Monday, 20 May 2019

Naughty or Aggressive?




Naughty or Aggressive ?






When I was a preschool teacher, all the ‘naughty’ children were put in my class! And I loved to have them, because I would try and solve the mystery of each child’s ‘naughtiness’. Today ‘naughty’ children are called ‘aggressive’. Any child is labeled aggressive, if the child cannot sit straight while you are telling a story- aggressive! If the child cannot share- aggressive! If the child pushes someone in the park- aggressive!
It is important that parents and teachers understand child development because then they would know what behavior is age appropriate and what needs to be looked into for modification. For example when children in the ages of 2 to 4 years push someone, it is because they lack impulse control and cannot wait for their turn. By age 5 children have learnt social manners and have an understanding of ‘not to hurt others’. So when a 3 year old pushes we need to handle it differently, from when a 5 year old or an 8 year old pushes.
Children get aggressive for many reasons, but the two most  important reasons are  lack of attention and too much attention. When a child feels ignored a child usually reacts aggressively.  When a child is spoilt, then the child wants attention all the time and when that attention is divided or late in coming the child reacts aggressively. It important for adults to make a distinction between the two  as the first one needs love and the second one needs firmness. 
Signs of aggression-
·         moodiness
·         depression
·         inability or disinterest in activities and people
·         not looking at you when you talk to them

Acts of aggression-
·         shouting, screaming.
·         Pushing others.
·         Hitting and harming others or oneself.
·         Running around, jumping, swinging things, throwing things.

We  had a child in one of our schools  that would come to the class and climb the shelves and sit there. No amount of cajoling would bring him down. If brought down the child would walk around hitting and punching other children. Sometimes we would feel he is better off on the shelf! But then other children want to sit on the shelf, so this had to be sorted.  We asked the teacher to start shadowing the child by holding his hand and gently pulling him away when he would try to reach for another child. Everyday as he would enter the class  the teacher  would greet him and take him aside and high five him, and reaffirming about 2 important rules- “we don’t sit on the shelf and we don’t hurt others”. Then she would follow him around by holding his hand. At the end of the day she would tell him what he did well and where he can be better. The child was 3 years old. After 15 days of this, slowly she did not have to hold his hand, she involved him in activities like helping pick up toys or take things from one side of the class to the other. But she noticed that every time his father came to drop him (which was once in 15 days) the child would be too aggressive on those days. Then  we found the cause, the father before dropping him would say, ‘don’t be naughty in school or I will not take you out’.  We  realized that the father was giving negative reinforcement and so we spoke to the father to change his words to , ‘ have fun in school and I will pick you up after school, daddy loves you’
The aggression stopped and the child is well settled now.
Here are some pointers  to monitor and change aggressive behavior
1.     From when did these start? A new baby? A change in the family? A new teacher? Too many milestones together? - like toilet training, eating on their own, brushing their teeth, going to daycare. If too many emotionally draining milestones were clubbed together then the child will naturally always feel overwhelmed and thus may resort to aggressive behavior  often from stress.
2.     How did you handle the first aggression and how are you handling it now? Most parents handle the first few aggressions with ease, by either being kind to the child or laughing it off, but as the frequency increases they tend to change and it is this change that frustrates the child. So be consistent in your way of handling every aggression  and meltdown.
3.     Is the child aggressive only with you or with everyone? This can be because of three reasons-
a.     You may not be giving her choices and so she wants her way – power struggle. So give some choices, like for choosing clothes to wear, the closet is off limits but put three dresses on the bed and have her choose what to wear, this will help you ‘maintain control’ and also give the child the required choice to feel independent and in control.
b.    Mothers usually like to maintain a routine that is good for children but others may not be so strict with her so she perceives you as the ‘only’ person who ‘makes’ her do things. So talk to the other family members to maintain some consistency.
c.     You may unknowingly not be paying her attention when ‘she’ wants. So analyze and work on it. Remember for children even negative attention is good. 
4.     Check how much time you spend with her, is it enough? Kids need 20 minutes of our undivided attention (at least 6 times a day!) but sometimes we end up being on the phone or checking mails or cooking when we are supposed to be giving them our undivided attention.
5.     Do you communicate or instruct? Check your conversations throughout the day are they more instructions and questions? Then you need to give her more time to talk and communicate. 
6.    If you find that nothing works and your child  is just a ‘drama queen’ or ‘meltdown king’ then refrain from labeling them as such. Because when you call them by these names you are opening them up to ridicule and confusing them, which adds more fuel to their already fragile emotions.

