Friday, 20 December 2013

Is It Time To Warn Kids About Santa Claus?

Is It Time To Warn Kids About Santa Claus? Is It Time To Rein In The Santa In The Suit?


It’s that time of the year again. It’s the time when a big fat man with red chubby cheeks and white cottony beard, in red suit ho-hoes his way around with a large sack that has endless amounts of gifts. And who is this big fat man in a red suit? Well any little kid around the world can identify him. It’s Santa Claus.


He doesn’t simply leave just about anyone a gift; he leaves gifts only for those who have been good throughout the year. And how does he know that? Well, he has a gold book and a black book and he watches you all year long and makes his entry in the gold book every time you are good and you get a black book entry if you have been wicked or naughty.


But who is keeping track of whether Santa has been good? Let’s be practical, the Santa Claus that your child encounters is a hired man/boy who is just wearing a suit and trying his best to convince the kids he is Santa. How much do we know about these Santas that we so willingly ask our kids to go and hug, shake hands with, sit on their lap? In countries around the world there have been instances where ‘Santa’ has been arrested for drinking, touching kids inappropriately etc. so this means that there could be a pedophile lurking behind the beard and rosy cheeks? Isn’t it the perfect opportunity for them as  parents are urging their kids to ‘go to’ the Santa, ‘go kiss’ the Santa, ‘go sit’ on his lap.


Well, sad as it may sound, it’s time to either warn our kids about Santa or watch carefully when our kids are with Santa. But how would you be able to keep an eye on all the Santas that your kids encounter this year? There is the Santa in school, the Santa at the mall, the Santa at a child’s party, the Santa in your own housing society.


Santa Claus is considered safe by kids and their parents; well it’s time to rein in the Santa in the suit. Follow these 5 important points while bringing Santa in your child’s life-


1.     Teach your kids to only shake hands with Santa

2.     If you are clicking a photo of your child with Santa, be vigilant about Santa’s ‘hands’.

3.     Please do not ask your child to hug or kiss Santa. The suits that they hire are hardly clean so let’s not pass unnecessary germs to our kids.

4.     Teach your child about good touch bad touch and talk to your child that even Santa cannot be allowed to give bad touch

5.     Try to keep your child’s belief in Santa alive as long as possible but important that you also believe in safety of your child. Maintain a balance.


Let’s help kids have a merry and safe New Year.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

U.S school suspends boy 6,for kissing girl

I was shocked to read this news in TIMES OF INDIA 13 December 2013, ‘US school suspends boy 6, for kissing girl.’ It has raised several questions that we should address as a society-

1.     Whether a peck should be considered sexual harassment?

Young children thrive on touch, touch is one of their most important senses in the early years and naturally they show and accept love using this sense the most. In this case is it necessary to paint this child as a ‘sexual predator?’ 

2.     The child said he had a crush on the girl and the girl likes him back. During a reading class the child leaned over and kissed the girl on her hand.

It is natural for kids to hug, kiss and show affection. Do we want to take this away from the childhood years too? Teaching them about good touch-bad touch or bullying is required, but should we be saying don’t touch each other at all? Will this not have an impact on emotional development as human beings? Should we not try and control the kind of programs that we expose these kids to? Sexual content on television and movies leads to kids becoming very comfortable with words like sex, lip kissing, crush, much before they have even understood the meaning of the word or are able to read or spell them. There is a new trend among parents, of kissing their kids on their lips.  Many find it quite natural but I am against it for 2 reasons- a) when you teach your child that kissing on lips is an acceptable way to show affection then they will accept it from all adults. Better to teach them then that only mummy and daddy can kiss you here. b) At this young age they are susceptible to a lot of infections and the mouth has the most bacteria. I think adults should refrain from kissing kids on their lips, mainly for health reasons. In fact I have made a Muppet video to educate kids and parents about this as we faced a lot of problems when kids started kissing each other on the lips and some parents found it a cultural shock and complained against it. View the video on

3.     The mother of the 6 year old is shocked that a term as strong as sexual harassment is being used for what her son did.

The clarity here needs to be clear and sensible- kids in the early childhood years don’t commit sexual crimes, sexual crimes are committed against them. So let’s not make a mockery of the law and use it against them in the growing years. 

4.     Whereas the principal says he is suspended because of a policy against unwanted touching.

If we are going to define policies that take away the human element from kids in their growing years then we will be bringing up a generation that is bereft of all emotional feelings and have no emotional bonds. Schools can have clearly defined policies for bad touch or define which parts of the body cannot be touched by adults or an ant bullying policy.

