Monday, 22 October 2012

There is no such thing as ‘discipline’; it is behavior management or modification.

There is no such thing as ‘discipline’; it is behavior management or modification. Because discipline is fixed, like in the army, but behavior can vary and with it varies the methods of handling deviant behavior. The problem is that as adults we follow a strict policy with kids that says,’ Do as we say, not as we do’, and we forget that kids learn by imitation! So you can see mothers and teachers shouting at their kids and asking them to ‘be quiet’!

Yet another myth- Patience. You can’t have patience with kids, should not have, as there is no such thing as patience. Patience implies that you are ‘bearing with’ someone, instead of basing your discipline on patience base it on understanding. Because in patience you will control the child instead of guiding the child. So stop telling yourself, I need to be patient with my child, instead say have I understood what the child is actually trying to tell me with the behavior? Usually kids have lots to tell you, but do not have the supportive language development and so their boredom, frustration, anger comes out in behavioral problems. Show them a socially accepted avenue to show their anger and frustration, don’t stop them from experiencing these emotions, use sentences like,’ I know you are angry because I did not give you the toy, but instead of beating me, you can beat the pillow’.

Don’t react to kids misbehavior with your own, oh yes it happens. Let me tell you about this mother and child I watched at the check in  terminal of an airport (the best place that I watch kids interact with their parents!) a mother sitting in front of me had her 3 year old son sitting facing her on her lap. Both of them were engrossed in a beautiful interaction and bonding by singing nursery rhymes that the child must have learnt in his playschool. The mother’s mobile phone rang and mid sentence she picked up her cell and started talking to the other person. I could see the child’s face was disappointed, but the child waited patiently for a full minute( long time in a toddler’s world!) then started nudging the mother, ‘mummy’, ‘mummy’, mummy’ he went on quietly and patiently. No response from mummy, she was happily ignoring the child and chatting on the phone. Exasperated and irritated the child caught hold of the mothers chin and said, ‘mummy chalo na’, mummy just shook her head and carried on, to which; to my utter amazement the child slapped the mother! In reaction to which, to my utter horror, the mother slapped the child and the child starting bawling. Mother embarrassed, switched off the phone, and started cajoling the child, ‘I am so sorry beta’ etc etc out of guilt and embarrassment. The child refused to stop crying only increased the octaves of screaming! She bought a chocolate for the child and pacified the child.

So what went wrong in this beautiful interaction that was on between mother and child? How did a lovely singing bond end in this ‘free for all’?

Simple, the mother did not show respect for the child, when the mobile phone rang she should have either completed the song that they were singing and then picked up the phone or should have excused herself and told the child, I will take this call and then we will continue. And she should have known to recognize the signs of ‘final frustration’ that kids exhibit, which is ‘holding your chin and making you look at them’, when kids do this, they are serious, serious about throwing a full blown tantrum! Final mistake she made she answered a slap with a slap, isn’t that ‘do as we say and not as we do’? if we are telling kids that they must not hit when they are angry, then how can we hit when we are angry? And then buying a chocolate to pacify the child? Materialistic parenting, a no-no for healthy development of kids.

So respect children and watch for the impeding signs of tantrums and misbehavior. Catch them being good instead of punish them when bad.

Children in the first 6 years lack impulse control, which is why without thinking the little boy slapped his mother. Impulse control comes with the development of the pre frontal cortex, so the more the prefrontal cortex develops, the better will be the logic, reasoning, attention, focus in children. Play games to develop impulse control, simple games like ‘Simon says’, ‘red light, green light’, all develop impulse control. For example in ‘Simon says’, the child has to concentrate and wait for the word ‘Simon’ to do the action, so he controls his impulse to do the action, until he hears the word.

Punishment is a strict no-no. that is a traditional method, we need guidance, show the child where he went wrong and what he should have done instead- The difference between the two approaches is that traditional discipline criticizes children- often publicly- for unacceptable behaviors whereas guidance teaches children positive alternatives, what they can do instead.  
In today’s world teachers and mothers need to be leaders and not bosses. In Piaget’s words they must work for the goal of ‘autonomy’ (intelligent and ethical decision making) rather than obedience

According to behavioural expert and author ANNE COPLEY there are four zones that you should look out for in kid’s behaviour-

1.    Safe zone- when children feel wanted, secure, loved, their needs are met, they function in a safe zone and such children are happy, well adjusted and well behaved.
2.    Learning zone- when children experience safe zone, they are able to learn, explore, be creative, make decisions, choose, focus and this is the learning zone, they will be smarter and learn more.
3.    Anxiety zone- children who do not feel safe, secure, wanted and reassured are in the anxiety zone. Anxiety leads to irritation, frustration and anger. It is in this zone that they will start sending out signs and signals that tell you they are about to ‘let all hell loose’!
4.    Stress zone – when you are unable to read those signs and give them the required reassurance, help, guidance, they move into the stress zone, where all hell breaks loose.

