Sunday, March 31, 2019

Homeschooling Answers Many Questions ~ Dare & Explore!


We began homeschooling our children half a decade ago. The Elder one had crossed 13 and the younger one was merely seven years old. I identify with every anxious parent that comes knocking our homeschooling group Active Parenting for I was once there where they are. 

A parent just exploring homeschooling is standing on the Schooling Shore, wanting to breakthrough the rigid school structures, find newer pastures and yet trembles with fear & demands vexatiously: 
"Can I build school at home? After all we are calling it Homeschooling?!?" 

We have come across various types of Explorers. While I respect each one, one cannot escape the unmistakable human follies, eccentricities playing out. 

Here are the few prototypes. Broadly classified we have:

The Smart, Educated and Empirical,
The Confused and Lost,
The "Exploring-Tentatives",
The Business Opportunists, and,
The Made up my mind but support needed ones. 

Most parents smirk down in their elitist sharpness and condescend on the entire school system. They realize that school is not working for them. Yes, for them first. The children, too. That too, that too. They have had scuffles with school authority, changed schools, sometimes changed locations only to realize that the crows are black everywhere! 

When they connect to us, their questions are academic. Very Academic. I will attempt at answering some questions as they have worked out for us over the last five years. The only experience I can share is mine. The only illustration I can give is mine. 

There is a Mantra which any Homeschooling explorer must recite three hundred times a day until it sinks in. If it does not sink, please do not begin this journey for it will be extremely awkward and uncomfortable for you. 

Each Homeschooling journey is unique as every child is unique. We aim for individual development and carving newer paths for all involved. 

Read that again. Deep breath. Again! Till you get it. 



Whether you choose homeschooling or schooling, both paths are okay as long as you accept and decide it together, as a family.

How many hours to study?

This is a schooling territory question. It narrows down studying as an activity to be zeroed in, in a form of timetable. According to this question, only and only if I set aside time for something, I am doing that. Do we set aside time for living? We live round the clock.

As  homeschooling parents, we take an all encompassing scope for the child. We substitute the word 'Studying' with 'Learning'.

In that case my children are forever Learning. You will see my elder son with a book, Ted talk or notes all the time. He is constantly learning. Applying what he learned in mundane situations like his parents arguing. Younger one is constantly learning about animals. He began with Dogs, moved on to rabbits, snakes and other continent animals. Today, he can share an anecdote of any animal. 

When they purchase stuff in a super-market they are learning. When they look over the EMI documents, while father goes about  their bank jobs, they learn. When he had earned a lakh he takes up a course on finances and stocks.

It goes in his memory bank as learning. His money, he cares to multiply it. 

Younger one reads Ruskin Bond and cooks up a story with friends and dogs as plot line, brings it to logical conclusion. His emotional intelligence is in the formation. 

Elder comes across Positive Psychology. He took a course, and got accredited. He created his Clientele. 

Next, he got interested in Hypnosis. He found an institute, funded himself. 

So how many hours they put in is tough to recall. I would say every single minute they both are learning. Sitting with paper, pencil books cannot be really quantified. Now they are sitting, then suddenly a joke catches their interests, a chore requires their attention in the kitchen, a friend calls up. They weave in and put off all they are learning. In that sense, each moment, they are learning.

Who can teach

Self Learning is the Key cornerstone of Home-learning. It takes a lonnnngggggg, really long time for parents to get this. No one can teach anyone. Learning is in-built in a learner. Their readiness, their backgrounds, their resistances, their preferences, their bias all play a role in how they will process the information shared by the teacher. 

That's the reason why some kids manage and grasp the concept introduced and some kids just don't get it. Neither the information shared is at fault nor the learner. Just the right fit. 

If child loves Math, he will devour sums. If child loves poetry, he will pick up the nuances. It is the 'Interested Child' who is required. An observant parent who understands the dynamics of the subject matter at hand and her children's preferences would never compel. We hear this all the time. "She is not hardworking. If she works hard in Math she will excel."

Moot question here is "Does she want to?"

If she does not want to, should that not be explored? 

A teacher would not be able to explore this. Even if she does arrive at the conclusion that child either lacks aptitude or interest, she hardly would let you in for obvious reasons. 

The one who can observe the child can teach. 
The one who can create questions in the child can teach. 
The one who can expose the child in the area of her interest can teach.
There is only Facilitation, never teaching. 

School convinces us that a subject related teacher, accredited with a suitable subject can teach. We have so many of them...

Why are school systems failing then to bring satisfaction to parents and children? 

Is there a teacher who will come home?

This is the most delicate, devastating question. My response will be controversial. Anyway, no one needs to like me. 

When you ask a teacher to come home, you say a few things. You express to your child: "I and you both are inadequate so we need another expert to come in and pour in you few concepts.

Second, you give the child a message: Things will be arranged for you. Your time. Your comfort. Your terms. As the teacher comes home, she has limited authority to exert any disciplinary influence or even frown when a given task is not completed or done half heartedly. Mothers jump in to ask the teacher to excuse the laxity. Child gets a beautiful message. 'Mom will bail me out anytime
Let us do nothing. She is just a teacher. She frowns more, we will sack her, get another one.

Welcome to entitlement creation in progeny. Much later when the same entitlement boomerangs on the parents, or the children are truly unable to cope with higher class syllabus, the mistake is dimly realized.

