Tuesday, 28 October 2014

That’s not fair!

That’s not fair!

Parents especially mothers are concerned about cultivating certain social skills in their young toddlers like sharing and waiting for their turn. Not many teachers and parents realize that sharing and waiting for their turn will stem from the concept of fairness, and this trait in young children is inborn. Yes, this was the subject of a puppet experiment research study conducted by Patricia Kanngiesser from the University of Bristol who led the study, and Prof Felix Warneken from Harvard University, a co-author of this study that was published  in the journal PLoS One.  (if I remember correctly this experiment was shared by ChildCareexchange newsletter, thank you)

The study used a puppet experiment with toddlers. Using puppets allowed the experimenters to carry out a controlled experiment whilst still revealing exactly how the children would behave towards peers in a real world situation. The game works like this: the puppet (with the aid of an adult puppeteer) and a three-year-old participant gather their hauls of little buckets.  Then the child /puppet team is rewarded with stickers – one for each coin they have collected. At this point the child has to decide how to share his or her prized stickers with their puppet partner.

The results of this study-experiment were quite surprising, “We were very surprised to find this sophisticated sharing behavior already present in three-year-olds,” said Ms. Kanngiesser. Ms. Kannigiesser said there was a “natural human predisposition” towards treating other fairly. “It seems to be intuitive,” she said.  “People have found that even by 18 months of age, children have expectations about how things should be shared fairly.” And there are logical, human reasons for this natural bias towards fair play.

We at Podar Institute of Education were Inspired by a BBC story by Victoria Gill on this puppet experiment and we decided to conduct the same experiment with different age groups and variations. Social situations or peers or adults as we wanted to find out if fairness and sharing is inborn and does it remain constant at all ages or do children influence different age groups and then do they show a change in their fairness and sharing behavior. Variations because we wanted to see what social situations cause this change in behavior or are they unconsciously influenced by adult behavior or expectations, after all young children do learn by imitation.

We conducted the study in Mumbai city and 13 other small and big towns and cities in India. Children were from different backgrounds, cultures and socio-economic status. We took equal boys and girls and the game/experiment was done at least 4 times with each child.  We conducted the same experiment with 2, 3, 4,5,6 and 7 year olds. From each age group we took 10 children.

1.     2 and 3 year olds not only shared equally with the puppet but also sometimes even gave their share to the puppet.
2.     4 year olds were very fair, which means if they took out 4 tokens and the puppet took out 2 tokens in the game, they shared their prize with the puppet as 4 and 2 which means prize is distributed as much as the effort and not more.
3.     5,6 and 7 year olds did not share fairly, they wanted to hoard all the prizes, they thought that the effort of the puppet was through its handler so why should the puppet get anything.
4.     So then we made them play with real children instead of a puppet but found the same unfairness in them.
5.     We then tried a different angle to the study, we made the 5,6 and 7 year olds play under the supervision of  a teacher. Just the teacher’s presence made them share equally and fairly.
6.     The same group was then made to play in the presence of some of their mothers. Mothers were not given any instructions. We found more squabbling and unfairness in this group. The ones whose mothers were around were more vocal and quibbled more and the mothers compounded the problem by taking sides.

What did we learn through this experiment? We agreed with the original researchers that fairness and sharing or equality is innate and is part of our emerging socio-emotional skills. Over a period of time we are unconsciously ‘groomed’ to be selfish and hoard the prize instead of thinking about fairness and justice. A simple example is the birthday game that all kids are exposed to, the breaking of the piƱata, here everyone pushes each other and hoards, goaded by adults watching the game. We wanted parents and teachers to realize the impact of adults on shaping the social personalities of young children.

