Our kids are our most prized possessions. We want them to have whatever we think is the best, and many a times, many of the things we wanted as kids but could never get to have. It’s natural.
Sometimes, however, in our quest to decide what’s best for them, we go overboard — we become over-protective, over-expecting and sometimes,
disrespectful insensitive. We tend to think that it’s alright “since they’re kids”. The sad but true thing is, it’s not alright because of the very fact that they’re kids. Things set in a child’s heart are quite like the engravings in stone — they may fade but they do not vanish. For example: I still remember my kindergarten teacher calling me a “weak student”. She might not have had an ill-will when she said it, but that’s something which I still remember and maybe subconsciously had had an impact in some way my life got shaped.
Here are a few things I think we need to be aware of.
- Stop labeling them
The early years of your kids are the formation years, their brains and hearts are like tiny lumps of clay — ready to be moulded. It’s in our hands to provide for a suitable environment to ensure that they take the best shape — a shape that a huge structure can stand-on. In future, they’ll go through a lot of hardships — when they face the adversities of life. By labeling them we’re drilling tiny holes in the boundary of the yet-to-be-built structure. Watch yourself using what is known as a descriptive language, when it comes to them, or things in general. For example, expressions like “s/he is like this only”, “s/he never listens”, “s/he would never try anything new”, “s/he is an introvert”. Remember, your kid is NOT that. It’s you who are shaping her/him to be that!
Use generative language instead, like “s/he will surely try veggies this week”, “s/he hasn’t had the chance to try this out, but I know s/he will”, “I am sure s/he would love to meet your kid”.
If you notice the difference in the tone used in descriptive and generative language — the former does not help the situation — it makes it worse: the kid would start believing in how you labeled her, and eventually consider herself to be that. On the other hand, generative language ushers hope. It boosts your kids’ confidence that you believe in her/him — even if s/he does not do what you intended her/him to do — but there’s no residue.
- Lead by example
If you’re hooked on to your TV/iPad/Smart-phone at home then do not expect the kid to conduct herself any differently. They think that it’s the norm! It might be a tough decision initially, given our diminishing attention spans, and our constant yearning to seek short-term-pseudo-satisfaction online. But it highlights the importance of family, of having a live support system to your kids. Instead of spending time online, strike conversations with them and then listen to them earnestly and do not impose your point-of-view. You will realize that they make a lot of minute observations, which may sometimes require you to modify their perspective. Also note that they’d instantly find out if you’re not genuine in your listening.
- Let them get bored
This is something I read recently, and then I could associate to it. As a kid, I had a lot of time to spare. It led to have a fun childhood where I enjoyed my company. I discovered a LOT and some of those lessons still bear fruit.
Do not overplan your kids’ day, or worse, their holidays/vacations. It is very easy to get influenced by others who get their kids enrolled in every other activity out there, and then talk about it with gleaming eyes. Not judging them, but I pity those kids.
What we don’t realize is that we’re robbing away their childhood. Let your kid get bored during the day and then discover what s/he really enjoys doing. Create venues for her to channel her creativity, and let her enjoy these years. Trust me, they will have ample time to learn life lessons when the time comes.
- Let them out in the open
Open spaces are eluding fast, and so is our willingness to let our kids out. But it is indispensable. Let them get a few bruises, a few cuts and a few falls. It makes them tough, and as a side-effect, prepares them for what’s out there. Encourage them to break the trend — encourage your girl to participate in cricket, football and other not-so-girly games.
When they’re slightly bigger, send them out for hikes and camping. They’d learn precious skills there. They’d learn that many-a-times, one needs to take care of oneself as well as to watch out for others. Do not be overprotective and avoid all kinds of injuries even at home. Their bodies are lightweight and can bear a hit or a fall far better than our bodies can — so this is the time for them to experience it.
What I am trying to underline is related to the previous point of not planning everything for them, but rather preparing them to become independent starting from these nascent years.
I am sure if we all bear these things in mind, we’d be nurturing a lovable lot which is tough, confident and ready to take charge of their lives without an iota of self-doubt!