More classes, more money spent. There are classes that promise miracles. In any case the individual has learnt to rely not on self but outside forces to bail out. Mom, dad, money, whining, tantrums and excuses. 

If a child must learn, send them to the Teacher. It is first step to create respect. This person is important enough to go to. Create relationship on personal dynamics not one mitigated by parents.

As a Homeschooling parent we gave the onus of 'You can Teach You'.



My Elder one was interested in public speaking. He wrote scripts, enacted on his YouTube Channel Blogimly. Later, he was interested in Psychology he read avidly on every topic , every book, heard Ted talk on every conceivable topic of his interest, took up classes to add to his knowledge. 

My child is young. She cannot go out on her own. I have no time.

If the child is young, you have decided to homeschool, why do you need to impose a teacher? Why is the time running out? The mommy portals/media, today puts so much pressure on a parent today that they feel obligated to send the child for some classes or hire someone. Freedom is what one aspires for in a homeschooling scenario. If you will resurrect school at home, what is the purpose? The child is still a prisoner to your or the educator's times, whims and personality traits. Where is the scope for the child to truly follow her rhythm and understand life on her terms? We shove books down their throats because we think they should read. We send to classes because we think they must dance or exercise or make friends. 

We think. 
Not the children. 

Then as a parent can you take up the task of Unlearning the school and bring learning in and that too, holistically? 

Be your own teacher. 
Go to the teacher if you must. 
At home, you are only playing 'school, school'. 

What research have you done? 

Am I a parent or a researcher? This again is a school thought as they have large numbers and so must speak trends, statistics, percentiles and percentages. 

Apologies. I have two children. I decided along with my best half to raise them or grow with them differently. All I can tell you is about these two unique individuals. 

One cannot duplicate a homeschooling journey of anyone else. One can observe. Draw parallels and create their own frameworks. Research talks data and conclusions based on groups' behaviour. Homeschooling is a one of a kind journey of each family. For not only children, but parents too transform as a consequence. I got so busy parenting, I forgot to compute details of similar children. For each child has her own song. I enjoyed each one, forgot to classify any numbers. 

What about grade ten/twelve exams? 

It is a natural question and still a weird one, considering the children are just three or four years old sometimes when parents come to us. We are talking a decade (!!!) to public exam. Yet so married to school we are that we covet the certificates while unanimously agreeing that these certificates mean not much in the long run. 

A lot is changing in the Education Scenario world over that systems are changing, paradigms and frameworks are altered to suit the global Citizenry. 

Already the IGCSE and IB Curriculums and exams are widely taken all over the globe. They have an option of accommodating homeschooling students. 

Every state in India has an IGCSE school and an enterprising head who accommodates a home-schooler in various ways. 
  1. They accept home-schooled children as private Candidates. Their centers are offered for exams for a fee. The fee one has to be able to afford per paper would be 5k to 15k INR or more depending on school policy and rules, as of this writing.
  2. The schools in Mumbai, at least the one we know (Rustomjee Cambridge International School) offers hand-holding approach wherein one pays 50% fees. The school maintains the children on their roll call. It also shares time tables, resources, assessments. They may absorb the child to schooling again, should the homeschooling paradigm not work out for the family.
We also have native options. The NIOS board allows any child to give exams at grade 10/12 with wide variety of subject options. They send material home. Everything is on their website. You also could enroll in schools where there are centers for NIOS. The personnel would guide the process. One can give three papers one year, other three the next year. The fees are economical. They are  pretty lax, however, on sending material and instructions. The parents' active stance is required. 

Recently, Maharashtra Board announced its own Open Schooling (MSOSB: Maharashtra State Open School Board) offering Grade five, eight, ten and twelve exams. The curriculum is regular textbooks of SSC board, available over the counter. 

One has to register, however, from grade five if no prior schooling has been undertaken. One needs to have the certificate of grade 5 to avail of grade 8 exam and grade 8 for grade 10. 

One can also avail of "Form 17", if your child has minimum grade five certificate and appear as private Candidate for SSC board. 
One can altogether do away with all regular exams and straight take the BPP - Bachelor Preparatory Programme (minimum age 18) from Indira Gandhi National Open University, offering wide range of undergrad courses and post graduate too. Assignments are given, and all material comes by post. 

Shahen is currently studying Psychology (majors) for his graduation. There is a website that is well equipped. There are centers too for collecting assignments. 

So, one has options galore for academic pursuits. When you score appropriate, all institutes would be glad to have you as a student. 

Are they eligible in Foreign Universities? 

It totally depends on the law of the land. There are some countries that accept homeschooling as a valid module some don't. It also depends on each university.

As a Parent, I would advise apply there where there is acceptability. 

If the homeschooling format is understood deeply, one would be less anxious about external acceptance. One would carve a life that is Self-directed especially in further education. Lot of global, online universities now offer certification online. In that case, their rules are relaxed and your ability to pay and invest your time and effort matters more than your background as a homeschooler. 

What about employability? 

Is it honestly possible to answer this question in this fast paced world?

We have employment issues not due to illiteracy or lack of education but due to entitled attitudes and preferences of a person. 

With right attitude, plenty of employability can be generated. With inept attitude, employability will remain an elusive concept.