It takes a lot of effort, learning, unlearning, guidance, love, time to bring a child from the stress zone to the safe zone. So ideally keep them in the safe and learning zone and never reach the anxiety zone.

Adults should remember that children do not misbehave we misinterpret their behaviour.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012


I have done a general study of the autistic spectrum both during my B.Ed and when we tried to set up an early intervention kindergarten centre for autistic children. Autism is a spectrum disorder and so generalizations about inclusion, therapy etc will not be valid throughout the wide spectrum, which has been my understanding. I have some wonderful books on autism written by experts and parents who have struggled and won with the education of their autistic children.

Reading about the child in Jamnabai and siding with the parents is all good but we need to focus on the main issue, does this kind of inclusion in a crowded classroom with no adaptations for autism help this autistic child? Here we are not to be worried about the ‘disturbance’ to the other 44 children but the ‘disturbance’ to the already frail mind state or emotional state of the autistic child.

In some kinds of autism the children are very very sensitive to crowds, loud sounds, and constant chatter and hate the constant change in adults. Such children would not thrive in an inclusive environment as all this would be constantly grating on their nerves.

This child has been in this environment since 2007, what is the opinion of the therapists, is this kind of an environment really helping this child?

Yes, autism, deaf and mute and dyslexia are in the news these days, thanks to the movies and yes schools in the past have been insensitive to such kids  but inclusion is a decision that needs to be taken not by the school or government or any such body, such decisions should be left to the experts, the medical and therapy experts who take care of such children, they are the best judge of whether inclusion in a regular classroom will really help the condition of the autistic child or only the social morale of the child and the family.

I think a discussion needs to be initiated on this at the earliest and instead of forcing inclusion on children who would actually not benefit from it, it would be better to think of options that would aid the growth of such children. Let’s move away from the two extreme ends of inclusion and exclusion and think of a more moderate and sensitive way in which to help these kids adjust, grow and thrive.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012


This wish goes out to all our Head Mistresses, Franchises, Master Franchise, Teachers and all related staff that help nurture kids with their work and commitment.
On this special day I would like to share with you an extract from Nancy Rosenow’s newest book, Heart-Centered Teaching Inspired by Nature. She writes……..
"Over the years I've come to believe that those of us who work with or for children have a responsibility to nurture themselves as tenderly as we nurture the children in our care.  Children deserve to be taught by people who delight in the wonders of the world and are eager to share them.  Children deserve to be taught by people who teach through positive example.  

·        How can we help children see the world is a place of goodness and unlimited possibilities if we experience it as dreary and stifling? 
·        How can children trust us about the benefits of healthy eating and exercise if they don't choose to practice what we preach? 
·        How will we help children learn the difficult art of conflict resolution if bitter conflicts in our own relationships remain unresolved? 
·        How can we help children discover nature's gifts of joy and wonder if we rarely delight in those gifts ourselves? 
·        And perhaps the hardest question of all:  How will we help children experience themselves as unconditionally loved and loving beings if we don't feel unconditionally loving toward ourselves?"
I think the above extract will help us all have a great day. So nurture yourself kindly and happily today so that for the rest of the year you will be able to happily nurture kids and Kiducation. All the best and do share a copy of this with your teams.
Warm regards,
Swati Popat Vats
Director – Podar Preschools, Podar Institute of Education

Friday, 31 August 2012

Importance of Teacher’s Day

My guest Blogger for Teacher’s Day is Ms Diana Tyagi, mother, educationist and super franchise of Jumbo Kids. Read her thoughts on the importance of ‘Teacher’s Day’.
It is often said "  Leave your children well instructed, rather than riches and wealth, for the hopes of the well instructed are better than the wealth of the ignorant....."

Knowledge is a powerful acquisition which when shared does not decrease. It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy and kindle the light of wisdom through creative expression. Today so many of our teachers unfortunately lack the foresight to perceive the effect of their interaction on these young impressionable minds.

Lots has been written about the role of a teacher in a student's life, but how many teachers are actually committed to the profession? By virtue of having been in this profession for the last 7 years, and raising my 4 children from pre school level and watching them graduate to Middle school and High school level I have had the good fortune of interacting with a variety of teachers and seen the aftermath of that interaction on their very sub conscience. 

 Taking a moment back in time to rewind to the era of my growing up years, and do some self introspection on the lingering mark those educators left on me, makes me realise that the bottom line was that those educators put the needs of the student much before all else... Growing up in an environment that fostered the self development of the individual and aided in inculcation of morals and values to be upheld over all else, resulted in them being looked upon as role models in every sense of the term.