 Given here are the percentages of the findings of the game/study/experiment,
1.     In the 2 year age group 90% of the kids shared equally and fairly. 8 % took all and 2 % were not bothered about the prize.
2.     In the 3 year age group 88% of the kids shared fairly and equally, 7% did not share and took all, 5% were unsure about how many to keep and how many to give and ended up giving and taking back
3.     In the 4-year age group 76% of the kids shared fairly and equally, 10% did not share at all and 8% shared then took it back when no one was looking. And 6% did not like the prize so did not take it!
4.     In the 5 year age group 70% of the kids shared fairly and equally, 15% did not share fairly, 10% did not share at all and 5% argued that the puppet cannot compete as it was held by a teacher, not fair , were not participative in the game.
5.     In the 6 year age group 60% did not share fairly and equally, 30% shared fairly and equally and 10% threw a tantrum when asked to share- this is with the puppet
6.     In the 6 year age group 62% did not share fairly and equally, 28% shared fairly and equally on seeing the teacher standing there, and 10% had conflicts, cried, walked away, threw the prize etc.- this is when they played with children and had teacher standing.
7.     In the 6 year age group 68% did not share fairly and equally, 10% shared fairly and equally, 17% shared fairly and equally after mother intervention, and 5% had conflicts, cried, walked away, threw the prize etc. -  this is when they played with children and had mother standing.
8.      In the 7 year age group 65% did not share fairly and equally, 20% shared fairly and equally and 15% threw a tantrum when asked to share- this is with the puppet
9.     In the 7 year age group  71% did not share fairly and equally, 27% shared fairly and equally on seeing the teacher standing there, and 2% had conflicts, cried, walked away, threw the prize etc.- this is when they played with children and had teacher standing.
10.  In the 7 year age group 88% did not share fairly and equally, 5% shared fairly and equally, 7% shared fairly and equally after mother intervention- this is when they played with children and had mother standing.
We want to share this study with all parents, teachers and adults that work with young children so that precious human traits like fairness do not disappear because of lack of knowledge or understanding of how kids learn and why kids fail to share and be fair. As adults who work with young children we teachers and parents must realize our responsibility and preserve these important human traits so that our children grow up in a just and fair society build by them. Our study was featured in the Times of India, Mumbai edition, here is the link - http://epaperbeta.timesofindia.com/Article.aspx?eid=31804&articlexml=Natural-for-kids-to-share-but-adults-ruin-24102014007048

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Navratan for a Swacch India

He gave us independence. What did we give him? Our respected Prime Minister wants to gift the Mahatma a clean India and we at Podar Jumbo Kids support this idea and are participating with 18000 children 36,000 parents and grandparents in this mission starting from 2nd October 2014.
BAPUKENAVRATAN FOR A SWACCH INDIA is our event to flag off this mission. 9 ways in which children can be taught and inspired to be clean, think clean and make cleanliness a part of their every day life.
The early years are the foundational years for the development of intelligence in children and children best learn when exposed to holistic development. So we chose the nine intelligences to teach kids about being clean and the importance of cleanliness. So join us on the 2nd of October to see how are kids and parents learn about cleanliness in 9 different ways. 9 inspirations for a SWACCH INDIA, lets start early, lets start young. 

1.     Verbal/Linguistic (“Word smart”) learners have the ability to use words effectively. Children learn to use  words and pictures to describe cleanliness activities and words and sentences that signify cleanliness and ways to clean, both personal and surroundings.
Clean,dirty, Scrub, brush, mop, dust, smell, wipe etc. as per their age they will recognize pictures, learn words or learn to make sentences with the words.
2.     Logical/mathematical (“Number/reasoning smart”) learners have the ability to use numbers effectively.  Children will identify the different steps and stages of cleanliness both personal and surroundings. So they will play card games in which they will identify the steps to follow.
3.     Visual/Spatial (“Picture smart”) learners create pictures in their mind to retain information.  Children will draw about their vision for cleanliness. What does cleanliness mean to them. Art helps children express and we can learn a lot about their thinking and ideas through drawings.
4.     Bodily/Kinesthetic (“Body smart”) learners exhibit skillful use of their hands and/or exceptional control over their body movements that may be used to express ideas.  Children will participate with their parents and use the broom and mop to clean their surroundings like classroom, outdoor are. Children will understand how full body movements are involved in different aspects of cleanliness.
5.     Musical/Rhythmic (“Music smart”) learners have the ability to appreciate and produce music. They think in terms of rhythms and patterns.  Children will sing rhymes and songs about cleanliness especially our new version of Twinkle Twinkle little star, lets clean up where we are.
6.     Interpersonal (“People smart”) learners relate well to others. They are empathic, organized, and skilled at eliciting individual and group cooperation.  Children will play games in which to identify what areas of cleanliness require a group effort and what areas can be done individually
7.     Intrapersonal (“Self smart”) learners have a desire to reflect and evaluate their inner self. Children will be taught about brushing, bathing and using the dustbin as part of individual responsibility activities for cleanliness
8.     Naturalist (“Nature smart”) learners exhibit a strong early interest in artifacts, animals, planets, and minerals.  Children will go out in nature, on the road, in the garden and clean the area of rubbish and also suggest to people to use dustbins.
9.     Spiritual ( “Soul smart”) – they will watch a muppet show about ‘Dumpy the Dustbin” will teach them about values of cleanliness and how a dustbin wants them to learn about cleanliness.

