, but when children grow up a bit, power struggles become complicated and difficult.
It starts with parents thinking, ‘How do I get my children to do their homework without disasters, threats or bribes?’ or even, ‘How do I have a drama-free morning till my children get out of the door for school?’ There is another worry, ‘How do I better manage my children’s screen/phone time without making them want to hide what they’re doing’? These are crucial issues that parents need to think of seriously and carefully. After all, parents just want to raise joyful, resilient children while staying calm and connected and maintaining their sanity at the same time. So the question arises, how to go about doing just that?
I know the majority of young parents are asking that question. It’s not simple, but it is not so complicated either. We are all doing it unconsciously. I don’t have to mention that we need to surround children with love, happiness and encouragement so that they are confident enough to reach their goals. We already do that. Apart from that we also need our house in order. Now I have confused you. Let me explain. The key to raising well-rounded child is to establish a solid support system at home for children to grow up satisfied with his/her achievements and ambitions. Sounds complicated, is it difficult? Some of you are thinking.
Well, it is easy if you make up your mind to make it easy. Let us start by accepting that everyone has different learning styles. It is also important to acknowledge that grades do not motivate a student to succeed rather it’s his/her inner drive to learn more. Once that is established, it is much easier for you to get out of your mindset of labeling your child as ‘smart’ or ‘talented’. Every child has his/her own way of learning, and they shouldn’t have to deal with the pressure of either being ‘smart’ or ‘talented’.
There are few other things parents need to bear in mind. Start with encouraging your children to build friendships. Yes, I know you are worried your child might have wrong company. Remember your child goes to school and might have already picked someone they feel comfortable with, to be their friend. Such association will help your child to think in ways they never considered before while doing activities as a team member. At the same time they will also grow emotionally while they develop their social skills. Parents need to be careful not to base their children’s identity on what they didn’t get as a child. Let your child develop as an individual. So it’s a good idea to foster your child’s sense of self.
When children are growing up they want to know everything. Celebrate that curiosity in your child. Do not try to stifle their curiosity, like our parents did, with a standard answer to every question, ‘Accept it because I said so’. Instead draw them into a conversation, respect their questions and thoughtfully answer them. It will go a long way to building that ever so important bond between the two of you. Then it gets easier to get other things done.
It is always a good idea to cultivate a ‘Do it yourself’ culture in the family and that will include your children too. I remember my father implementing ‘Wash your own dishes’ in our house when I was growing up. We had to clean our plates after each meal. Let your children help you in any way they can, so long as it is safe. I remember my sons climbing on to a chair to reach the sink and help me wash dishes and I let them do that. I also praised them for doing a good job.
I made a point of thanking them and praising their effort every time they did something nice. While you are at it, never categorize a job as a man’s job or woman’s job. All jobs are the same. My sons wanted to learn to knit, sew, cook and wash, and I taught them to do that, because my father taught me. As a result they learned to respect all jobs.
I even helped them clean their room. I believe this helped them learn how to handle challenges while finishing a job at hand in a creative way. You don’t have to worry about it, they will figure out how they can be creative. I remember my sons throwing their socks in a trashcan, like throwing a basketball through the hoop. Every sock ball that landed in the trashcan was a three pointer. They had lots of fun doing that. Eventually I designated a trashcan for their cleaning purpose. After that cleaning the room was a game. All this needs your complete concentration that you don’t get by being a helicopter parent, hovering over them all the time.
Sometimes it’s a good idea to let your children make mistakes. This will challenge them to find a way to deal with it. This in turn will build their confidence to deal with other challenging situations. A parent’s role in all this is to be a positive force for their children. It is absolutely necessary to shower your children with lots of love both physically (by giving lots of hugs) and emotionally (by providing endless support to explore their interests).
This is important for children to build positive self-image and confidence. While doing all this parents need to be careful not to overschedule. Just keep in mind that children learn social skills through unstructured play with other children and also develop keen imaginations. Hence make sure to make free play a priority and take it as seriously as extracurricular activities, because it builds curiosity, creativity, and collaboration.
Finally, all parents want to see their children succeed in life. For that, parents need to make sure that their children feel confident and competent. At the same time help them to develop a sense of passion and purpose in their life. For all this to happen parents need to be consistent, dedicated and have plenty of patience. Also encourage your children to come to you with their problems and achievements. While you are at it also keep in mind that it’s equally important to have a solid, enriched environment: doing things like traveling and making them interact with different people, places and things, rather than rushing them into more academics. Now that is not so difficult for smart people like you, right?
The author is an educationist and author of several children’s books