A good teacher possesses the ability to deal with tactics, patterns, techniques and principles of behaviour that ensure to get the best out of the student and can be adapted whatever be the personality of the child..

I have through my limited years of experience enlisted 10 GOLDEN RULES OF AN EDUCATOR that are not intended to be  a revelation but are certainly a reminder. Many of them are based on common sense but it is easy to lose sight of them when dealing with the different needs of varying ages....When one thinks of the huge responsibility invested in the hands to of a teacher can stop you in your tracks and take your breath away as the things we say and do have a huge influence in their lives...

Children often view the world differently from adults . Sometimes they try very hard to view it the same way as us but we as adults don't seem to think about their perspective at all, so it is important to let them to know that we are viewing things from their perspective.

Not only do students have to make their own decisions but they have to think for themselves...
The single most basic technique for teaching children to think is to constantly ask them questions and challenge their ideas. Not aggressively but to get them debating,arguing,justifying and questioning.Once they can start doing so instinctively without us having to kick them off with a question you know you have mastered this rule.

As teachers, praise should be used as one of the biggest motivators for their students.
The expression "You can't have too much of a good thing "...certainly does not apply to praise. Praise should be given in proportion to the child's achievements. If you over praise them you devalue the currency. If you tell them they are superbly brilliant when they do something pretty average then what will you say when they do something really outstanding? Also if every little thing they achieve is rewarded with copious praise they will be terrified of failing you...

Communicate with them by focusing on the problem and not the person. A common principle advocated at child behaviour seminars is "Hes not a naughty boy,he is a good boy who has done a naughty thing"

Though it sounds like a politically correct, psychologically gone wrong statement,it is an absolutely correct statement.

Once you tell a child he is naughty or selfish or rude ,careless,or anything else.... you label him. They start believing the label (and why shouldn't they, after all they are trained to believe everything their teacher says as the gospel truth). Soon they will start living up to the adjectives used by you to describe them. If you give them a label they will live up to it. They will automatically feel there is no need to put in any effort as the teacher thinks I'm useless anyways....Learn to condemn their behaviour not them.

Positive labels are a different thing long as they are accurate.They encourage a child to behave like their label----thoughtful,careful,hardworking.Positive labels can be used to reinforce good behaviour when they have "I was really surprised to see you behave so rudely, I always think of you as a particularly polite person. It reassures them you haven't given up on your positive view of them and so  its not too late to live up to the "polite " label.

Children have strong emotions and they need to be able to show them. When they are angry they have to be allowed to say so. Our job is to teach them to say so in an acceptable manner and not to conceal their feelings no matter what...They need to hear us say"I can see exactly why you are angry but it still is not ok to push your friend in that manner"

A child that is not allowed to express his feelings will not be able to get rid of them-even as a grown up. Bottling up emotions from childhood can lead to emotional and even physical problems...Whats more when they grow up into adults they will never be able to express how they feel ,which can be hugely damaging in all sorts of relationships,particularly close partnerships.

Children can have the same biological parents,grow up in the same family, go to the same school but be completely different people.

A good teacher's aim is to bring out their individuality not mould them into something they don't want to be and thereby enabling them to grow into wonderful, independent, self assured free thinking people that they are meant to be..

Different students are motivated by different things. Sometimes emotional incentives work well, eg approval of a teacher, at other times specific incentives eg being given more responsibility in the class.

It takes a long time to work out what might be the right incentive but by experimenting on a trial and error basis you can discover it soon enough.

If we want our students to grow up feeling that they can contribute to the world and hold their head high with self esteem  this rule needs to be implemented at an early age.
A teacher plays an important role in giving them the confidence to find and discover the things that they are good at. Take time out to find qualities to admire in them.
Some children are good at lots of things,whereas others at only one or two that really matter to them.Our job is to keep looking until we find the thing they can excel at and make sure that they realise it.

It also does not have to be academic or school oriented  like music or art or could simply be a child with exemplary memory/retention power or maybe the best organiser of the class,who meticulously stacks all the books for the teacher in a neat pile.Just make sure they are good at it and most importantly they know that YOU know they are good at it.

What do we as educators praise our students for ?. Good work in the exams, neatness in books,finishing all the homework on time,winning in sports,getting the highest grade in class....
The real answer should be NONE of the above....Of course it is important to congratulate the student for these achievements but the things they  deserve most praise for, are to do with their attitude and their behaviour  and less for their achievements.The things we praise children for or reward them for in life tell a lot about what we believe is important in life. It helps create their values. So if we end up always praising the  best academic prowess, highest marks in the class, winning,success.... then those are things we tell them matter and the pressure is on them to keep achieving. However if we praise effort, perseverance, progress, diplomacy, integrity, honesty that is what they will grow up believing.