5.     This is the second time the boy has been suspended.

Is suspension of kids the solution for schools to follow? In her Exchange article (May/June 2012), "Belonging”, Ruth Wilson writes, ‘While there are certainly many reasons why young children are having such severe behavioral issues as to warrant expulsion from school, one explanation is that their belonging needs are not being met.  This tends to happen when the structure of a program suggests that, in order to belong, a child must conform to a pre-determined set of rules and expectations.  These rules and expectations, in some cases, are not appropriate for young children’.

It’s time we nurture kids in school and give them schools that help them belong after all belonging is an important need of every human being. Let’s not strip away everything good from children’s lives on the pretext of keeping them safe.  I would never want touch to become trouble for any child. But having a touch less society is also not good, so let’s rethink about boundaries, barriers and get our distinction correct so that it helps kids and does not give them yet another label.

What are your thoughts on this?

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Deadly Diets

Food is not just the energy for the body but for the brain too. In this new age world words like , ‘fitness’, ‘diet food’, ‘fat free’, ‘sugar free’, are actually dangerous because these words just ‘exchange the poison’. So we have fitness freaks that are constantly in an ‘air conditioned’ gym, gulping protein shakes that actually end up harming them. Sugar free foods have a very deadly chemical lurking in them and the list can go on.
We worry about our future financial safety and make investments; it’s time to worry about our family’s health safety and invest some time, effort and planning in the same. My advice to all parents- every year when you file your income tax returns, do also file your family’s health returns. Sit as a family and understand your health investment, because after all you need to be healthy and alive to enjoy the money you are saving for the future!

Here are 5 reasons why diet plays an important role in the ‘performance’ and growth of children of all ages.
1.     Maslow’s hierarchy of needs identifies food and water as the first need, it is only when this need of the body is met that we can focus, pay attention and learn.
2.     Foods impact our blood sugar levels and in turn our blood pressure. Incorrect fads like too much salt and sugar (one packet of movie theatre salted popcorn has one week’s requirement of salt!) can impact the ability to pay attention and can lead to increase in hyperactivity.
3.     Brain requires oxygen for its functioning. Food Additives, beverages like too much coffee etc can dehydrate the brain and leave it coping with every day functions.
4.     The liver can store glucose for 4 hours only. Glucose is an essential requirement of the brain. The body requires food that can be converted into glucose, junk foods sadly are just junk and do not fulfill this important need.
5.     The brain requires important chemicals for its functioning. Chemicals like- Acetylcholine, helps with frontal lobe functions and in formation of long-term memories. Dopamine assists in focus, attention, and goal setting. Norepinephrine responds to novelty and aids in memory formation. Serotonin helps control impulsivity, calms the brain, aids in reflective behaviors. And how does the brain process these chemicals? From healthy diet and sleep. 
If you notice all the functions that these chemicals govern are required by a school going child and it is incorrect diet that reduces a child’s performance and also results in negative behavior issues.  Here is a test that you can take to understand about your food choices, it is a fun test but has some message in every question. You don’t need me to give you the answers; I am sure you will get the message, loud and clear.
1.             Do you think that your children eat unhealthy food?
2.             Why do they have such unhealthy food habits?
3.             How many of you feed the child while watching TV or eat on the dining table while watching TV or on the phone?
4.             Why?
5.             What kind of food do you send in your child’s snack box?
6.             Do you know the recommended food groups and their servings to be given at each age to your child?
7.             Do you follow them every day?
8.             Does your child have fruits daily?
9.             Do you know the benefit of the fruit that you serve your child or do you give the fruit because child likes it?
10.          How many portions of vegetables does your child eat every day?
11.          How many glasses of water does your child drink in a day?
12.          What junk food does your child eat in a week?

It is important that we understand that healthy food is fresh food, food cooked at home. Anything that comes in a package certainly has deep dark secrets! The occasional visit to the restaurant, or a pizza or noodles is not being written off here. But 80% of our food intake should be healthy without the fads! Especially for children.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013




Training early childhood leaders and teams in management principles with boring management quotes just does not work. Why not help these teams learn through games and rhymes?  

So here are some great management principles disguised in simple everyday games and rhymes. Play and sing while you learn and lead!  Become a better leader, more organized and be able to manage time, change and people, effectively and successfully. Try it, it is fun and it works too.


