Tuesday, 26 September 2017

The wind beneath my wings…

The wind beneath my wings…

January is the month of Sankranti and Republic Day and both the celebrations have ‘wind’ in it. Kites need ‘wind’ to fly and flags wave patriotically in the ‘wind’. So this issue is dedicated to ‘wind’ and children. After all children too need the ‘wind’ beneath their wings to soar and achieve, excel and be happy in life.

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you read the word-’wind’? The movie ‘Gone with the ‘wind’?! Or the thought of freedom, exhilaration, independence? Because that is what ‘wind’ is all about. When its ‘windy’ instead of closing all the doors and windows, go out and catch the ‘wind’. Catch the wind on your cheeks and see how they turn rosy. Let the ‘wind’ toss your hair and see how fresh you feel. ‘Wind’ is an experience to have and to give to your child.

We want our kids to soar to success, to the heights of achievement, but we fail to realise that we are the ‘wind’ beneath our child’s wings. The way we correct them, the way we motivate them, encourage them, is the ‘wind’ beneath their wings. Is ‘wind’ important for shaping your child’s life? Yes, it is.
Vayu or air or ‘wind’ is one of the five natural elements of nature and it is said that the human body is made up of these elements. What can this element cultivate in the personality of your child?

®  Air/’wind’  is everywhere
®  Everyone needs air
®  No one can see air/’wind’
®  Air/’wind’  can soothe and cool you  or air/’wind’ can become a storm and destroy
®  Similarly independence in children is like air/’wind’.
®  Independence  can give them the ability to explore, gives them a zeal to venture
®  But too much independence can become a storm that destroys everything in its path.
So do cultivate independence in your child but monitor that independence too.

January is quite a windy month, try and do these with your child-

  1. Give your child a kite and let your child run around with the kite on a string, it’s a novel experience. And letting your child squeal as he/she runs, just adds to the fun!
  2. Make a paper windmill and put it out on your window. Let your child observe what make it move. Then bring it inside and put it under a fast running ceiling fan. Let him observe the difference. ‘Wind’ has motion and ‘wind’ makes things move!
  3. Ensure that your child has seen a real windmill, ‘wind’ energy is gaining popularity and it is amazing to see the big, huge, white windmills dotting the hill side. A must see.
  4. Let your child feel the ‘wind’ with activities like football at the beach or kite flying, the different and varied experiences will definitely benefit.
  5. Ask your child to draw ‘wind’! You will be amazed with the creative ideas they can think of.
  6. Let’s try and catch some ‘wind’!
  7. Let’s record ‘wind’. Go to an open space and when it is ‘windy, record the sound on your mobile phone. Come home and let your child focus and listen to the sound. And then ask your child to imitate it.
  8. See some sunflowers swaying in the ‘wind’. 
  9. Let your child imitate ‘wind’! Keep a paper in front of your child’s face and ask your child to blow on it like a soft ‘wind’, a hard ‘wind’, a medium ‘wind’. This fun activity helps them follow instructions and exercises their face and mouth.
  10.  Let your child hold a balloon on a string outside the car window as you are driving and then let the balloon loose. See the balloon soar in the sky.

A whole new year is in front of you and your child; have a ‘windy’ year full of fun, independence, exhilaration. Enjoy the ‘wind’ and see your worries go with the ‘wind’!

Every Dot Counts...a message from every child to their parents.

Hi Parents, here is a cute letter from your kids...

Dear mummy and daddy,                                 

‘Every Dot Counts’- The ‘Dot’ has been an important part of my life every since I was born. Remember the little black ‘dot’ that you would apply on my forehead so that ‘no evil eye’ can harm me? As I grow older a lot of dots will be important and make a difference. You will tell me to ‘Dot’ my ‘i’. When I start writing sentences you will tell me to put a ‘Dot’ (full stop) at the end of the sentence. ‘Dot to dot’ activities of join the dots will teach me how to see the whole picture by joining the parts.

But there is another ‘Dot’ dear mummy and daddy that is very important for my future, the ‘Dot’ on your pointer finger! And this ‘Dot’, only you can get for me………by going to vote.