Who wants a perfect student? Every child I have met who was impeccably behaved and never put a foot wrong, strove to please their parents and teachers, worked hard at school and always handed in their homework on time is probably the most boring student...
Children are not supposed to be mini grown-ups. They are meant to have all those imperfections that growing up is intended to eradicate.If you had them perfect by the age of 10 you might as well send them off to be merchant bankers.
Childhood is for being a child and privately I always think children turn out best if not quite all those early imperfections disappear. Who wants an adult child who never has a mischievous twinkle in his eye...

Tell them when they fail, that you have given them the permission to feel bad, and by telling them that you can see how shattered they must be and that you are not surprised they feel the way they do...Be sympathetic and understanding...add on a few hugs and kisses.
Once you have allowed them to be miserable for a while they will be ready to start climbing up out of their swamp of despair and when they do,remind them you will be there to give them a hand...

Thursday, 9 August 2012

If D.A.P is so important then why is it sparingly noticeable in Indian preschools?

N.C.E.R.T and N.C.T.E do talk about D.A.P and promote it on their websites and seminars but yet the emphasis is strongly on rigorous academics and rote learning and drill activity in preschools as preschools in most states of India are viewed as a preparatory and introductory stage for primary school. So the emphasis is on ensuring that the child is able to write sentences, do addition and subtraction (some schools even teach 5 year olds multiplication and division) answer general knowledge questions and come out with flying colours in formal interview sessions!

I think the problem is when we refer to these years as preschool or pre primary- so the lopsided emphasis is that it is a school that is before the primary school, so naturally it is meant to prepare a child for primary school! Whereas actually the kindergarten years are to prepare a child for life, living and learning. Sadly we only prepare them for learning and that too the incorrect kind!

How can this scenario change? what I am about to suggest may cause a storm and open a hornet’s nest but if a debate on this can be sparked and lead to change in the kindergarten years, then I don’t mind opening the proverbial Pandora’s box-

  1. Tie up pre primary with the primary syllabus, which means instead of the primary especially the standard one dictating to the kindergarten about what each child should be able to do before stepping into standard one, it should be the other way around, let the kindergarten give the primary school, where to start from.
  2. Kindergarten and even primary curriculum usually do not feature in the curriculum definitions of educational boards, but I think if educational boards joined in by specifying what should and should not be taught to primary and kindergarten years then schools would be ‘able to’ implement D.A.P. easily and effectively.
  3. D.A.P can serve as that proverbial bridge that will take the child smoothly from ‘pre primary’ to primary and beyond.
  4. We also need to give a better status to kindergarten, as they are functioning with underpaid adults who lack professional and specialized educational qualifications.
  5. Teachers need to be better qualified so that they will be able to understand their role instead of functioning as ‘powerless’ people just implementing and inflicting incorrect practices on little children.
  6. (The more time young children spend in poor quality settings the lower they score on measures of cognitive and social skills(n.a.e.y.c early child care research network 2000,2003)
  7. Involve doctors and other professionals in driving home the message.
  8. Talk to schools about maturation, and experience
  9. Prepare parents and children for the primary school transition.
  10. More purposeful advocacy for kindergarten must talk about its strengths and potential research based contributions to children.
  11. Kindergarten movement needs a clarity of purpose otherwise there is huge risk of this movement being swept aside or blown off its course by the storms of change raging in educational establishments.
  12. Let the change in educational norms, methods and goals begin with kindergarten  - Kindergarten Is Too Important Not To Protect And Nurture So, Lets Protect Kindergarten And Childhood With D.A.P.(naeyc)
  13. Why do we still stick to the 4 line books for pre primary when the goal is to make the child write on single lines? Three lines will serve the purpose better. Then why put the children through the process of unlearning and learning?
  14. Why cursive writing for pre schoolers? First teach them print and the move to cursive writing in the primary years. When 99% of reading that he is  exposed to is in print? After all to write he must first read and he reads in print
Some more points to ponder…….

Frankly speaking children require five skills in life that is the core of education, the five skills are –
1.   Physical Skills
2.   Communicative Skills
3.   Social Skills
4.   Emotional Skills
5.   Intellectual Skills
When parents and schools only stress on the learning of the 3 R’s or academics, only the 5th skill is being developed, so what about the other 4 skills will they not be important in life? They are extremely important and maybe this misplaced focus on only one skill is the real reason why this generation is not as adaptive, emotionally strong and able to relate, unlearn and learn in their life work.

It’s high time we educate parents on how schools should educate their kids! 

Thursday, 19 July 2012


Learn by doing, activity method, project method, inquiry method, play way education….call it by any name but hands on learning is required if we want education to be lifelong; otherwise it fades away or becomes rote learning.