As a Parent it reflects in your attitude: a need to micro manage your child's life. It comes up with an assumption that I will hand an enriched, well-planned life to my child on a platter. 

Can you really? As an adult, would the person not look for employing himself or herself productively? It behooves on us to trust them to Fend for themselves or do we not want to? 

What is the statistical number of children doing homeschooling in the country?

No such census exists in India. Homeschooling does not have a legal status in India. There is no registered body representing Homeschooling. 

The tribal and rural areas have more forced home-schoolers for lack of school/ funds to pursue schooling. 

Is it Legal?

With Maharashtra Board declaring MSOSB format, it kind of gives a thumbs up, a go ahead to this form of learning. It acknowledges that children may stay away from school due to sports, illness or some condition that cannot be managed at school.

That does give it a happier status of Being Acknowledged

How will my child give Medical /Engineering tests if they homeschool? 

First things first. Does your child want to pursue this or are they parental plans? 

Homeschooling encourages lack of structure and relaxed approach to learning. The learning of medicine or engineering requires rigorous work, adhering to schedules and rules laid out externally. They both are diametrically contrarian formats. 

If you wish they go in the drill, keep them in the race. For adapting to restrictions after tasting freedom will be difficult. 

How will they earn?

They will.

You and I did, not because, rather, despite our degrees.

So many of us are doing way different things than what we originally planned. Life is evolving, things are changing. Let us teach children to change with the times. Let us trust that by the time they reach adulthood, we would have instilled in them through experiences, responsibility and industriousness to carve an abundant life. 

These are some of the questions fielded repeatedly and regularly. 

Are there any institutes that homeschool children? Can you homeschool my child?

This question expresses complete lack of understanding of key feature of homeschooling. Homeschooling implies that a family has decided to grant uninhibited freedom to their children and have opted out of formal set ups. The child is under no obligation to get up to someone else's alarm clocks. Even if you were to send a child to an alternate learning centers, you still are imposing a structure on the child, however loose that might be. It will be external. No matter what we say, it is fooling oneself to think this is homeschooling. You are out of a formal registered school but you and your child is nevertheless in School: Mentally, Physically, Emotionally. 

What we practice is Homeschooling. We don't impose an institute nor worksheets on our children. They have complete autonomy to choose what they want in any given moment. To have that complete faith and trust in your progeny is your Unlearning.



I see many parents are not yet ready for this letting go of complete control. They still feel they need to micro-manage. There is Palpable fear in the dialogue 'If we leave them they will do nothing'. It implies that children have to be streamlined into structures we feel are good for them. We take the whole decision-making away from them. For we think we are right and superior. 

We are senior to them: Yes. We are ahead: Yes. But wiser: No

Allow them to realize it is their life and they must strive to make it productive. 

We faced this dilemma at grade 12 of Shahen. One fine day he simply announced, 'I won't be joining College next year. I will pursue on my own.

It was a time bomb dropped for us at that moment. Here we were thinking we had home-schooled but now he shall have degrees, earn, go for post graduation. 

He plain announced no more College. 

Before we jumped the Gun, we thought together. It is his life. If he wishes to pursue knowledge differently, can we not support him?

A new understanding dawned. We have an independent individual who thinks and knows what is best for him. 

He gave us three things he wanted to do:

*I will study Psychology
*I will write a book
*I want to become a Public Speaker. 

In that vacations post grade 12 exam, we found Positive Psychology Strength based Coaching. It appealed to him. He accredited and equipped himself with required Coaching. By the time the Academic Year began, he was clear about not joining college. He was already taking online sessions and clients. 

He reads avidly. He is synonymous to Books. The only time he does not have books in his hands is when he is bathing or taking lunch. A book is always on his mind, in his hand. 

Based on his book summaries, he came up with a program 'Shelf Help to Self Help' and pitched it to all schools in the vicinity. Rustomjee Cambridge International School has adopted his program and he has already given half a dozen seminar there.

He organised his independent Seminar on 'Positive Psychology'. 
He is fulfilling his own dream of speaking in Public and that too for a transformational purpose. 

He developed interest in Hypnosis as I kept discussing it avidly. We found an institute and actually attended together as a Mom Son Duo. We offered a Self Hypnosis Workshop together. 

If you want your children to develop a zeal for Learning, you as a parent need to be modelling the same love for learning. Learning never stops, is my message to my kids and to everyone. Unless you propagate it, how would kids who are observing you do the same?

An environment of Learning begins at home, flourishes at home. 

I guess the only Goal that remains now is writing a book. He will get there soon. 

Had I tied him to learning centers, group tendencies, this individuality would not have a chance to emerge. 

An innate trust to follow your path rather than huddle up is what brings forth true leaders. 

Leaders chart paths. 

My second dude has totally lived up the homeschooling spirit as he opted out post grade two. 

He reads but mostly Geronimo Stilton, Wimpy Kid, occasionally Ruskin Bond. He says Ruskin Bond fills him up and he needs days to digest his stories. 

Mostly, he is an audio visual person. He joins in any class he finds interesting in our tuition class. He walks away when he is bored. 
Recently he gave a grade ten paper of English n scored 76/100.
That is the Academic part. 