This ‘Dot’ will teach me about responsibility, when I see my parents taking their responsibility seriously I will learn a life long lesson on responsibility. This ‘Dot’ will also inculcate in me the ability to take informed decisions. I will see you discuss and debate and decide and it will teach me that for important decisions in life it is better to be informed. And did you know that this ‘Dot’ of yours is also very much like that ‘dot to dot’ activity that you give me? well, just like by joining all the dots I get to see a picture in my book, similarly by joining all the ‘Dots’ that each one of you gets on your pointer finger, the future of this country will be decided, the country where I am going to grow up. 

So mummy and daddy teach me all of the above and more, teach me that if you want to point a finger then it should be the one with a ‘Dot’! So please go and get a ‘Dot’ this year on your pointer finger as Every Dot Counts’.

My school has asked me to remind you to go and vote and get a ‘Dot’. So, this year make it count for me and my future. This year on voting day I will sing this song for you-
Where is pointer?
Where is pointer?
Here I am, here I am
Do I see a dot here?
Do I see a dot here?
Yes I do, yes I do.
I love you, I love you.
From your loving child.

So parents listen to your kids and when you choose who to vote for, think of your child’s future.

Italian your parenting

Italian your parenting

All parents are interested in the progress and development of their children and to do it correctly they need pointers to guide them to the right path. Parenting can be pleasurable if it is simple and research based. Just like food is nourishment for the body, parenting is nourishment for the mind, body, and soul. Just like we eat different types of food- Guajarati, Chinese, Italian, Punjabi etc., similarly parenting too can be of different flavors. So how about Italian? Let us Italian your parenting!

Two of the most globally famous early childhood educational practices were born in Italy- Montessori and Reggio Emilia. In Reggio Emilia there is a wonderful poem called ‘The Hundred Languages of Children’. This poem talks about how all children have a hundred languages, but we the people, parents, schools, and society, steal the ninety nine and tell the child that there is only one language. We want all kids to learn, behave, speak, feel, and perform in the same manner. We have lost touch with the concept of individualism. In parenting too we try to ensure that all our kids are the same. They should walk at the same age, look the same, and perform similarly in tests. Let us give them the hundred languages and let them grow as individuals and not clones.

Italy is known as the land of pizza but it should be called the land of the Piazza. Every city is dotted with Piazzas, these are kind of squares in different parts of the city where people sit, chat, drink coffee, tea, or lick ice-cream cones and kids can play, elders can walk and youngsters can cycle.  We need these spaces in our cities and homes, little piazzas so that children learn about social development and community spirit face-to-face and not only on Facebook.

We are so obsessed with ‘branded stuff’ and the English language. In fact now many children are made to learn Chinese, Japanese, before they learn their mother tongue. But in Italy and in most European countries, children learn their mother tongue for the first few years. Italian children are proud and confident in their Italian. In India our kids are burdened to learn a foreign language before they even speak their mother tongue. Let us also help our children be proud of their roots before we give them wings. Every street in Italy has Louis Vuitton stores, one of the most expensive and fashionable brands in the world. In India Louis Vuitton has become a ‘class’ symbol whereas in Italy it was a mere fashion statement. Isn’t that how all fashion should be?

Children in Italian schools are given many opportunities to draw, paint, create, and that is indeed natural. After all this is the land of Michael Angelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and many others. This is seen in the architecture and paintings around Italy. You are automatically forced to use words like gigantic, mammoth, awe inspiring, intricate, mind boggling, impressive, as words less than these would fail to describe the architectural genius that you see in the buildings. The presence of fountains in each city helps you understand how architecture was used to create spaces where people can mingle, sit and hear sounds that are soothing and close to nature. I wish today’s architects around the world would get over their obsession with steel and glass. No wonder our children’s vocabulary is limited to tall, shining, and awesome (sic). 

Robotics is commonly used in most Italian schools to teach Math, Science and concepts but this has not replaced art education in the schools. Leonardo Da Vinci was a painter and inventor similarly education that we choose for our children should be about the expressive arts and intelligence fused together. It should not be either/or but the best of both that should inspire our children.
Pinocchio, one of the most path breaking stories for young children was also born in Italy. At a basic level, moral learnings are abundant in this wonderful story that every child should be exposed to. If you will tell a lie, your nose will grow longer! What a wonderful way to teach children about moral values and ethics. The Disney version has a song, ‘Let your conscience be your guide’. That should be the anthem of every child. Enjoy Pinocchio with your child today…both the book and the Disney version.