In the preschool years, the brain is developing. In fact 98% of your brain growth happens in the first 6 years and so it is crucial that children at this age are exposed to hands on –activity based learning environments. That’s exactly what we do at Podar Jumbo Kids.

Every educationist and educational philosopher has advocated the need for hands on activity based learning, be it our own Mahatma Gandhi who devised the 3 H method- Hand, Heart and Head  education or good old Montessori who believed that learning involves 3 things, the Muscles, the Senses and the Brain.

Recent brain research has shown that-
·         The hand and the brain need each other- Neurologically, "a hand is always in search of a brain and a brain is in search of a hand," as Wilson likes to say.

·         Use of the hands to manipulate three-dimensional objects is an essential part of brain development.

·         All over the world, kids play with blocks, push around toys, throw balls; this is constantly fertilizing neural growth.

·         Einstein knew the value of play all along when he said,"... Play seems to be the essential feature in productive scientific thought—before there is any connection with logical construction in words or other kinds of signs 'that can be communicated to others." Play is the key to nurturing happy, intelligent children.

So what is activity based learning or hands on learning? Simply put, it should involve as many senses as possible; it should involve 3 learning styles - Looker, Listener and Mover. So let’s take a simple example: It is the rainy season, so we want to teach kids about snails. A simple way to do it would be to show them pictures of snails and tell them about the features of a snail. Or you can choose to do it in the hands on activity format, in which you hide a puppet of a snail in the classroom and plan that children find it, then start a discussion about who can identify its name, then show them a small video about a snail and then take them to a garden to actually look for snails.

Similar with reading activities, either a school can make it a drill activity and make children repeat and read words after the teacher or one can make it more interesting by playing a passing the parcel game, with words in the parcel and each child to pick up a word and read it.

Our Senior Kindergarten children are able to learn about odd and even numbers with a simple activity- Teacher gives them buttons for each number and children place the buttons in pairs; so if a button does not have a pair then that number is an odd number. So simple, but so hands on that the learning goes straight to the brain.

That’s exactly what educationists are emphasizing; that any learning that happens through the use of our senses and muscles will have better retention.

Many others argue that this is a waste of time and just play, to which Dr. Stuart Brown writes in his path breaking book- ‘Play’-

“All work and no play make Jack a dull boy! An oft heard comment but recently research shows that there is much truth in this simple saying. Dr. Stuart Brown says in his book ‘Play’ that people in jobs are not able to find solutions to problems or make new discoveries or survive a crisis efficiently all because they have lost touch with play in their lives or were brought up in a ‘play less’ environment. He says that “Those who had worked and played with their hands as they were growing up were able to “see solutions" that those who hadn't worked with their hands could not. They couldn’t' spot the key flaw in complex systems they were working on, toss the problem around, break it down, pick it apart, tease out its critical elements, and rearrange them in innovative ways that led to a solution.”

Many different styles of activity based learning can be practiced in the early childhood years. One can link a favorite story like Goldilocks and the 3 bears to many learning concepts like through the story teacher can teach about-
The number 3 
About bears
About sizes- big, medium and small
About hot and cold (the soup)
About neat and tidy (the beds of the bears)
About parts of a house

And teacher can add a value to her teaching by ending the story with a discussion on good manners- ‘What 3 words should Goldilocks have used?’ (thank-you, please and sorry)

So the idea of activity based learning is to use educational maxims like-

Known to unknown (so using a story or nursery rhyme to teach new concepts)

Concrete to abstract (using hands on objects to teach about abstract concepts)

Simple to complex (using simple every day fun, games and toys to teach complex stuff like numbers, reading etc)  

So choice is ours – have activity based play and grow or practice rote learning and rot the brain cells away! Then why not play? After all play is the work of childhood!

Monday, 9 July 2012

Make Nap Time Effective

Nap time at day cares is an important time that can help kids calm down, relax and recharge their tired body cells. It needs routine and rituals to make it enjoyable for everyone involved.
Lana Button in the Exchange kit ( , offers these tips sure to make everyone rest a little easier during nap time at your day care centre:
·         Always give the children a ‘heads up’ when naptime is approaching.  Keep your pre-nap routine consistent and your class will start mentally preparing for a rest before they even hit their cots.
·         Keep children’s cots in the same basic location each day.  Once you find a spot where a child is most likely to get a good rest, use that spot consistently.  Having to adjust to a new spot or a new ‘nap neighbor’ can make it difficult for a child to settle down.
·         Allow children a few minutes on their cots before the lights are turned out.  This allows children to transition from being very active to being very still.  Your center might provide nap books or simple manipulative toys for children to explore independently for 5 minutes. 
·         Teachers are instrumental in establishing a calm mood in the classroom at naptime.  Once the teacher dims the lights she should lower her voice and keep it at just above a whisper for the duration of naptime. 
In continuing with this slow transition to rest time, it’s a good idea to tuck each child in to give them a nurturing send-off to rest time.  Make sure each child has something from home to cuddle. 
Podar happy kids is a home away from home and so let’s ensure that every experience here is based on care, nurturing and childhood science. 

