Thursday, 27 June 2013

Nurturing persistence in children for success

The difference between a successful individual and a failure is the ability to persist at a task, till success is achieved. ‘Task persistence’ is the fine line between success and failure.
When you persist at a task you do two things:
1.    You don’t give up
2.    You think of new ways of reaching your goal
Both the above are qualities that need to be nurtured in children, from early childhood till adolescence. The growth window to nurture persistence in children is from two to twelve years.
Erik Erikson the master of socio-emotional development defines it as the period when power, purpose and competence are developed in children.  
Between the ages of three to five, parents can either help kids develop autonomy or develop a sense of shame and doubt! Parents need to understand and analyze their parenting styles to focus on ensuring that they are nurturing autonomy and independence in the child and not instilling a sense of shame and self-doubt in their children.
Kids will want to do things on their own and their attempts need to be praised and not criticized. Criticism at this crucial and delicate stage will lead to a sense of shame and doubt, in the child and lead to a lack of initiative. Give tasks to kids in which they get a sense of achievement. For example at this age, kids like to dress themselves but are unable to complete the task on their own. Therefore, parents need to support kids by letting them to do what they can. Followed by gently helping complete what they cannot. This gives a sense of achievement to the child and a feeling of ‘I can’ instead of ‘I can’t’.
When kids are playing with toys like blocks or jigsaw puzzles and are unable to fit a piece correctly it is very tempting for adults to immediately complete the task for the child. But No! Parents need to resist this temptation and instead support kids to learn ‘trial and error’. When kids use ‘trial and error’ as a part of learning it becomes a self initiated activity in which kids will continue to play for a longer period of time. This increases attention and focus in a child.
As kids grow older and move towards puberty, they are developing a sense of ‘industry v/s inferiority’. Therefore, avoid using vocabulary that ridicules, doubts or criticizes them, as it would coax the child to give up due to the fear of humiliation and defeat. Instead, focus on discussing with children about what works and what does not, thus helping them develop the essential thinking skills required for ‘trial and error’ and ‘task persistence’.
To develop task persistence in children focus on these famous five-
1.    Comment rather than criticize
Tell your child ‘you scored 7 out of 10 in dictation, that is quite good’, ‘how do you think you can increase the score next time?’ Do not tell your child ‘inspite of teaching you every day you scored only 7 out of 10’.

2.    Make them independent rather than dependent
Allow kids to do their homework on their own; do not hover or linger around like a jailor. If you want them to increase their speed, then put a timer that they can compete with.

3.    Compliment rather than compare
It is so easy to compare your child to another sibling or friend, resist the temptation. Instead, make each child aware of their own potential and how they can develop more potential.

4.    Pay attention to attention!
This simply means that parents need to be aware of the attention span of their kids. Is it growing with age or remaining the same or diminishing?  In the early childhood years kids have an average attention span of eight to ten minutes. As they grow older, it should increase to 15, 20, 45 and 60 minutes. Board games, jigsaw puzzles all help nurture attention span.

5.    Children do as you do and not as you say!
If your kids see you giving up too quickly or getting agitated and irritated at tasks, then they will learn the same and no amount of motivation will help.
Persistence is an essential ingredient for future success whether in school or life, so cultivate and nurture it today in your child. Persistence is a natural phenomenon in children, do not diffuse it. Instead, nurture it and let your child blossom.

Thursday, 20 June 2013


Teacher presence—being vibrant, interesting, involved, interactive
Teacher presence is about being vibrant, interesting, involved, and interactive. Being there is the soul of teacher presence; when you are not there, what teacher presence are we talking about? Teacher presence is all about being there in the mind, body and soul.
Good teacher presence can make students more interested and also cultivates a passion for the topic being taught. I know presence is abundant when my students ask me questions, when they maintain eye contact, and I know when they start yawning, or give me the ‘glassy’ stare that the teacher presence may be waning.
Teacher presence—connecting with ‘live’ examples
I cultivate presence by peppering my sessions with humour, more examples that they can connect with and' of course by consciously cultivating my physical presence and voice modulation. Whenever I give them ‘live’ examples or act out a situation I find they connect. When I end the session with these I find that the knowledge lingers more with the students and they recollect better and then also understand ways to implement it. If students cannot see your eyes, they will not connect. Without a certain grace a teacher tends to be a distraction. Sometimes touching can be distracting and sometimes it is required, but touching students with your words and making them connect is truly required in presence. Mystery, awe and wonderment are important when you enter an encounter. Presence is highest when I am entering and disengaging from an encounter, it is ‘maintained’ steadily when in the encounter.
The teacher should be wise enough to ignore student behaviour that can affect teacher presence and, in turn, the presence of students in the class.
Teacher presence—connecting with the topic
My view of presence changed after I attended one particularly famous speaker’s session—there were witty jokes, great quotations and a lot of voice modulation etc. At the time I did enjoy it but there was a nagging feeling of dissatisfaction, something that I was able to put a finger on. The next day I realised it was an enjoyable session, but a waste of time because the topic was hardly touched upon! This is what I keep in mind and see to it that I do not call this as ‘teacher presence’ in my sessions.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Including Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket in your everyday parenting

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. Parents rarely talk to kids - they only lecture them! Parents rarely discuss, instead only question them. Parents 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. Imply this with games and discussions. 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’. Have heart to heart talks with your children.  
As your child nears adolescence pay close attention to his talks, his likes, dislikes, friends etc. Do not spy on them, they hate it. Instead show interest and when you do it from childhood they will not resent it in adolescence. But if you wait till puberty and suddenly start showing interest, then they will not only resent you but rebel too.
Every child has beauty and a beast in his 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.
It’s time for parents to think of Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket, if we want our youngsters to be healthy and happy and not commit crimes. As Jiminy Cricket taught Pinocchio, just whistle when you are in doubt, let’s teach our young children that “when you are in trouble and don’t know right from wrong give a little whistle and let your conscience be your guide. When you make a mistake or feel like breaking a rule or work hard and don’t get the marks, give a little whistle and let your conscience be your guide.”
It’s time to revive Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket and include them in the upbringing of our adolescents.