Some of the most memorable moments are the ones I spend with my children. Most of the greatest lessons I have learnt are from my kids.
Every second is pure joy and I learn so much from their curiosity and innocence.
I love the constant barrage of questions, the indefatigable energy, the tornado of mischief, the gentleness and integrity, the thirst for knowledge and their undying undiluted love.
“Everything depends on upbringing. ”
― Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
We are all born pure and without malice, opinion, hatred, negativity or prejudice. As we go along our experiences, people, friends, events, parents, relatives and the world around us leave their scars with their words and expression. We grow up constantly changing and our personalities are defined by a sum of our past experiences.
“Your kids require you most of all to love them for who they are, not to spend your whole time trying to correct them.”
― Bill Ayers
Parenting as I understand is the most important foundation to our lives. Our values and personalities are defined by our early experiences and then our peers and our own experiences take over.
I have conversed with so many parents and elders and out of curiosity dwelled a lot on what is the role parenting plays in the definition of an individual. I have read so many books on the exciting subject and always wondered how we can be catalysts without expectations, how we can touch their lives and allow them to find their inner magnificence.
“To be in your children’s memories tomorrow,
You have to be in their lives today.”
― Barbara Johnson
Here are a few ideas and practices I have learnt and understood and know that work like a charm.
“The ability to discipline yourself to delay gratification in the short term in order to enjoy greater rewards in the long term, is the indispensable prerequisite for success.”
My mentor and guru taught me this simple and most effective aspect of bring up children. The simple rule was about teaching my kids not to expect gratification and gifts instantly when they wanted it. To equip them best for life, they have to learn to delay the need for instant reward. Learning to save up and buy the book they so wanted, deciding to look at more options and then buy the cycle, getting a paint set and crayons if we come back next week.
To prepare them as adults who learn to save, study hard to do better, train hard to excel or plan for their retirement need for them to grapple with the philosophy of delayed gratification.
Read this article if you are interested in understanding the concept further:
2.Be what you want them to be
“To bring up a child in the way he should go, travel that way yourself once in a while.”
― Josh Billings
This is a simple and fundamental law of parenting that I hear and read about so often, yet we as parents forget this simple idea so easily. What we do is what our children learn and become, not what we advise. If we don’t walk the talk and follow the advise we give them ourselves, the words will remain words. I realised that if we want them to trust us, we must trust them. If we want them to be polite, we must be, if we want honesty, we must first be honest. If we yell and lose our temper and expect kids who are calm and soft spoken, its a battle we will always lose.
3.Wear their shoes
The easiest way to connect and understand my kids have been when I have constantly adjusted my mental age to how I would have thought and behaved when I was that age. What would I have done if I was a bored 3 year old? What would I have done as a 9 year old who’s in trouble? Everything suddenly falls into place when I step outside my adult righteousness and opinion and step down to sympathising and expecting them to behave their age. Its music to their ears when they sense you know exactly what they are feeling or doing.
4.Self fulfilling prophecy
This is such an important aspect of a child’s upbringing and the effect it leaves on them is unquestionable. In organisational behaviour, it’s known as the Pygmalion effect (remember the movie My Fair Lady). We grow up surrounded with the need for being labelled. Both negatively and positively and both have their effects on us. When there’s a continuos wave of hearing “you are a naughty child” or “you are always messy” or “you are so lazy”, “good for nothing” etc, we live this prophecy out by adopting this avatar for ourselves. Changing the words from “You are always lazy and messy and will never change!” to “I bet you couldn’t transform this room back to its magical clean self in 15 minutes!!” or anything that works with possibilities makes a difference.
I remember being typecast as mischievous and an average student in school and whatever I did couldn’t shake the tag away and I was a perfect fit for the labels. It was only when I changed schools and I was introduced as someone with leadership abilities and a genius, that I suddenly manifested these tags too.
It’s a fine balance with our children too. Too much praise also raises the pressure of having to perform or impress. Sometimes, just a hug and a kiss is even more effective than getting a gift or a reward.
5. The language of possibilities
Changing our language from “Should, have to, must” to workability also has created amazing shifts and has galvanised change in my children. For example instead of saying “you have to sleep early” “or you must sleep on time” as an order, when we say “If you sleep early, you will wake up fresh and have more energy at school” .
The moment the logic of what will work better when you do something is explained, we are enrolled easily. When orders are thrust upon us, we take it instead like medication prescribed.
“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
– Albert Einstein
Encouraging our children to make mistakes releases a great burden off their backs. Eradicating the fear of failure and instead celebrating their mistakes makes learning so much fun.
Getting our children to see every drawback and failure as just another way not to do it, and distinguishing them as experiences drove away fear. Discussing the learnings from each of the experiences and brainstorming possibilities and new solutions also strengthens the solution based thinking early on.
Every doctor’s appointment is important, each school play or group song, race, sports day or international day or poem recital means the world to kids. In their world, they have achieved the impossible and they are brimming with a sense of pride. Reciprocating this enthusiasm by being there whenever we can makes them feel on top of the world. I realised that its easy to actually reorganise and work your schedule easily around their days and when you can’t make it, apologising profusely and from the heart and explaining why you couldn’t makes them feel so important. As parents, we try and make sure at least one of us is there if not both, for every moment which is important for them.
On a selfish note, the joy and pride that swells up in our hearts as we see our little heroes clamber on stage and do their thing and try their best, is an emotion second to none.That moment, as they suddenly spot you in the crowd, and their eyes and smile light up the entire school, and when they wave eagerly like their whole life just became energized and colorful, that makes the moment eternal.