  1. Passing the parcel- everyone knows how to play this game- but what team management lesson does this game teach us? - Simple, do not pass the buck, some day the ball will stop at you and you will get the forfeit. So do your work and your duty and if at fault take the blame, don’t pass the buck!
  2. I spy game – a simple game, in which you hide an object and others have to find it. What does this game teach us? – It teaches us to be keen observers and look for the hidden quality threats in our centre. So play this game often as it develops keen observation skills which will help staff to seek out what’s wrong. It can be a miss spelt word on a chart, a cobweb hiding in a corner, a nail sticking out from the furniture, a water puddle that can be a potential safety threat.
  3. Mary had a little lamb- and everywhere that Mary went the lamb was sure to go- what does this rhyme teach us?- a simple management principle. Follow the leader. Be a good leader and train your team well, explain the reasons behind the rules and the systems  and then you will have stress free teams that focus and agree on quality, quality, quality.
  4. Race around the clock with hickory dickory dock- the mouse knew what to do when the clock struck one- do you? Set an hour wise timetable for yourself. A beautiful way to teach and practice time management.
  5. Little Bo Beep who lost her sheep and doesn’t know where to find them…….when teams go haywire or a day goes hay wire and nothing works, just go with the flow and slowly things will fall into place.  disorganized day schedules can add to stress levels and tears so just leave them alone and they will come home……!
  6. Little boy blue has a job to do- but where is the boy? Fast asleep. What is every team members job description, and if they ‘sleep’ on their duties then what are  the repercussions, define the duties and define the repercussions or else you will have some team members always sleeping on the job and others bearing the brunt of it, and doing all the extra work.
  7. Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet

Eating her curds and whey

Down came a big spider and sat down beside her

And frightened miss muffed away-

New teachers and new staff members are like little Miss Muffet, scared of the unknown! Prepare teachers especially new ones about the job and the ‘emergencies or things out of control’ that sometimes add stress to the job. Is she prepared or will she be like little Miss Muffet when faced with the spider? The biggest spider that we need to watch out for is staff gossip as it drives away many a Miss Muffet!



So you have a rainbow of songs and games to practice and play at your centre with yourself and your staff. And in each of the above is hidden a management principle or training, so in true spirit of developmentally appropriate practice even you are playing while you learn!



Friday, 11 October 2013

do children misbehave, or do we?

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.


There should be no such thing as ‘discipline’; it should be behavior management or modification. Discipline, is fixed, like in the army, but behavior can vary and with it varies the methods of handling misbehavior. 


Children in the first 6 years lack impulse control, they react without thinking.  Impulse control is developed with the growth in 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. In Simon says, 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.


After the age of 6 behavioral problems continue sometimes because kids lack self control. It is important to understand that- 


·         Children are able to focus only on one thing at a time. And so during a tantrum they are unable to see the other point of view.

·         They are unable to figure out the impact of their actions on others in a logical way.

·         Kids have a hard time working out how to get from one state of affairs to another. So it takes them time to work out their emotions. 


The best time to change children’s behavior is not during a tantrum, as the brain is in a shut down mode during a tantrum.  It is often when children are not in the heat of a tantrum that they are best able to think and learn about it.

It would be ideal to have an agreement of behaviour both at home and school- rule # 1 should be, ‘hitting and hurting is not allowed and so we will use words instead.’  Show kids 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 kid’s misbehavior with your own, if we are telling children, not to hit others when they are angry, then how can we hit them when we are angry? 


Any form of whacking or smacking is still child abuse. You may justify spanking by saying you love your child and want him to improve but you are only teaching the child that hitting is a form of showing love, and they will then grow up accepting violence and violent people. Domestic violence stems from such childhood experiences. Children who are smacked associate love and violence to be the same and so they turn violent or accept violence towards themselves.

What works is conflict resolution. Conflict resolution can be taught in the following steps-

1.     Seeking help- by calling for an adult or going to an adult and informing him that someone is troubling him. Here adults need to understand that this is not tattling and the child should not be blamed for coming for help as this is the first step of conflict resolution, when the child’s efforts at this step fails then he ‘fails’ to believe in any kind of resolution and will then resort to violence.

2.     Taking turns or sharing- an important social skill that is needed to survive with friends and siblings and children should be motivated and complimented for doing it.

3.     Using language instead of hands- teaches children to talk about their needs, their likes and dislikes. Teach them to communicate it to their friends and siblings. ‘Please don’t push my toys’, please don’t push me, you are hurting me’. Etc

4.     Teach children to walk away- a very important technique which can be very helpful when dealing with bullies, instead of standing and arguing or appealing to the bully, walk away from him.

5.     Discussing and planning with adults- telling the parents about a certain bully or how some of her friends tease her etc. then the parents can sit with the child and help her plan what to do and when. This helps the child understand that there is always a way out of the problem and also helps her self esteem and confidence as she is assured in the safe feeling that her parents are there for her.


For repeated instances of misbehaviour, it is important to see children who experience repeated serious conflict not as problem children but as children with problems who need guidance.

So try the following- 

n  Identify and specify instances of misbehavior

n  Observe what happens before and after the behavior

n  Measure how often it happens

n  How long does it last

n  Find a pattern in the behavior

n  Bring about the Change and implement it.

n  Continue measuring the behavior

n  Every time the child exhibits the new behavior, Encourage new behavior.