 9 ways to handle aggressive behavior-
 
1.     Walking away does not help as it teaches your child that when someone is upset, walk away.
2.     So during an aggressive  tantrum or a meltdown just sit there quietly till it wears out, or give your child a tight hug and keep hugging till she quiets down. Say words like, ‘There, there, I understand’ or just a simple ‘hmmm.’ Ensure that your child is not going to hurt herself or others, if you think she will then just hold her tightly from behind, close to your body.
3.     Reasoning with them during an aggressive meltdown is foolish because during aggressive behavior the pre frontal cortex or the thinking brain has shut down and the primitive brain has taken over which has only 4 responses, fight, flight, flock or freeze. Talk to them and reason with them afterwards or when you are having a happy moment with them.
4.     If your child has the aggressive  meltdown at a public place then just ride it out with a smile on your face for that irritating passerby who glares at you just shrug your shoulder and say,  ‘ Bear with it dear, remember this planet also has kids’. Don’t look embarrassed, as that is the fuel to your toddlers’ public aggression.
5.     Do not lose your temper, aggression does not respond to anger. Do not lock the child, threaten, or tease the child about the behavior.
6.     If the child is being physical, hold the child firmly so the child cannot hurt itself or others.
7.     If the child is screaming and shouting, stand there, ignore and look firmly at the child, till the child stops, or else pick up the child from behind and take the child to another room.
8.     Once the child has calmed down, sit with the child, put your arm around the child, and ask the child what went wrong? how can you help?
9.     Make rules for the child, an agreement between you, and the child about what is not acceptable and compliment the child when it achieves it. Change will be slow but with consistency and persistence it happens.

 Remember not to focus on the aggressive behavior but to focus on the cause of the aggressive behavior.



Dr. Swati Popat Vats


Thursday, 15 February 2018

Where the heart beats and not the hand…#Iwillnot

Where the heart beats and not the hand…#Iwillnot




Early Childhood Association with First Moms Club and Born Smart recently conducted a survey on ‘spanking’ with 1790 mothers and the results were that 77% mothers spanked their children! The study was published in Times of India and Hindustan Times on 15th February. (https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/77-of-moms-raised-hands-on-their-children-survey/articleshow/62922957.cms) (https://m.hindustantimes.com/india-news/survey-shows-77-parents-spank-children-at-home/story-zNNnm3jsFKshnpcCKPSOYO.html )

Our vision behind this survey was to support rather than judge parents. We know that parenting can be both exhausting and exhilarating. It is in the exhausting times that a parent may lose control and resort to hitting, spanking, or pinching their child. We are here to help you  overcome the hand that hits and help you make it the hand that hugs. Parenting is where the ‘heart beats’ and not the ‘hand’.

Its time to practice ‘mindful parenting’.

The common reasons why mothers said that they spanked their children are:
1.Struggling to bring up children alone, as the father rarely participates, so overwhelmed all the time.
2.Inability to control her anger, irritation, and frustration.
3.Trying to juggle home and career and ensuring that the child is well looked after, or giving up a career and finding it frustrating.

Some mothers even wrote to us saying- “ I hit my child but it’s for the child’s best interests and its ok for mothers to once in a while hit their child, afterall they love them so much”.I don’t judge mothers who hit their children but I definitely judge mothers who condone it, because there can be no excuse to resorting to violence when it comes to children.

Don’t men who hit their wives use the same excuse?? When did love become violence and when did love give you the sick power to hurt, humiliate and hit? If you really love your children then let your heart beat for your child and not your hand!