He is an excellent actor, works in practically all Blogimly short films. He is also a Playback Theatre enthusiast. He trains his seniors in class for annual days, farewell or Teacher's Day fests. 
He is a Canine Lover. He wishes to care for them. Recently he embarked on research on Canines. His Instagram and Facebook pages show his depth of knowledge with the Canines. 

His love for animals has taken him into researching all kinds of animals in all continents. Talking to him increases my General knowledge now. 

He adopted a stray Canine and trains him sensitively. He even learned to knead dough, roll and bake chapattis to feed him. 

His parenting instinct has begun rooting in. 

Again, if I tie his autonomy to teachers coming home or he going to teachers, his creativity would not get a chance. 

Occasionally, he takes up two days workshops if something interests him but mostly he is the master of all he surveys.

There are not many animation movies left that I and Shahaan have not seen. We love watching movies of all genres, era and subjects. He dreams galore  and loves life. His spirit is untainted.
Free, enterprising and living up his life.

Socialisation

We break out into muffled giggles when this word is directed at us. 
We never faced this issue for various reasons. 

*We remain super busy and occupied. As a family we are up to one project or another. We are either making a film, planning a workshop, reading a book or watching movies or planning a vacation somewhere. 

*Making friends is a responsibility of each person. We do not believe in artificially creating circumstances and creating friends for our children. It is essentially their own intuitive process. As Shahen quotes 'Maybe I don't have a big  group of friends but the ones I have are the ones I have bonded with and I enjoy spending time with them.' He has his fair share of friends online and offline. While he is focused on a topic of research or study at hand, he finds socialization a distraction. 

*The younger dude has his gang and he is the leader and the peace maker. His play routine is fixed and a few nano-seconds' absence has hordes of kids pressing the doorbell sharply. 

*They both complete each other. They are best pals and love each other's company. When they are together, they are oblivious to the whole world. They are forever up to some mischief or project. 

We believe the best way to learn something is to do the thing. Each concept we want to imbibe as a family we strive to do it together, dividing roles. Becoming main cast to supporting cast for each other. We are our children's best friends. Micro-managing their lives and searching friends for them robs them of choice and self investment in be-friending another being. 

Can working parents manage homeschooling?

Ironically, this question is never asked when managing children with their schooling and allied activities. Somewhere, it feels it is a duty one must carry without questioning. Homeschooling, however, brings forth this question. Before we answer this, let us take a tour at school chores. 

Drag them out of bed with pleas, threats, yells. 

Bathe, dress, pack tiffins. Making tiffins is an ordeal at times for school insists on sabji, roti; every day under the garb of "nutritious food". 

Drop them to school by our own vehicle or by school bus. If missed, hell turns over. 

Get them back from school. 

Arrange for lunch. 

Arrange for tuitions. Schools are never sufficient. 

Look over school homework, tuition homework precariously balance the school bags, day routines, extra-curricular activities. 

Then there are sports day, annual day and preceding practice, exhibitions, field trips, picnics, exams, preparations, birthday invites and gifts, stationery items, Whatsapp group for homework and stuff. As a working parent you manage all that. 

As homeschooling family, too, we face tasks. They will be home now. We are the "in-sources" of Education for them. We don't have deadlines now but we have children constantly expecting us to fill in their waking hours. Expose them to right opportunities and experiences. Let them choose what they want so they whine less. School work, they defy, for they feel it is not what they wish to do and so the duels and tantrums. 

As a Parent, then, tasks face us both the departments. In school we streamline as per other forces dictum. For homeschooling we have more autonomy in that area. 

We have to choose and adapt to whichever style calls to us.

Schooling or Homeschooling, both require every parent's complete investment. School may absolve dad's role at times as mostly moms can manage. They get exhausted, but they manage. 

When homeschooling, the absence will be Palpable and potent. 

However there are single parents raising children in both the Schooling and Homeschooling arena with success. 

It is the parents ' vision for their life that counts. 

What do I do with children full day?

This is a question asked by a parent who has jumped the gun and into Homeschooling, without really planning carefully about their lives. Connect to home-schoolers, read up blogs by other homeschooling parents, draw parallels for yourself. Talk about your fears, anxieties and hopes for future with each other. Understand that a little anxiety will be always part of the process. As parents we are always made to feel we aren't doing enough. So, when you are taking a decision of this proportion,  it does involve some cardio pulmonary distress, so to speak (figuratively). Accept it. We still feel it. 

Once you have comprehended homeschooling you will have a vision as to what you would like to incorporate or let go. I recommend few months of no academics. This will give you time to adapt, enjoy the freedom and take a higher view of inclinations. You don't have to do something every moment with your child. They will figure out something on their own. They will have their routines and you as a parent too can pick up new skills. Learn things together, Grow together. Internet is abuzz with knowledge. Take your pick. Rest a lot. Relax too. Work on your paths. What works for you will become apparent if you stop to listen to yourself. 

Where do I register?

Homeschooling is not given a legal status yet in India. There is no presiding body for it. Yes, quacks have opened shops to cash in the insecurities of parents just leaving the school shores. They take advantage of your fear of your child's future. The familiar landscape of exam, worksheet routine keeps you feeling safe. It is not needed. 

To the self-proclaimed experts all I say, you will be your own downfall. Each parent who becomes confident on this path will see through your con. Your children too will grow up under the not so healthy influence. Do shift your attention to parenting your own progeny in an authentic way. Meet the needs of this force in a naturally supportive way but cashing on their anxieties is not recommended. Each parent falling into their con-game is also an adult. Choose maturely. 