Day Care Safety

Read this Hindustan Times article and learn about day care safety.
(8th July 2012, Page 2)

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Two reports in today’s Mumbai Mirror should be taken seriously so that such harm does not come to other children.

Two reports in today’s Mumbai Mirror should be taken seriously so that such harm does not come to other children. Make the parents at your centres also aware and alert about this. Spread the message via email, facebook for the safety of all children, everywhere.

One report is about a 3 year old girl in a Hyderabad daycare centre who choked on a piece of chapatti as the ayah was feeding her hurriedly. The child lost her life due to the foolish hurry of an adult. Please ensure that the following is implemented and supervised at your centres, both day care and preschool.

  1. Never ask a child to hurry up while eating. Children need at least 20 to 25 minutes to complete a full meal (lunch, dinner).
  2. For snack time they need 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. It would be ok if the child is unable to complete a meal instead of forcing the child to eat fast. Explain this to parents. This problem is especially prevalent in preschool centres where teachers are forced to make kids finish their snack box and not miss on activities. Take the parents into confidence and work out a solution that does not harm the health of the child.
  4. Train your staff to be patient and feed smaller bites to very young children.
  5.  Also ensure that the child is not talking or distracted with a television while eating, this too can cause choking.
The other report is about a young girl who was running towards her mother with a pencil in her hand, she tripped on a pillow and the pencil rammed into her eye socket right up to her brain. Due to the quick thinking of the parents, who did not remove the pencil and rushed the child to the hospital, the child was saved. Please ensure that the following is implemented and supervised at your centres- daycares and preschools.
  1. Ensure that children do not run with any sharp implement in their hands. A ball is fine but teach children to keep their pencils on the table before coming to you.
  2. Sometimes in their excitement children may rush to you with a pencil and book to show you their work, be alert and keep giving regular instructions to kids.
  3. Ensure that you take care of anything that can trip children in their natural movements around the centre. School bags lying haphazardly on the floor can cause tripping.
  4. Running is to be done in the outdoors not in the classroom, so just like we teach children about leaving their ‘loud voices’ outside the classroom, lets teach them to leave ‘running feet’ outside too. So ‘soft voices’ and ‘walking feet’ in the class.
  5. When going to the bus or toilet children tend to run, so teach them to make a butterfly with their fingers behind their back and also teach them the ‘walking feet’ song.

The above are small steps that we can all take to ensure the safety of the children in our care. All the best.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

IT’S MY LIFE…..dealing with peer pressure!

Nivedita’s little boy is approaching his teens and this has her all worried and stressed out as she is anxiously anticipating adolescent behaviour and issues from her son who ‘till yesterday was just a cute baby boy’. When asked why she was so worried, she says, ‘ I know teens will get stubborn, fall prey to wrong company, start bad habits and be difficult to communicate with, and I don’t know how I will handle all this’.

Well, Nivedita need not be so anxious. Instead of being worried or tightly strung up, it is better to be aware of this stage and prepare the adolescent for it too. That’s all it requires, a ‘Teen mentor’!

According to Sigmund Freud, adolescence is marked with ‘egos’ that leads to some level of superiority complex and inferiority complex as well. Author of the book, Stress In Young People, Sarah McNamara says, “Because adolescents have greater levels of logical and critical thinking and problem solving they are involved in establishing social identity. It is not only a time of opportunity but also of vulnerability to risk behaviours which can have lifelong consequences, especially for health.”

So the trick is to start preparing for the adolescent period early on, as those who have a healthy relationship with parents and teachers are able to stay away from harm, whereas others succumb to it and engage in behaviours that jeopardise their healthy development.

Human life is a continuous thread which each of us spins to his own pattern; rich and complex in meaning. There are no natural knots in it. Yet knots form, nearly always in adolescence: Edgar Z. Frydenberg.

Teenage and adolescence has its own reputation and that is exactly what today’s adolescent needs to break out of. Prove the world wrong about their impression about adolescents! Adolescence is a period of stress and those who are unable to deal with the stress fall prey to peer pressure and its associated ‘bad habits or bad behaviours’.
Today a child is manifold more intelligent and smarter than the previous generation; he/she can prepare for the adolescent stage which actually is just a transition stage from childhood to adulthood, in which the kid already feels like an adult and the adult still treats him like a child!