How we modify our kids behaviour when they are at their most vulnerable has a tremendous impact on their personality, coping skills and our dreams for them. When we believe in positive behaviour management it fosters emotional growth and logical thinking is nurtured. They learn about cause and effect, they learn to trust adults and respect and love themselves.


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



Friday, 20 September 2013

Child care should not become a curse for young children

As reported in today’s Mumbai Mirror by Jyoti Shelar (21st September 2013, One year old with brain injury responding after 6 months of treatment) shaking young children can spell disaster for young children’s growing brains. A one year old baby has suffered neurological damage and has to undergo surgery due to alleged shaking of the child at her day care. What is even more appalling is that the child was handed over to the parent in an unconscious state and reason given was, ‘we thought the child is feeling very sleepy today’.

The above incidence draws light on the much needed training that care givers should have before they are put in charge of young children. A day care especially should train their staff in maintaining  every day charts of babies sleep and eating patterns. In fact in many countries like Canada, day care centers also have to maintain a record of the ‘potty’ of young babies, citing the color, quantity and consistency.
Care givers at day cares should receive training about the age group that they would be handling. With more and more working parents depending on daycares for babies as young as 3 months, it becomes imperative that parents choose wisely and companies must provide day care for employees in their premises. Here are some things to be alert and aware about the care of young babies.
Shaken Baby Syndrome is the cause of many deaths and harms the young brain- Parenting is not easy. Parents need to be honored for this lifelong commitment they make and at times a parent can lose their cool and end up hitting or shaking their kids. Shaken Baby Syndrome is the cause of many deaths and can also can harm to the brain as shaking may cause your baby’s brain to swell, bleed or bruise. Shaken baby syndrome can be caused in the following ways-
1.     Throwing your baby in the air while playing.
2.     Not strapping your baby in a baby car seat while travelling with baby in car. The quick succession brakes, potholes, bumps can all cause damage.
3.     Taking the young baby on dizzy rides or roller coasters.
4.     Shaking the baby in anger.
5.     In many instances slapping the baby too hard across the face.
Be careful that the daycare/playschool or home nanny is aware of the above and does not practice these incorrect methods.
One of the mistakes the daycare in this case made is in assuming that the child was just sleeping a lot whereas the child was unconscious. Parents and daycares must know how much sleep does a child require and at what age and should maintain a sleep log for each child. So how much sleep do young children require? It differs from child to child but given here are some guidelines –
·         Age 1-4 weeks                                                                                                                             Sleep : 15 to 16 hours a Day
·         Newborns typically sleep in two to four hour blocks both during the night and day. They are yet to establish their internal biological clock
·         Age    : 1-4 months
·         Sleep : 14 – 15 hours a day
·         Usually able to sleep once for six hours in a row.
·         Age : 4 – 12 months
·         Sleep : 14 – 15 hours per day
·         2 – 3 naps. Can sleep through the night by age 6 months  
·         Age : 1 – 3 years
·         Sleep: 12 – 14 hours per day.
·         Toddlers usually lose that second nap. Nap can be 1 – 3.5 hours. Their nap is anywhere from 1 to 3 ½ hours long. 
·         Age : 3 – 6 years
·         Sleep: 10 – 12 hours per day.
·         At three, most children still take naps, by 5 most no longer nap.
Another important danger to young babies is SIDS - Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The safest position to put young babies to sleep is on their back. Keep the following in mind and ensure at the day care too-
1.     Babies placed on their stomachs to sleep are at greater risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). 
2.      Place infants on their backs for sleep.
3.     Provide a firm crib covered by a sheet.
4.     Keep pillows and stuffed toys out of the crib.
5.     Make sure the sleeping area is a comfortable temperature to keep infants from becoming overheated.
6.     That is why we must respect the Indian cradle made of cloth, it not only takes the baby’s body shape, but keeps baby safe from SIDS and gives baby the feeling of being safe and coddled just like in the uterus. So time to bring back the Indian cloth cradle

Yet another danger that parents and daycares need to be aware about and watch for is that touch should not become trouble for young children.
Touch is essential to babies' sensory-motor development, and has a positive impact on their physical growth, emotional well-being, cognitive potential, and health. Up to five years of age, young children's touch sensitivity remains more on the face than on their hands. And so it is important that adults don’t pinch, slap or harm kids on their faces.
Young babies thrive on touch and seek it everywhere and from everyone so it becomes imperative for adults to save them from bad touch from adults. Bad touch in the form of physical abuse and sexual abuse are all to be careful about. Start talking to kids about good and bad touch as early as possible