8. Emotional intelligence
What determines the joy in our lives is finally how happy we are with ourselves and how well we connect with other people. The final measure of success is the ability to understand our own feelings, name them and find solutions for dealing with them. Talking with our kids about emotions, sharing how we would feel at different points and brainstorming solutions- “I feel nervous today, what do you think I should do?” , “I sense you are upset about what happened with your friends, do you want to tell me about it?” help us get in touch with these inner emotions. Also when we have discussed other people’s feelings, it allows them to be sensitised to emotions- “When you didn’t share your book with her, what do you think she felt? How would you feel if that happened to you?”
Helping them walk in other people’s shoes often also heightens this emotion further-“I know you are upset with your teacher. Why do you think he said what he did?”
9. Parents are also human
I learnt along the way that its not necessary to be a super hero always. We also screw up often. I also realised that when we speak about our weaknesses and acknowledge when we messed up, it helped me connect with my children further.
Sometimes when you over react without logic (we are human, it will happen) and realise heart of heart it was unnecessary, it feels even better when I go to my 9 year old daughter and sit beside her and just say “I am so sorry. I think I over reacted for something very simple. I didn’t agree which what happened, but I shouldn’t have been so upset. It really was such a big deal. Will you forgive me? It wont happen again.” The hug of understanding I get dissolves the guilt I feel and she gets that sometimes parents also goof up and a heart felt apology can remedy most situations.
10. Learning from other parents.
There are so many families I respect and admire. So many parents and friends I come across that I want to model and learn from. So many kids who I see grow up into individuals of excellence with a sense of purpose and armed with integrity and wisdom. I love speaking to their parents and asking them anecdotes and tips on parenting. I love to observe the dynamics and soak in whatever I may learn.
So often, there’s an insight or observation that can dramatically transform our approach to our kids. I have also learnt so much of what not to do as well by observation.
11. Igniting curiosity .
“I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.”
Our minds soak in the most when it is open. When the doors are shut, nothing comes in. That’s why we seek knowledge, experiences, mentors and expertise. The most successful people in the world are the ones who are curious about knowledge, who seek out new ways of doing things, who never accept status quo.
We buy books, a lot of books for the kids. A balance of fiction and non fiction. Books about history and science and how things work. I remember how my mother would ensure we were around books and the world that opened for us as kids.
I also fix up outings to different industries so they have perspective and exposure. One day a radio station, another day a newspaper, interviewing people and understanding the way it works. Sitting in on internal meetings and sharing her observations of what worked in the meeting and didn’t. Learning and encouraging them to ask when they don’t know and knowing where to find answers when you don’t. This insatiable hunger for grasping ideas and information create a fertile mind forever.
We also play a game where I teach 5 new words almost every day. I learnt this at a Brian Tracy event. He said that the power of language and the ability to express yourself is one of the pillars of success. The idea of learning 5 new words came from him and it is working wonders.
12.The feedback walk
When there’s a burning issue or strong feedback to be given, I take my daughter for a walk. We take a long walk and we speak. I share how I feel and why it isn’t working for me and we brainstorm on what solutions we can create for the situation. I let her know what’s troubling me and I ask her if she agrees there’s a problem. We then brainstorm on what can be done to solve the situation and what ideas she can adopt. I also acknowledge that this is not how she usually is and its a temporary situation.
Walking allows the feedback to be relaxed and the change of environment helps her not be in a spot. It just lightens the moment and yet gives it gravity. She also knows that when I start the walk with “We need to talk…” there’s some feedback coming her way.
13.Awakening the creative mind.
“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
― Albert Einstein
Stories read at night, stories made up to share a message, magical tales, fairies, pixie dust, dragons all awaken imagination and lay the greatest foundation for the intelligent mind. Reading them fairy tales on some days even as infants with expression and sounds open a magical world. Play acting and role play further enhance the spark in them.
I particularly love creating stories which have a host of my 3 year old sons toys. Theres a dinosaur and theres Buzz light year and a cow, Mater, a helicopter and a tattered teddy bear besides a host of other heroes. It took a lot more effort playing with my daughters dolls and the doll house, I must admit.
Brainstorming as a concept became a game. We play brainstorming to look at solutions to real and hypothetical story situations. For example, the King is fast asleep, how can we wake him up without getting him angry? Or real life situations like ideas for a project or how to deal with situations. I feel that if kids can wrap their minds around the fact that all problems have solutions which we haven’t thought of yet, they become resourceful instead of panicking.
Sometimes, just before sleeping sharing what we learnt new this day and asking them what they learnt for the day plants the seed for Kaizen (the Japanese word for continuous and never ending improvement). It also makes parents grow also and never stagnate.
The power of hearing “I love you” through the day and being hugged for every excuse helps kids express their love easier. They also realise the warmth and affection and learn how to express their feelings easily. Stealing hugs when you leave and also when you meet them and for every possible reason lets them know how wanted they are.
The kids that are different and out there and expressive; and are bold with those choices, those are the people that grow up to be people we all want to hang out with, that become celebrities or become really successful in what they do because they believe in who they are.
15.The power of fun!
Laughter, fun and joy in every aspect of the day brings another dimension to their lives. The power of giggles and uncontrollable laughter is the biggest blessing for a home and the greatest memories we remember as kids.
“The best way to make children good is to make them happy.”
― Oscar Wilde