Look at what’s happening around you today, young teenagers are killing, hurting others, violence has become a norm, acceptable. Children learn by imitation and when you try to control them with violence then they learn that violence is the solution for everything in life. And when you try to condone that violence by saying that ‘I hit you because I love you’ then you are bringing up ‘wife beaters’ and ‘acid throwers’. Love never, ever hurts or harms! In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “punishment hardens children” and that is exactly what we are seeing today, children who have hardened emotions who kill, hit and harm because empathy is dead. How did it die? It was beaten out of the bodies of our children.

I am not going to be soft or considerate in this blog, as it is time we as women realized that giving excuses of frustration does not give us the right to physically harm our children. A physical harm that scars our children for life. Come on women..mothers…are you saying that you are so weak that you take out the frustrations of life and husbands on your children? You are much stronger than that. You  are the stronger species and that is why you carry the child for 9 months and you are the nurturers and protectors. Don’t give in to momentary weakness and end up hitting, pinching, and slapping your children.

Most mothers who come to me for counseling admit that after hitting their children they feel guilty and then go and hug their child, say sorry and give them gifts. This teaches children that violence is a way of showing love. What kind of husbands and wives will these kids grow up to be? They will be husbands who beat their wives because they ‘love’ them and they will be wives that take that beating and pass it on to their children, because they ‘love their husbands and children.

Its time to ensure that with our smart phones even our parenting styles are getting smarter! Its time for ‘mindful parenting’. Mindfulness is all about realizing when your emotions are racing ahead of you, when your emotions are taking over you, listen to your beating heart and control that hand that beats.

I am not going to enumerate the negative impacts of spanking children because you don’t need a reason to stop hitting your own child/ren, you need control, self control. So tie a red ribbon on the hand that you use to hit your child, this will be a constant reminder that you have to control that hand and the red will remind you that instead of seeing a red mark of a slap on your child it would be so much more loving to see the red mark of a kiss on your child.

If you are finding your child stubborn, irritating, unreasonable then realize that your child was not born that way. Remember that cherubic angel you held in your arms? When did that angel  become ‘Dennis the Menace’? Something you did or did not do as parents led to this transformation in your child, well then there is something that you can do as parents that can once again transform your child, all you need is a mentor, seek one.

Promise yourself that you will not push your child on a ‘merry go round’ of violence, because remember, children who are beaten..beat, it’s as simple as that. Just because you are a mother does not give you the right to beat your child and that is why in most countries it is illegal to hit or harm your child. Its time that ‘Mother India’ also stops hitting their child and stop making excuses like, ‘its just a small phatka’, ‘its for the child’s good’, ‘ it hit because I love my child’, etc.

Become the parent, the mother whose heart beats for her children and not her hand. Go on your Facebook, twitter, instagram and become an enlightened and empowered mother by posting #Iwillnot

Come become part of this campaign to ensure that mothers are known for nurturing and not for harming and that mothers are stronger and can control their hand when it comes to taking care of the heart of their lives…their children. #Iwillnot

Dr.Swati Popat Vats

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Learning from Padmavati film row and Miss World win



Learning for educators and parents from Padmavati film row and Miss World win. 


Media has been going berserk on the Padmavati film row, with arguments and shouting matches by those who support the film and those who don’t! And in this frenzy came the news about our girl from Haryana winning the Miss World crown and bringing it back to India after 17 years by replying, ‘mother’, to the end of the pageant question- ‘Which profession should be the highest paid and why?’ And her reply again has those that think it was an apt reply and those that don’t.

Both the news are splashed everywhere, so much so that it is difficult to ignore them and kids, especially youngsters are definitely influenced by both the news. This is where we as educators need to step in and help them analyze, deliberate and decide otherwise they will end up taking sides without learning the most essential skills of logical thinking so required in understanding conflict.  If we really want to change our education system then its time to start discussing contemporary issues with students. Discussing not arguing or judging!