We cringe when we are with our children and see a naked picture of the human body but we swing along with them on vulgar lyrics that ogle and comment on women and sex. We need to give our children a balance. Ancient Italian architecture and paintings help children grow up with a positive concept of the human body. The statue of David is indeed a reminder that children should grow up viewing and revering the naked human body rather than learning about it as vulgar and porn. We have similar sculptures and paintings in India like the Sun Temple at Konark or certain select paintings of Raja Ravi Varma (India) that help us give our children a positive and moral outlook towards our bodies, how babies are born etc.

And here are some great parenting tips from an amazing Professor from Italy, Daniela Lucangeli Padua University.  She says children have selective attention. They know what to focus on and when to switch off. Parents are always worried about the fact that their children do not listen to them. Well find out what gets your child’s selective attention, and then use it to ensure that your children listen too and hear you. She spoke about the amygdala in the brain and emotions that accompany learning. So aptly put by her that the emotion that should accompany learning should be curiosity and not fear. So we need to stop threatening children to make them perform or complete their tasks or homework as it is directly affecting their brain development. She quoted Eric Fisher on how rage and fear does not damage learning and creativity as much as boredom does. When we drone on and on with our children, they get bored. When we hold their hands and make them do their homework, they get bored. When we feed them with our hands instead of letting them feed themselves, they get bored. When we make them wear their clothes, tie their shoes, do their beds…they get bored. Their boredom all day long affects their learning and creativity. So if you want your kids to perform better at school, stop boring them!
They say beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.  I would like to add that parenting inspirations are in every city and country, if we only look at them from the point of view of children and their hundred languages.

Swati Popat Vats is an early childhood educator and parenting mentor. She heads a chain of early childhood centers in India and Dubai. She speaks extensively at international conferences and mentors parents on making parenting pleasurable. She has authored more than 12 books for parents, teachers, and children. She blogs and tweets passionately about quality in parenting and early childhood spaces.

Parenting lisence…lisence to nurture a life.

Parenting license…a license to nurture a life. 

·         A video of a newborn baby walking went viral on social media.. (infancy)
·         News of a young teenager killing his mother and feeling no remorse, shook the city…(adolescence)
·         And yet another news went unnoticed, that of 4 young children running away from home because…. their parents did not allow them to play! (Young child)

What is common in all of the above? It’s the knowledge of the science of parenting. Mothers, still carry the entire parenting role on their shoulders, and today’s mother is quite fed up with people advising her or telling her she is wrong or has made a mistake. Understandable. Previously it would be only the mother in law or mother who would advice a mother about parenting but today it is the nosy neighbor, Google aunty, whatsapp friends, Facebook friends and of course still the mother and mother in law! But instead of shutting out everyone and listening to no one I would advice today’s yummy mummy to go for smart parenting and understand the science of parenting so that they can listen to reason and not rumours, myths and plain ridiculous ideas!

So lets understand the science behind each of the above news. Newborn baby walking? Possible. All babies can! It is called the step reflex. Present in every baby but we don’t notice it because which idiot would want to make a newborn stand?! Why did the video go viral? Because the science of parenting is not used by 98% parents and so most mothers after seeing the video went….’is something wrong with my baby? What did that mother eat during pregnancy?’
These are some reflexes present in all new borns-
1.     Startle, or Moro, reflex. When startled by a sudden or loud noise, or a feeling of falling, the Moro reflex will cause the baby to extend the legs, arms, and fingers, arch the back, draw the head back, then draw the arms back, fists clenched, into the chest. Duration: Four to six months.
2.     Babinski's, or plantar, reflex. When the sole of a baby's foot is gently stroked from the heel to toe, the baby's toes flare upward and the foot turns in. Duration: Between six months and two years, after which toes curl downward.
3.     Rooting reflex. A newborn whose cheek is gently stroked will turn in the direction of the stimulus, mouth open and ready to suckle. This reflex helps the baby locate the breast or bottle and secure a meal. Duration: About three to four months, though it may persist when baby is sleeping.
4.     Walking, or stepping, reflex. Held up­right on a table or other flat surface, sup­ported under the arms, a newborn may lift one leg and then the other, taking what seem to be "steps." This "practice walking" reflex works best after the fourth day of life. Duration: Variable, but typically about two months. (This reflex does not forecast early walking.)
5.     Sucking reflex. A newborn will reflexively suck when the roof of his or her mouth is touched, such as when a nipple is placed in the mouth. Duration: Present at birth and lasts until two to four months, when volun­tary sucking takes over.
6.     Palmar grasping reflex. Touch the palm of your baby's hand, and his or her 'fin­gers will curl around and cling to your finger (or any object). This reflex curls babies' feet and toes, too, when they're touched. Duration: Three to six months.
7.     Tonic neck, or fencing, reflex. Placed on the back, a young baby will assume a "fencing position," head to one side, with arms and legs on that side extended and the opposite limbs flexed. Duration: Varies a lot. It may be pre­sent at birth or may not appear for at least two months, and disappear at about four to six months—or sooner, or later.
You can watch a video about these reflexes or read more about it on www.born-smart.com