Teenagers need to focus on developing life skills and emotional intelligence, the ability to judge what’s good and not so good for them, instead of falling prey to other people’s opinions and suggestions. 90% of all teenagers fall prey to peer pressure and related bad habits like smoking, drinking, sex experimentation, lack of interest in studying, bullying others by challenging them to do unlawful acts and even to the extent of suicide.

So how can teenagers stay away from peer pressure? First comes an understanding that peer pressure is just another form of bullying in which the bully is your friend! Take hold of your life and where it is headed. It’s your life and no one should be ruling it but you.

Secondly, when in doubt- don’t do!

Thirdly, adolescents must get ‘social competence training’. Today there are so many self help books, websites; blogs etc that can help you focus on how to deal with stress management, self-esteem, problem-solving, substances and health, assertiveness and social networks. Check out the work of an international teen mentor, Josh Shipp.

Fourthly start having ‘private conversations’ with yourself every day. Sounds silly, but is extremely helpful in defining self esteem. After all, people who lack in self esteem are more liable to fall prey to peer pressure. When you have private conversations with yourself, try and identify what your inner self is saying about you.  Are you always thinking negative or positive? Then talk to yourself and change from negative to positive. ‘I can!’ ‘I will!’ ‘I am sure!’ and ‘It’s my life, I will make it good!’ are all statements that will help.

The next dilemma that most teenagers face when it comes to peer pressure is how to say no to friends! In such a case you need to cultivate assertiveness. Assertiveness is really about being fair- to yourself and all others.  Assertiveness means realizing that your feelings are neither more nor less important than those or other people, but rather they are equally important. Assertiveness helps you to talk about yourself without self-consciousness, to accept compliments, to disagree politely, to say no and to be relaxed around other people even when you differ or disagree with what they believe. And this is so important when dealing with peer pressure. 

Lastly, build a lasting bond with your parents, at least one teacher in school and one friend that you can share everything with. Adolescence is a natural period of stress and these people will then become your ‘stress busters’ and safeguards, constantly guiding you when you go off course in your decisions or behaviour. Peer pressure is nothing but yet another form of stress and you need these ‘stress busters’ when under pressure. Adults too play a crucial role in helping teens cope with peer pressure and other adolescence related stress. What adults can do is, accept that the child is now an adult and talk to him and relate to him accordingly. Instead of always shouting or lecturing him try ‘teen whispering’, which means having a quiet, discussion in which both the parent and the teen puts forward their point of view and way ahead.

When faced with peer pressure teens can use the fingers-thumb test to decide whether to succumb to the pressure or not. This test uses each digit of your hand and helps you self question and decide, so take the test when your peers put you to test!

Pointer finger- We always use this to point at others, so ask yourself, ‘If I fall prey to peer pressure will I be headed in the right direction or will I always have fingers pointing at me and labelling me for my incorrect decision?’

Tall man- ‘I want to stand tall and be the best in my life, so then what my peers are telling me to do, will it make me best in my eyes or only in theirs?’

Ring man- stands for love and family, so before taking the decision under peer pressure, ask yourself, ‘What would my family want me to do?’

Little finger- ‘Have I thought about the minute repercussions to my health and reputation if I fall prey to this peer pressure?’

Thumb- A thumbs up says that you took a decision after weighing all the pros and cons and after considering the advice of all important people- peers, stress busters (family, teacher, friend) and yourself.

When flying between the Earth and the Moon, the Apollo spacecraft was off course more than 90 percent of the time. On their lunar voyages, the crew would constantly bring the craft back to its intended trajectory. They were not on a perfect path but a critical path. Because they knew their intended target they could correct their spacecraft whenever it wandered off- Anon

Teenagers are on a voyage to adulthood; they will veer off course like the Apollo but we need to know that as long as they come back to the intended trajectory which in their case is a healthy, happy life, we must be there to correct their spacecraft as and when required. No teenager will be perfect. What is critical is that they are given a perfect chance. 

Wednesday, 16 May 2012


Parents love to teach their children about life, living and everything possible, but one aspect about life something all parents dread teaching about is sex. Many are complacent that o.k. we will face it once the child is nearing puberty, which means we have a good 12 years before we have to worry about  talking about – sex.

But a child’s first escapade with sex does not happen with puberty, it starts as early as the preschool years. First a child becomes aware of his/her sex organs, then realizes that there is a difference between girls and boys and then many of them also become aware of the fact that babies are born from mummy’s stomach. The ugly term sexual abuse also makes it presence felt more often at this stage, because the perpetrators feel the child will not come to know that anything wrong is being done to him/her.

So parents need to address – sex and sex education – quite early with their children. So what should be the method of interacting with your child about sex and sex related questions? Should we wait for children to ask us or should we make them aware of it? These are common confusions raging in most parents minds. Here I have always relied on German educationist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner’s definition of what children need at each stage of life. According to him from0 to 7 children learn best and thrive on imitation, from 7 to 14 they learn from authority, which means they need supervision, constant monitoring and a firm hand in rules and regulations and from 14 onwards they need and thrive on independence.