Our children and youth have a question regarding the Padmavati film row- ‘Who is right?’ Many educators and mothers applauded the reply given by Ms. Chillar to clinch the crown, and our students have a question, ‘She did not answer the question, so will we also be applauded if we don’t answer questions in the right context?’
 
 
The Padmavati film row is the right opportunity to teach our children and youth the following-

1.    There is never a complete right and wrong in such conflicts, the important part is resolving the conflict to the benefit of both parties and without any harm to a third party. 

Discussions are raging about proving each side wrong or each side right but we must realize that in this situation like many such conflicts there is no innocent party or the right and wrong party as both parties have broken rules and have erred. The choice now is either to continue to argue that this party is less guilty or more violent than the other or to ensure that both parties are brought face to face to resolve the conflict. Youth need our help to understand how media also has two sides, the ‘reporting’ and the ‘rehashing’, it is the rehashing that we need to be careful about and train our children to understand that it happens for TRP and once they understand the difference they will be able to make logical choices instead of depending on the ‘brain washing’ of the rehashing! 

2.    Creative liberty or liberty of speech is our right but we also have to respect the right of beliefs and sentiments.

We are a proud democratic country and we have the right to speak our mind, our thoughts and practice creativity. But with every right, comes a responsibility and it is this combination that we need to make our children and youth aware about. What they speak and how they speak can hurt someone’s beliefs and sentiments, are they aware of the same? Or are they clueless about the same? Or are they aware but choose to ignore the same? This requires intelligence, sensitivity and empathy, all signs of a good leader. So help students to analyze their decisions, thoughts, and speech on these guidelines before they decide to speak, print or go public. 

3.    Tackling upset people by becoming more upset with them does not diffuse the situation. What helps is knowledge of conflict resolution. 

Our children need to be given the understanding that Violence can never be condoned and any kind of violence is deplorable. But violence cannot be defused by sarcasm, mocking or shouting. Violence happens when the thinking brain has stopped thinking and is now on flight or fight mode. The more you shout, threaten or mock such a brain it will resort to more violence as it is on ‘shut down mode’. The only way to calm violence is to bring in conflict resolution. This needs to be practiced at the micro level by teachers in schools and parents at home by not resorting to violence when tackling an angry child or teenager or by shouting and mocking their behavior. This will only ignite and incite them to do more bad behavior. If children see adults handling a volatile situation in a clam manner and succeeding in diffusing the same then they will grow up learning conflict resolution skills that will go a long way in ensuring that they become law abiding citizens that contribute to a peaceful society and world. Our children will face violence in the form of bullies and bullies cannot be done away with more bullying! Conflict resolution is a 21st century life skill that we need to ingrain and pass on to our youth.

  
The Miss World win is the perfect opportunity to help young impressionable minds understand the following:

1.    Ms. Chillar is a young budding medical student, so she is a perfect example of beauty and brains. In today’s world it is important to understand the meaning of beauty is not just in being born with great looks but making yourself beautiful with exercise, a good food plan and grooming. All that is possible for everyone. And the earlier we make them aware of the same is better. Healthy food should not be confused with dieting and exercise should not become exercise binging! Grooming is all about health and hygiene.

2.    So what is a good figure? Will be a common topic of discussion in young boys and girls, well, its time to help them understand that a good figure is one that makes you feel comfortable and healthy.  Going on life threatening diets or severe gym plans is only a temporary and dangerous solution. 

3.    Even in a beauty pageant the clincher is always the question and answer round, so you may win all the beauty and fashion rounds but it is your presence of mind, confidence and smartness that ultimately gets you the crown or keeps it at arms length from you. This helps children understand that nothing in life is dependent on just good looks!

But a teenager asked me the most important queries on the question Ms. Chillar was asked and the reply she gave, the query,  ‘Was her reply correct?’, to which I said well she did not answer the question but replied to it in a different context. Because after the entire question posed was, ‘Which profession should be paid the highest salary and why?’ and the meaning of the word profession is  - a paid occupation, especially one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification. So yes her reply, ‘Mother’ is not the apt reply to the question but she smartly gave it a different context and thus won the heart of the jury.