A young teenager brutally kills his own mother and writes a message that implied that he was fed up of her nagging and the message also said ‘catch me and hang me’. The child’s father is in the police force. What went wrong? The young boy scored more than 90% in his 10th standard but then his grades starting going down. He was put in an engineering college but did not attend. Mother was a recluse and was never seen by neighbours. She would keep an eye and spy on the phones of both the son and father. Father would grumble to everyone about how he has tried everything and works hard for the son but to no avail. The boy even tried to commit suicide but the mother caught him and reprimanded him for the same. What is the science of parenting here?

The mother was most likely a depression patient, which went unidentified and thus the need to be alone, doubting the husband and child. The young boy was affected by the home atmosphere too and was also most likely depressed and that is why the need to commit suicide. Instead of seeking therapy for the son, he was reprimanded which means when attachment, understanding and bonding was most required by the teenager he was shunned and reprimanded. It emotionally hardened the child. The burden of achievement, fulfilling parent’s aspirations, being ridiculed, all this resulted in a knee jerk angry reaction of stabbing and killing his mother.
It is important for parents to understand that children don’t drift away when they become teenagers, they start drifting from age 7 onwards and parents don’t notice as they are busy with academic goals and ensuring that the child achieves social recognition in sports, extra activities, marks, grades etc. it is important for parents to keep their attachment with their child and work towards keeping it strong. Attachment is not helicopter parenting. Taking a leaf from the work of John Bowlby, the father of the attachment theory, I would say attachment helps the parent child bond in 3 ways- proximity maintenance, gives a safe haven, a secure base.
1.     Proximity maintenance – you are always emotionally close to your child, you may not be physically present around your child, but your emotional bond is so strong that it helps your child feel emotionally wanted and cared for and not feel emotionally bereft.
2.     Safe haven- when a child is in trouble or emotionally upset the child knows that I can depend on my parents for support, this is a safe haven. The child knows that my parents are firm but in times of need they will first support and reprimand later.
3.     Secure base- this means, roots and wings, you allow the child to be independent, take decisions because of the strong secure base that you have given the child which was constant and consistent from childhood.
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 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 can 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.

The last bit of news was about 4 young children, aged 6,7, and 8 who ran away from home because their parents did not allow them to play! So what is the science of parenting here? Well, Play is the need of childhood, it is the work of childhood, and it helps kids develop logic, knowledge, patience, and so many other life skills. But because we don’t see marks of grades for play or a report card that says the child is playing 98% etc. we don’t give play the importance it deserves. Maybe it is time schools start giving a report card for play so that parents and teachers realize that play is the research that children do in the laboratory of life and toys are their apparatus.
Rudolf Steiner, the founder of anthroposophy and the Waldorf system of education stressed that our life is divided into three stages namely, Infancy,Childhood and Adolescence. He advised parents and teachers that it is important to base our interactions with children of each stage as per the requirements of each stage of growth. So change your parenting style as per your child’s age but never change the attachment bond that you have with your child, keep it strong forever.
Its time parents understand parenting and the science behind it before they decide to become parents. Because parenting is not just about pregnancy and childbirth, parenting is a responsibility for life. And I strongly feel that there should be a parenting course…a license to become a parent. You are bringing up a life and if you make a mistake you can ruin that life forever. Its time we took parenting seriously and I urge all parents to seek out parenting mentors, guides who can guide them on the right path. Seeking help from each other is not enough because each child is unique and has a unique set of genes that define his/her personality and so using someone’s else’s solution may be detrimental to your child.
Its time to get your parenting license.