10 things parents and schools should do to keep kids safe from sexual abuse


1.    For schools- Ensure that staff appointed like drivers, attendants, bais, watchman are registered at the nearest police station or get their adhaar card, ration card, driving license copies with you.ensure that you have photos, documents copies of all your staff, this will help you in tracing them in case they abscond after an incident.
2.    For schools- all teachers appointed, their background checks should be done.  If they have joined you from anther school call that school and find out the reason they left.
3.    For schools- conduct regular sessions about appropriate touch and educate all staff of your school about your ‘zero tolerance policy for child abuse’. Many staff are unaware about the strict ramifications of the POCSO ACT. Brief them, warn them and take their signatures.
4.    For schools- every week conduct good touch bad touch sessions with children. Show the video or teach them the poem on good touch bad touch
5.    For parents- screen all the staff that you appoint to take care of your child, including driver. Ensure you have their documents.
6.  For parents- stop calling everyone an uncle, this makes kids trusting and comfortable with complete strangers.
7.    For parents- use ‘safe and comfortable daily routine times’ like bathing, story telling etc. to talk to your child about how to handle being approached by strangers or what to do when someone other than your parents offers you something to eat or wants to touch you.
a.    For parents- stop sharing your bed with your child. Or when indulging in your sexual activity with your spouse ensure that your child is not around. Even when kids are sleeping they can be aware of it. Many kids mimic adult behavior and may then find nothing wrong in doing it with others.
b.    For parents-If children ask you about a kissing scene or a rape scene or a bedroom scene that they may have seen on television or movies or magazines and newspapers talk to them that is what adults do to adults not children to children or adults to children. You do not need to talk about this unless your child asks about it, remember if children ask about something it means their brains are ready to understand about it and are curious. It would be better that they get their curiosity satisfied from a known and trusted source rather than a source that can mislead them. Also talk to them about good touch bad touch especially when they ask you about rape.
8.    For  parents and schools- do not try to discipline children with threats. Remember a pedophile always uses threats to ensure that the child does not tell anyone. So if you have taught your child to be afraid or are regularly threatening your child then you are laying a negative foundation of fear and secrecy that is detrimental for your child. Refrain from threatening or asking your child to keep secrets from another parent, sibling or grandparent.
9.    For parents and schools-Teach children about good touchbad touch in the same manner that you teach them about road safety rhymes. Your child is not going to cross the road or drive a car and yet we teach them about red light, green light or to cross at a zebra crossing, very likely that your child is can to be the easy target of sexual predators so teach rhymes about body safety and show video on good touch bad touch- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCgtNSU4kg4&feature=youtu.be
10. For schools and parents- always ensure that you are aware of who will be the ‘critical adult’ or ‘key person’ for your child at all times. Young children have to be supervised at all times, a critical adult is that person with whom the child will be at any given time. So if the child is in school, the teacher is the critical adult, if the teacher sends child to washroom, then the critical adult must know the whereabouts of the child and who is taking care of the child. In all three cases in Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai the kids were abused in the absence of a critical adult, no one was responsible for the child during that time. 

Issued in Public interest by Early Childhood Association and Podar Jumbo Kids. Get the poem on www.eca-india.org or www.jumbokids.com or @swatipopat