As a homeschooling parent, I feel we embark on a journey which begins on a 'Schooling Shore'. Our boat enters the vast ocean, at first we tremble, shake a bit, then we move with confidence as we find our bearings and speed. 

We slowly leave the schooling shore and find that we need new rules to survive and thrive. We come upon our own island. We begin to live and flourish. If we don't adapt we may get back to schooling shore. Mostly we enjoy the freedom, independence and thrill of being on our own. No two journeys can be compared. All are unique. Every symphony has different strains. Every musical note, equally melodious. 

Homeschooling is a way of life that can uplift the entire family with its freedom of choice and endeavor. Give the Universe a new song. Expand its scope with your child and you creating something completely new to it. 

-By Sonnal Pardiwala

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Active Listening






The oft laid woe of a parent is: 'My child does not listen to me at all.' 

Children complain 'My parents don't understand me at all.

Communication is not a pill to swallow and fix an issue. Communication is a two way process undertaken over a period of time to express oneself and make oneself understood, understand others and decode what they actually mean to say!


Often, authentic communication has never been learned nor attempted. It begins very early and needs consistent fine tuning and must be adaptive with the changing needs of Family. 

 I share three Communication skills that have made our Parenting journey extremely meaningful and poignant. I will try and make it simple.

YOU ARE REQUESTED TO PRACTICE WITH A SPOUSE, COLLEAGUE OR CHILD.

You may write back or join the ongoing workshops to hone these skills. 
It takes practice to build this skill.

 Skill 1 ~ Silence

Your child has much to share. If we observe we often push in the Conversation with our inputs, advice, suggestions, preaching, moralising. This puts the kids off and they clam up.

When the kids are sharing their side. Let them complete their sentences. Very often we interrupt their sentences mid-way to attend to a phone call, check something on the phone or plain get up and go away. This makes the child feel unheard and unloved. To make themselves heard, they then create scenes that you may find unpleasant. You may call them rude outbursts or tantrums. They were mere pleas to be heard. 

Ensure you give your child your undivided attention when he or she brings to you an opportunity to be heard. 

How can you make them feel heard?

Start with the following. 

Physical Postures

While listening with silence. 

Give appropriate Eye Contact

Appropriate means, 

If they share an excitement, eyes twinkle accompanied with smiles.

If  there is a grim aspect, your eyes reflect the intense engagement. 

Give gentle nods of your head, that tells them you are perceiving what they are sharing.

Lean bodily a bit towards them. This communicates that you are engaged and interested.

If your body leans away, it signals your disconnect.

Attitude Set Required

In order to Listen with Silence you need to suspend your judgements, feelings for a while. It means creating a Flexible mindset that is eager to uncover a new aspect of your Child.

Easier said than done.

Do try the skill and share if you could.
If not what happened? Few questions will generate good insights as to 'What was more important that came up? Could it wait? Is it your impatience to sit through while the child strives at explaining and expressing? Are you reaching conclusions on their behalf?' 

Skill 2

Passive Listening

It is not always possible to remain silent when child is speaking, so we employ certain sentences that are encouraging but gives nothing of your mental thinking.

Some handy statements are:

Tell me more about it. 
This is really important to you. 
That is how you feel about it. 
You seem extremely happy/angry/disappointed/sad. 

Physical postures

At times if the child is shedding tears, venting feelings you may hold their hands and gently squeeze them. (This refers to Nurturing and Nourishing the person)

When you do this you express your language of Acceptance and Respect to all that is expressed. We communicate, we accept all that you express without burdening with our inputs. This is where communication is garbled when we butt in with 'You shouldn't feel so hurt!' 

'You must care!' 

'It is not like that!' 

'You are over reacting!' 

'You will be fine soon!' 

'You go and play/watch something!'

In all these statements, you take away the worth of the child's feeling of here and now!

What he is feeling may be transient but is genuine. To hear the pathos or jubilation will go a long way in the child learning to understand and process his feelings deeply. 

Skill 3~ Active Listening

Honest Sharing.

When a child speaks

'I am bored of school.' 

'I don't like that Uncle. '

'I hate writing.' 

There are two components(He is used in generic way)

The words he is using. 

The feeling he is expressing behind those words. 

Often we only hear the words and begin our
Moralising/Preaching

You should not feel that way. Good children like studies.

Commanding/Advising
Don't waste time
Go and study.

Threatening dire circumstances
Do it else...
Don't misbehave.

Interrogating
Something happened at school?
Uncle did something?

The questions put the child on the defensive and ask him to explain.

Feelings are transitory, fleeting but they are important. Child who feels heard, feels valued.

Instead if we were to use the Silence, passive listening we encourage him to say more.

We show that his feelings matter when we pick up 'The feeling'

Sentences we can use to do that:

'I don't like writing.'
Hmm, I see writing seems to bug you.

I don't like School.
'You feel not very happy in school'

Active Listening and picking up feeling takes time.

Check facts.

A little incident.

Child: Mom, when will dinner be ready?
Mom: I am making it. Don't rush me. I know you want to go and play. Go and study. 
Child: Mom, full day study study study... How much should I study?
Mom: Go away before I shout...