And now the teenager asked me a second question- ‘So should not schools also allow us to answer questions in a different context? Why do they insist on having a right answer…only one answer?’

And this is what I leave to all educators and parents to think about, especially those that are applauding Ms. Chillar’s reply, why cant we give our students the same freedom when it comes to replying to questions that can have more than one context?

Its time we used contemporary everyday affairs to help us teach our students and children so that they are better equipped to face the world and its trails and tribulations on their own with confidence, zeal, determination and logic

Dr.Swati Popat Vats

An 11th standard boy kills a young boy… Schooling or parenting



An 11th standard boy kills a young boy… Schooling or parenting. Who is to blame?




In the gruesome murder of the young primary school boy in a Gurgaon school, the CBI has now found that it was not the school conductor that killed the boy but an 11th Standard boy of the same school! Reason? He wanted to postpone the exams and the parent- teacher meeting!
 
When the child was murdered it was schools that bore the brunt of anger, mistrust from parents. Now if this new  truth is out, whom do we blame? The parents? The school? Or both?

Lets remember it takes a village to raise a child.   Parenting and education should be equally responsible for how our children turn out to be as adolescents and future adults. But sadly today parents and schools are each at opposing ends with mistrust between them. Both should ideally work together, hand in hand to ensure the safety, security, and holistic development of each and every child.

What has led to this huge rift between two of the most important pillars in a child’s life? Somewhere parents are not taking their role as parents seriously and expect the school to do parenting and education and somewhere the schools are not educating parents about their role and are unable to support both children and parents in understanding challenging behavior or lack of performance. Parent teacher meetings have become a farce and a bane for children as both the teachers and parents blame them and no one has any solution to support them.

Parents and schools should be focused on inculcating essential socio-emotional life skills like sympathy, empathy, honesty, conscience but are busy teaching and focusing on academic performance….academic performance at any cost…

This is where the root cause of the problem ailing our youngsters lies, they have no moral compass, no sensitivity towards others. This murder is not the only case that has happened in recent years, Two boys kill their grandmother for her cash and jewelry, as they had to pay some betting debts. A young boy plots and kidnaps his cousin, who is then killed for ransom money to fulfill gambling debts. Both these are real life cases- recent cases that have shocked everyone.  There are hundreds of such cases where young adolescent boys from so called ‘safe happy, well educated and well to do families’ are committing such heinous crimes.

My question, didn’t the parents know their kids? Were they unable to see this coming? Were they never aware of such deadly ideologies lurking in their kid’s personalities? All these kids started as innocent young boys, so then when did they cross over? Why did not their parents notice it in their talks, discussions, or behavior? It went unnoticed and then it was too late.

Most Parents and schools rarely talk to kids - they only lecture them! Most  parents and schools rarely discuss, instead only question them. Most parents and schools  try to change behaviors of kids only by threats, bargaining and bartering. Such kids behave well in front of their parents, but are completely opposite in their absence.

Moral values, morality, ethics, and truth are qualities that are not nurtured in our kids today. Parents focus more on excelling and succeeding, at any cost and buy their kids ‘co-operation’ with materialistic bribes. Thereby, nudging their kids towards a lifestyle and mindset that focuses on material gains at any cost.

Motivation is extrinsic, behavior is extrinsically controlled, and nothing is intrinsic any more in our kids. They have lost their ‘moral compass’ usually called the conscience because it was never awakened, they never saw it being used, talked about, or practiced.

Parents must learn from Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket. Pinocchio had a quirk, every time he would tell a lie - his nose would grow longer. Learning from Pinocchio, parents must observe their kids from childhood – only then they would know exactly when their child is lying, hiding things from them, or just being secretive or evasive. Some kids fidget, some don’t look you in the eyes, some start clutching their hands and some lose appetite when they are breaking a rule. It’s easy to spot if you know your child and this is important for parents because just teaching about rules is not the goal. Ensuring that your child wants to follow the rules and equipping your child with ‘something’ that would make your child aware when he is breaking the rules. This ‘something’ for Pinocchio was Jiminy Cricket, his conscience. So, similarly till your child develops his conscience you will have to be his Jiminy Cricket and guide your child. Be an alert parent, be there as a guide and mentor not a police officer.

