It has been a long and extremely rewarding journey for me as a teacher since I completed my B.Ed. in 1976. I faced many challenges on the way, but in the process I learnt and grew as a person on the professional and personal front. Looking back, I can say that it has been a two-way process; I have learnt as much from students as they may have learnt from me.
There has been a sea change in the perspective and attitude of children in the past few decades. In the past children had an intrinsic respect, trust and faith in their parents and teachers as it was ingrained in our culture and in fact in our very DNA. It is a very different scenario now. Today respect has to be earned and not demanded and definitely cannot be taken for granted. However, if we wish to receive respect, we need to give respect in return. We need to respect children as individuals and not as replicas of what we are or wish to be. We need to wholeheartedly accept them as they are. They have to learn to distinguish between right and wrong for themselves, take responsibility for their actions and face the consequences, good or bad. When they make mistakes, they will learn from them, albeit painfully. Only when children understand the value of the insights provided by us, will they learn to respect us and then possibly turn to us for advice and guidance.
Children today have an unending stream of questions on practically every subject. This may be unnerving for a parent who is unprepared or does not have an in depth knowledge of the subject. The worst thing we can do in the circumstances is to dismiss the questions, as this will kill the innate curiosity of the child. Instead we have to answer the child briefly and guide them to other sources for obtaining the answers to their queries. One of the qualities children admire the most in adults is honesty. If we do not know something and admit it candidly and promise to get back to them with the answer, we go up several notches in the eyes of the children.
The challenge before us today is to adapt to the new technological age in which we live. We need to overcome our mental blocks and become a student ourselves to keep abreast with the changing times.
The old dogma of ‘Do what I say and not what I do’ is no longer applicable today. Children learn best from the examples set by the adults. We can no longer have a superior and high handed, authoritarian approach; nor should we adopt populistic measures to win the love and affection of children. The right approach is to establish a friendly rapport with them, be firm and have the courage to say ‘No’ when required and at the same time be approachable enough for children to confide in us without fear. When children come to us in distress or pain, all that they want from us is a patient listening, not advice or an instant solve to their problem. They need to vent their feelings, so that they can think clearly and resolve their problem independently. If we allow them to do that, we will win their trust and confidence forever.
Over the years, one of the most important realizations that has dawned on me is that, we as parents have a profound influence on children. Constant negativity and fault finding on our part greatly undermines the child’s self-confidence and sense of self-worth. While there is no foolproof formula for parenting, being aware of our own flaws and weaknesses will make us conscious individuals and therefore better equipped to handle parenting challenges.
In conclusion I would like to say that accepting children as individuals in their own right goes a long way in establishing a heathy parent-child dynamic. We need to see ourselves as their coaches – empowering them with the skills necessary to find their inner strength, stand up for themselves and face all the ups and downs of life. Offering them unconditional love and a safe space to discover themselves paves the way for a happy, well-bonded family.
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