Communication breakdown! 

Consider this... 

Child: Mom when is dinner ready?
Mom: You are very hungry. 
Child: Yes, mom.
Mom: You want to know when dinner will be ready for you wish to play. (Fact Check)
Child: No mom, I am hungry and it is looking another hour before you finish cooking.
Mom: Oh that is true. You can eat this peanuts or a banana in the meantime, with honey?
Child: Yes, please!

Suspending our thought process to check on theirs will bring you lots of results.

Honest Sharing takes the same form.
As a parent, give authentic expression with I feel. 

Some statements... 

I feel tired to sleep so late as so many gadgets keep beeping around. 

I feel angry with a messy kitchen. I need help to clear it.

I feel worried to see so much time spent on mobile. I would like to talk more.

Honest, direct, Clear.

No hidden Guilt, no shaming.

You are always on the mobile.
You are never studying.

I would like so much if you shared news from the papers. It will make me proud, instead of... 

How will you learn anything if you don't read newspapers? (Interrogation?)

Do try these skills and Share your experiences. 

Develop a family walk habit as many times a week it can be managed.

The Honest sharing can be used with adults. Create clear boundaries as to what is acceptable and what is not.

Always find out if the Restrictions or Unacceptable emerges from a personal belief or popular agenda one reads on media these days.

This may sound a bit different to you. All four of us have our personal cell phones including the 12-year old. We have clear rules of what can be viewed and what is not. Each time it is breached we call out honestly. However, some of the fabulous movies and experiences have come through my younger kid. He even managed to give me an insight into my post mom's demise period for Grieving and valuing her. It was based on one of the movies he saw.

He is sure using it well.

Even Food, we are pretty lenient. During rains, sweet and cold is limited as they know it affects tonsils but if knowing it fully, both still insisted on Cold Coffee with Ice cream. We agreed with warm water gargle and oil massages promised.

So, a lot of conflict is avoided as there is more communication, permissiveness, allowing them freedom to choose actions with consequences. With younger kids, you might have to exercise more control on health issues. 

As they move developmentally, they will recede a bit. However by being present while they are upset, allowing them to express their feelings, taking time to hear and authentically sharing what is acceptable and non-acceptable will go a long way in establishing communication channels that are clear and Direct!



-Sonnal Pardiwala 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Parenting Myths


All I do here is share my perspectives. If they are not in immediate resonance or understanding, please stay with it.

We begin with a clear assumption that, "Our Children are innately intelligent and if we let them, they will choose wisely."



Today I share how as parents we live under certain Myths. Yes, I was under them for a while but knowing them and demystifying them has reduced the stress in Parenting my two sons (17 and 12, respectively). 

As parents we burden ourselves with so many shoulds.

I share a few here... 

It may immediately trigger few memories, few situations may dawn on you as resonating. It will be exciting to understand how they entrap you and truckloads of fun, once you set yourself and your kids free! 

Myth 1

We parents have to know everything and Provide all that our Children demand.

If we honestly look at this big world, it is humanly not possible to know everything. Let us learn the Magic words. 

'I don't know but we can find out.'

Putting yourself in the situation, where you must have answers to everything does two things. 

  1. You set yourself up for defensiveness each time you come across a piece of information you don't know or you have heard for the first time. Instead of accepting a new possibility you end up feeling uncomfortable. 
  2. You instill in your children an unreasonable expectation too. Only if they know everything, they are smart/intelligent/worthy is the message shared. In this ever expanding world of updates and upgrades, there will always be something you (inevitably) don't know. 

As soon as you shed this preoccupation of being a Know all, you can easily say "Never heard about this, come let us find out what it is all about."

This brings an easy comfort between both of you and and understanding that it is okay to seek new stuff that we heard about. 

We don't have to know everything

Myth 2

I must provide all that my children desire. 

Yes, we would like to Give the World to our Children but there are times, when certain things are out of our reach. Let us have the courage to gently accept and declare 'At the moment, this is not likely.'

We are easily able to deny things like chocolates and cola drinks for we can plead health reasons until the manipulations begin 'Next door kid has it!

'Everyone has it.' Now, it gets a bit difficult. At times, heavy loans are incurred by parents in order to send the children away for educational degree. Sometimes the demands for branded stuff reigns heavy. We rather work on reducing our own expenses and needs to meet theirs. We, through this behaviour, also create a sense of entitlement in the children that others must work to fulfill their wishes. 

This is among the top stressor for parents today. Continuously trying to meet their demands in limited incomes they have. 
I suggest to keep the communication channels clear and open, 

'We cannot afford this and so just now it is not possible.' 

'My funds allow this line of Action for your Career, beyond that it will stretch our Resources!' 

Allow your child to be a Co-participant as daily decisions of expenses are made. Let them see you efficiently allocate Resources as per your needs. Postpone some for later date. Prioritize some for now. 

These are effective lessons every individual needs as they are growing up. 

Myth 3

I have to 'Rescue' my child from tricky situations.

This pattern makes us 'Whatsappie swappie' parents.

How many times have we swapped homework on this media?

This is just one example. If we observe closely, we will come across many situations where we have been the 'Rescuer'.

Let us learn to know 'Who owns the problem?' and Cultivate the patience to allow the owner to deal with it.