Being your child’s Jiminy Cricket, teach your child how to think through problems and how to select the right from the wrong even when the wrong looks right at that moment. Teach your child decision making under stress. Teach your child how to counteract temptation, bullies and more.   Be open to your child asking questions. To know what your child thinks, play ‘what if’ games with your child and you will know whether your child is a pessimist, an optimist, or a dreamer, who will get carried away.

In the above cited crimes had the boys thought through their actions, they would have realized that committing the crime was not the easy way out. Instead confessing to their parents would have been the better path to take. In their wrong decision and choice they have now landed in jail. So when you read about such crimes, talk to your kids and discuss with them, ‘where do they think the boys were wrong’, ‘what would you have done differently if you were in their place’.    

It’s time to give kids a healthy upbringing, it’s time to discuss with our teenagers  why the murder happened, and it’s time to understand from teenagers why they think the murder happened. This may help us understand the mental health of our kids and help us shape them better. It’s time to give good role models to kids. It’s time to understand the temperaments of our kids and help shape and guide them accordingly. There is a lot that parents and teachers can learn from the work of Rudolf Steiner (German Philosopher and Educationist and founder of Waldorf schools) and if one refers to what Rudolf Steiner says, we can understand that shaping our kids mental health is in our hands, we can choose to nudge them to success or push them over the brink to destruction, both self and that of others.
Steiner  says that children have different temperaments and teachers and parents should know these otherwise there are chances that we as adults would drive them to extreme behavior as a result of mismanagement of their temperaments. The  four temperaments are-

              1. Melancholic:
  • Is a temperament  whose attention and interest is not easily aroused, though once attention is aroused they are strongly persevering. 
  • Melancholic children  require sympathy, empathy, and respect from adults. 
  • When melancholic children are not nurtured as per their temperament needs then chances are that these kids will display extreme depression and the very extreme forms of behavior noticed in this temperament is  delusions and melancholia.
2           2. Phlegmatic:
  • Is a temperament whose attention and interest is least easily aroused, and even when attention is aroused they are least strongly persevering.
  • These kids require constant interaction with adults. 
  • When phlegmatic children are not nurtured as per their temperament needs then chances are that these kids will display extreme disinterest and the very extreme forms of behavior noticed in this temperament are   imbecility and idiocy.    ·        
  1. Choleric:
  • Is a temperament  whose attention and interest is most easily aroused, and these kids are most strongly persevering.
  • These children require firm authority and challenges
  • When choleric children are not nurtured as per their temperament needs then chances are that these kids will display uncontrollable temper and  the very extreme forms of behavior noticed in this temperament are fanaticism and mania.    
  1. Sanguine:
  • Is a temperament  whose attention and interest is  easily aroused, though they are not able to sustain it as they have little strength of perseverance.
  • To handle them we need to discover their interests and then occupy them with it/through i.
  • When sanguine  children are not nurtured as per their temperament needs then chances are that these kids will display character instability and the very extreme forms of behavior noticed in this temperament are  lunacy and insanity.·             
The above is just one example of understanding that temperaments in children can be different and will require different handling. We need to change the face of parenting and teaching in this country, we need to educate the adults about life skills and how to inculcate them in children and to do that we need to understand children, their minds, their moods and their mindsets. And if required to seek professional help from mental health experts immediately.

To stop a repeat of such incidents from happening we need to teach kids to empathize, think, and learn to use logic with emotions and to do all that we need to first learn about empathy, sympathy, love and logic.

Every child has beauty and a beast in its personality. It is up to us as parents whether to use the beast in us and try to get the beauty in them and fail or alternatively, use the beauty of our parenting techniques and tame the beast in our kid’s personality and bring out the beauty. 

Dr.Swati Popat Vats