So keeping the above in mind for parents to develop their rapport with kids about sex education, parents of children in the age group of 0 to 7 need to understand that since children learn by imitation they need to see you having a positive concept about hugging and kissing, they will imitate whatever they see, so please let your child sleep separately especially when you and your partner are indulging in sexual activity. And lastly they need to develop a positive concept about their genitals, it should not make them feel that genitals are dirty, something to be ashamed about etc. They should be taught about ‘manners’ to do with genitals. Girls are taught how to sit without showing their panties and boys about not touching their genitals. To ensure that your child is safe from sexual abuse, it is important to teach them about good touch and bad touch as early as 4 to 5 years. This can be done with a story, a teddy bear etc and they should know basics like
  1. It is o.k. to hug someone or if someone hugs you.
  2. It is not o.k. to touch someone’s genitals (between their legs) and not o.k. if someone touches yours
  3. Only daddy and mummy can touch your genitals. If anyone else does then let mummy know
  4. Do not allow anyone to kiss you on the lips.
  5. Close the toilet door while doing your ‘wee wee’ and ‘potty’
  6. We should not put any objects in our genitals

The n.a.e.y.c (national association of education of young children- u.s.a) has good material on how children develop their self concept – research in their journal ‘understanding preschooler development’ by Margaret Puckett and Janet Black - says that

Some behaviors embarrass or worry adults — such as when children ask direct questions about body parts and functions, giggle about and tease member of the opposite sex, engage in "bathroom talk" or "playing doctor."  However, these are normal behaviors that simply show that children have a growing awareness of the differences between genders.  As a parent, it's important that your response to such behavior is positive, informative, and age-appropriate.  Acting shocked or embarrassed or ignoring questions is unhelpful.

Another aspect of modern life that is slowly having its negative impact on early puberty and sexual awareness in children is television viewing. Children’s brain expert Dr. David Perlmutter says in his book- ‘Raise a smarter child by kindergarten.’         

That children who spend an inordinate amount of time in front of an electronic screen may also be at risk of premature sexual development.

Many girls these days are showing signs of precocious sexual development, including well-developed breasts and pubic hair growth, well before these ages.  
Although no one knows for sure why watching TV would cause premature sexual development, there are several explanations. First, excess TV viewing is associated with childhood obesity, which can boost levels of the female hormone estrogen, which, in turn, can' hasten sexual development. Second, TV viewing as well as pro­longed exposure to artificial light suppresses the production of a hor­mone called melatonin that helps regulate sexual development in both boys and girls. As children enter early adolescence, melatonin levels fall naturally signaling the start of bodily changes that culminate in puberty. Artificially suppressing melatonin, however, could cause a child to go into puberty prematurely!

The intense sexual content of many television programs could rev up hormone production in children who are not meant to be exposed to this type of stimulation at so young an age. Adults often forget that even though very young children can't talk, they can listen and observe. Their brains soak up everything in their environment.  You may think that 1-or 2-year-old is not observing sexy soap opera scenes or the casual sex on a sitcom, but she is. And by the time a child is 4 or 5 and beginning to develop a sense of her sexual self; she is definitely picking up the suggestive themes on TV.

So as your child enters the age of 7 to 14, he/she is definitely now more prone to experiencing bodily changes as he/she nears the age of puberty. Here as Steiner said authority is what will work, so monitor what your child is watching, reading and talking to friends. Close supervision is a must. Give him the freedom to ask you questions as otherwise he may get wrong answers from somewhere else.

A child brought up with this kind of focused attention on sexual understanding and sex education, by the time he reaches the age of puberty of 14 years would have a healthy concept of and about sex. He would be able to understand that sex is another need of the body, but a need that cannot be treated as lightly as hunger etc. It is a need that should be understood, something that one has to take responsibility for. This is the right age to talk about sexual diseases, masturbation, aids  and HIV and pregnancy and condoms. Independence is the ‘mantra’ for this age remember? So put the onus of responsibility on the growing child, be vigilant but not overtly so. Call his/her friends over, let him/her have a party at home and you would be able to gauge the sexual talk etc among his/her friends.

Sex is something that can be positive, healthy and a conscious part of life or sex can be intimidating, disappointing, give you feeling of being ashamed, but it is up to us as parents that we make sex and its education a continuous part of the growing up years of our child. Let ‘s not wait for sex to rear its ugly head one day, lets remove the ugliness in sex and make it a controlled and healthy aspect of our kids lives.

From an early age make children aware of GOOD TOUCH-BAD TOUCH, download a copy of a PowerPoint that you can show your child from