We, as parents, mutually decided to develop a 

*Step in*
*Step out*
                     *Just Hover* Philosophy.


When the Child absolutely needs it, we step in.

 If he has fever, infection, I cannot be detached. I am involved. I step in.

If it is academics he /she can pull off, I step out.

During exams, I don't interrupt the process but supervise (Hover). 

It has gone a long way in teaching my kids Independent Thinking and Action.

As I stay away but within reach, they learn to figure out their strategies to solve a problem at hand. It is their precious space of emotional development but so often we jump in with suggestions, criticism and advice!

It plays out in academics. As a child is breaking and gaining pronunciations & computations, we interrupt with impatience. Given more seconds or days, child would pick up. Instead we dump our disappointment on them 'See your cousin/brother/sister reads so fast!' 

Again you do two things 

  1. You fail to identify that each process has its own trajectory, its own pace, its own weaving. You are the one feeling impatient and inadequate for the teacher or neighbour will sneer at you. You Rob the child of this process. You rush them. Permanently telling them they must haste. 
  2. You instil in the child a feeling of inadequacy, inability to cope, to come up to your expectation. 

They then hand over their processes to others and wait to be directed. 

In social situations too, so often mothers speak on behalf of their progeny. It begins with introducing their names, parroting their recent achievements and goes on till asking for job openings. 

One wonders why the child never grows up. Every problem they walked into, their parents rushed with oars. 

They never made their own oars nor how to row their boat!

Parents! Eliminate this stress of being your child's lifeline. Unless there is physical abuse or vicious put downs, let them go forth and strive in situations on their own. Be there, before or after. Sharing inputs, strategies, modus operandis.

Let them buy their own oars and learn to figure out how to row. 

I have seen Umpteen number of mothers jumping in defensive for their 40-year old sons! 

They never realise they are individuals and can fend for themselves! Parents continue to defend, explain away or point out clever reasons instead of simply shrugging and stating 'Their life, their choice!' 

Myth 4

If my child is seen Reading and Writing something, he is creatively occupied.

While reading and writing is a vital form of gaining and expression of knowledge, do gently ask.

Is that the only way Learning happens?

Is our insistence on constant reading/ writing creating in a child some form of Resistance?

How much time do I read and write to model the same behaviours in the Child?

Observe your child, how does he/she absorb knowledge?

Is he an audio visual person?

Are we ready to accept that?

Are we willing to make provisions for this new format if it emerges?

So much importance is laid on paper-pencil-degree based education that when a child expresses a dislike to written/ text format and shows inclination towards sports, dance, music, cooking, parents feel uncomfortable.
It is a hobby, that will not give jobs/money! 

Look around and observe people. Do all people earn one way only? 

Are all well paying jobs only desk jobs? 

So many relationships are spoiled at the altar of Education, under the guise of proper education. So many children grow up resenting their parents simply because they had to pursue that which they did not want to. The power struggle is paid dearly by both parties. 

I don't care about marks... Many parents insist. 

Yet come tenth grade results and they line up for college admissions to Arts, Science and Commerce. 

A unique set of talents are rarely looked at, rarely nurtured. 

If only parents were to release this myth and observe how the child unfolds, and open doors in the directions they want...!

Myth 5

We have to be Consistent parents in front of the children.

While it sounds good, we discovered differently.

Let us say, my son wants to go get wet in rains on a Saturday.

I feel worried he may catch a cold.

My husband is okay with it. If I insist on my husband joining me, would it not be inauthentic on his part to be dishonest to his feelings?

Would we not be Ganging up against the child to influence him?

Would he not see through it?

Would he not learn to use it?

Don't they usually?

Here is what we do.

Each one of us authentically states why we may have different views and leave it on the Child.

I shared, 'You may fall sick.'
Dad : 'I am okay if you do.'

Shahaan, then, decides to get wet with 'I will apply essential oils and Gargle with warm water'. 

He gets two honest opinions. He learns 'Choice has consequences. '

'He learns decision making.'

To be able to do this, we must maturely realise we are different. However as parents we feel this excruciating need to show a joint front. Then it becomes 'You' 'Them' gangs. Often a partner complains, the other spouse spoils the children or is responsible for an undesirable behaviour. Tussle begins when the more powerful of the parent compels the other to join in. The child feels cornered and smartly learns to discern who is not completely honest. S/he learns to use it wisely much to the consternation of the family. 

Manipulations are learned herein. 

We also need to allow each one of us to opine authentically. 

Free yourself of this stress to be consistent with your partner. 

State your side with consequences. 

The child will pick up Authenticity if it is in observation all the time. 

Myth 6

I have to entertain my child all the time.

No!

You do not have to, not all the time. It is an important myth to break, if you wish to have an individual who learns to self-regulate and rely on their own company and depend on their own resources.

The idea is to Help him or her take more and more decisions on their own. Yes, we can look for ideas to explore different experiences but to constantly feel under obligation to keep them occupied every minute, arrange their circumstances can be very daunting!

I understand the pressure internet creates on new parents today for creating an intelligent, smart child. Parents want to engage them in activities as young as one year! 

For God's sake, let them crawl and coo happily. 

Child knows how to entertain self until you step in with your ideas of what constitutes positive engagement. 

Gurgle with them Please! 

Every minute engagement is exhausting. Sometimes just gazing at a passing ant is stimulating to the child. Let them be. 
You too, please stop surfing every child routine for classes, group activities and what not. Hug your baby and sleep. That will be immensely bonding....

I feel like asking 'You looking for yourself to engage or your child?' 

Myth 7

We must never be Annoyed, irritated or yell at the children. 

While this is the ideal we are all striving for, is it truly possible? This is a question we need to ask daily or hourly till we realise this myth. 

Like a certain messiah I can ask impetuously, "Is there a single parent on this earth who has not lost temper or yelled?" 

It is unfair on the parent's part to, YELL

Absolutely! 

But is there one who doesn't or didn't at some point of time in their life while dealing with children? 

Look at a typical mother, she is dealing with multi-nonsense. Cooking, cleaning, arranging, decision making, handling people, their needs, expectations, functions, ceremonies, shopping... The list is endless. 

In all this, as a human, when the other human entrusted to her, begins acting weird, creating impediments, twisting her already loaded state, touches the myths she carries, she is bound to explode. 

Happens

Children forgive if you go back, hug and make friends again. 

Children harbour resentment only when the yelling episode is considered a consistent birth-right and needs no explanation or contrition. 

When I yell, I simply do. 

When the storm passes, I apologise. 

They get to do the same. 

What relief that is in my family. 


Myth 8

Children must not throw temper Tantrums or Cry. It is highly embarrassing and signifies bad parenting. 

Children throw tantrums because ground rules have not been laid out. They want something. You don't want to give them. So far so good. 

Trouble begins with embarrassment, for your social personality begins incorporating "What will this person in front of me, around me, think?"

If they have children, they understand. 

If they don't, they anyway, won't. 

Getting yourself upset is your undoing and child's coaching into smart manipulation. 
Free yourself of this myth. 

Let him or her throw a ball. Don't catch it. They will learn they will have to strategise wisely to get what they want instead of playing up. 

You can amusedly breath deep and be ready with consequences. 

Myth 9

Your child must like you. 

Approval seeking can twist one into pretzels. 

The whole society holds people ransom on this need. Children are no different. They learn to praise another aunt's food to hint how the neighbour is more forward (gives permission you don't, buys stuff you don't).
They learn to frown and make you jump if their favourite food is not in the plate. They learn to appeal to you for an extra note of cash (If you like your child, want to stay in their good books you would want to do it now wouldn't you?) 

Each time you do something only because they must like you, imagine the position you put yourself in each time you may have to say no. As the child grows and walks into teenage world there will be times you will have to have uncomfortable conversations. Some they may like, some not. You must have them though!

Focus on being an Effective Parent and Not a Good Parent. 

Myth 10

Your child must listen to you all the times. There should be no conflict ever. 

This myth is all about Control. 

A theme, elusive and treacherous. 

To control another human being, even if he or she is your very own flesh and blood is an exercise in Futility. The Child's tendency to individuate becomes apparent as soon as toddlerhood begins. The child realises the power of their own movement, will and desire. It creates conflict. 

If you view it positively, it is an opportunity to communicate each other's needs and reach a settlement. It calls for the Art of Negotiation and not coercion. If you navigate well and demonstrate that each one's needs are respected, that each one must learn to put forth needs and also accept that some will be met in the moment, some later. 

Child learns that we all are humans with needs and we all can win. 

Parents who carry this myth of total control force subservience as a recommended behaviour, good behaviour. They often overlook the festering resentment within, waiting to be released in an undesirable format of withdrawal, crying, sulking, screaming, resistance, walking away. 

Give up this need for complete control. Allow child to express the need to do something different. Negotiate to fit it in, meeting everyone's needs. If this seems like a tall order, you may want to look into what you are afraid of! 

If you let them get away with everything, who will discipline them? You want Obedience or Discipline? 

For obedience means 'Do as I say.

Discipline means Self-awareness with regards to Goals one wants to reach and creating strategies to reach there by effective investment of ideas, efforts and time.


How can children be allowed to do whatever they want? The word allowed contains the ability of Control. 

My question would be 'How long would you be able to allow?' 

Soon the authority will be denounced. 

Teenage conflicts and tantrums are witness to that. 

If from an early age, parent steers an environment conducive to well placed ground rules, consequences that naturally arise (you drink ice cold drinks, you catch tonsils; you don't complete a homework, you get a remark; you don't clean the bed or mess, the mess degenerates further into muck). 

Naturally arising consequences are great tools to mould a behaviour, understanding them the child will feel mastery of his/her own self. He or she knows how to behave so a certain consequences can be invited or avoided. 

State the consequences and Get out of the way. 

You sleep late, you miss the alarm, you miss school, you miss the day's work. 

Instead like good parents we wake them up, yell at them for sleeping late, being indisciplined, drag their incoherent self to the bathroom, dress them up and send an unwilling half tired kid to make sense of the world. 

We think we are being Good parents. 

Think again, we need to be Effective Parents. 

There is a world of difference.



Effective parents let children make sense of the world. 



Invite Conflict so each phase of childhood gets new ground rules, art of negotiation and new ways of being emerge where each one wins. 

Walk away from these myths, free your stress laden mind and bring in Effective Parenting!

I begin sharing few. Do bring in your thoughts too.

-Sonnal Pardiwala