* Five things i would allow my child this summer
A boy was sitting on the edge of a lake, looking yonder.
A passer-by asked, "whatcha doing?"
"Nothing" the boy replied.
He was lectured to use his time "productively".
The boy sighed and waited for the first passer-by to go away.
After some time another passer-by asked, "whatcha doing?"
"Thinking" the boy replied.
Satisfied this passer-by moved on.
After some time another .passer-by asked, "whatcha doing?"
"Observing" the boy replied.
Satisfied this passer-by moved on too.
Now wiser, the boy continued to give people answers that they liked.
Finally a child of same age came along and asked, "whatcha doing?"
"Nothing" the boy replied.
Nodding in agreement, the child joined the boy, sitting down to do nothing!
Here is our recommended TO DO list for children
and for parents to allow them!
2. Make wrong choices
3. Lose interest
4. Not learn
5. Do Nothing
There are many reasons to let children fail:
* One is to bring down the premium on success or on winning. Given that,
in life, possibly we would have 50% success and 50% failure - it makes sense
that children learn how to *accept *it.
* The amount of *learning *in a failure is sometimes higher than in
winning. (provided we do not give a lecture about it :-)
* Its funny - first we create expectations and then attend stress
management classes. We read in newspaper about a school in Bangalore where
middle school children are undergoing stress management sessions. Let summer
be a time sans expectations, when children enjoy failures too. Failure, once
we learn how to *enjoy *it, can be such a good reset button.
Let children attempt tasks, which in your opinion, are out of their reach.
In our observation parents step in too soon when children endeavour tough
challenges. No wonder the cry of "I can't" is so common. Tell, mean and show
kids that, "It is fun to try, even if you fail".
Two of the best areas where failure is (almost guaranteed) are: sports (and
games) and cooking. Let children lose games, let them cry and throw a
tantrum. Let then know that losing is part of the deal! Let child cook and
churn out a horrible-on-palette dish. The advantage of activities like
sports and cooking is that an immediate another chance is available for
child to have another go!
*2 Make wrong choices**
*The mother had encouraged him, goaded him, wished and prayed for him. He
had told her, “Yes mama, I will win the race”.
Loaded with expectations, as he came back from school, mother asked, “You
He replied, almost triumphantly, “Neeraj won the race. I wanted him to win,
because he wanted to win so much. I helped him win. But I feel like a
Yes indeed he won - not the race but his friend's heart.
Its great fun to make wrong choices. The fun part is not in the wrong part
of it – it's in the making of choices. And sooner we learn that no matter
what we do, no matter what age we grow upto, wrong choice are as much a part
of our life, as right choices.
What better time – to cut children loose of your decision making and hence
develop their own.
What better time - for children to realise that there are no wrong or right
choices - just that *each choice leads to a different consequence*.
What better time - by making wrong decisions - for children to learn that
consequences can be thought, planned and taken care in advance.
What better time - for children to live with whatever consequences and learn
to accept them, learn from them and enjoy them.
During summer let children decide how to spend time, what to buy (give them
budget), what to wear, whom to play with and so on. A common concern shown
by parents is that if i let the child decide, she will watch TV the whole
day. Our counter argument is that, in most cases, the child's choice is not
completely accepted. The child knows that my parent disapproves of watching
so much TV. Perhaps this disapproval is her raison d'être to watch more TV.
Can we LET the child decide and accept the child's choice and if required
only make the child realise what other options the child has other than TV.
*3 Lose interest*
Personally in my childhood, I have gone through all kinds of hobby classes
like painting, clay, photography, music, guitar, computer, mehandi, salsa,
tailoring, pottery, stained glass, bakery, embroidery, tennis, swimming,
yoga .... phew, and the list goes on.
Some I liked, some I did not; some I left in between, some I did with zeal
and enthusiasm, from some i learned, from some nothing. The most important
aspect however was that there was no pressure from my parents. With loads of
equanimity they let me leave one hobby and hop to another - never really
perturbed about my oft shown fickleness in some hobbies. Nor they became too
eager about my oft exhibited passion in others. Perhaps their mantra was:
try what appeals, leave what doesn't, go to whatever extent in the ones you
Losing interest per se is not a sign of lack of grit or determination or
concentration or any of those qualities many parents are worried about.
Losing interest is just a common human trait. Watch any adult clicking
channels in front of the TV and you would know what we are talking about :-)
*4 Not learn*
Learning as a goal can in itself be a hindrance or limitation. To quote
HERMANN HESSE from his book 'Siddhartha'
*"When someone is seeking ... it happens quite easily that he only sees the
thing that he is seeking; that he is unable to find anything, unable to
absorb anything ... because he is obsessed with his goal. Seeking means: to
have a goal; but finding means: to be free, to be receptive, to have no
It is not very surprising, that when we ask children "what you learned?" -
we get few responses;
but when we ask children "what you enjoyed?" - we get a bombardment of
Our son 5yr old, showed interest in Tabla and wanted to learn Tabla. He
stated learning form a teacher. The teacher in his urge to send my child to
the stage, started pushing him:
- Play properly and play so many times.
- Practice else you will not be able to go to stage.
Soon he lost interest “I do not want to go to Tabla class”
We wish the teacher had only focused on enjoying the tabla. But perhaps he
is normally surrounded by parents who have lot of expectations and that is
why over years he too has started pushing children to learn. We hope more
parents and teachers would realise that the moment the monster called "have
you learnt it" pops his head, many children simply get turned off.
If you watch children - they do not do things to learn something. They do
things because they think doing this would be enjoyable. And soon the
learning within that also becomes enjoyable and they learn. Summer is a
great time to let this inherent learning happen. See if you can avoid
putting children into various summer classes with the expectations of
learning, of performing, of becoming better.
The irony - best at display at a swimming pool - is that many parents
themselves do not know (swimming) yet are constantly goading children to
learn swimming in 10 days, rather then just letting them to enjoy playing in
*5 Do Nothing*
One reason we are not able to appreciate the joy of *doing nothing* is
because we have made ourselves and our life very busy. From Yoga gurus, to
medical practitioners to spiritual thinkers - all advice a daily dose of
doing nothing. It's the nature's way of recuperating, of restoring ones
inner harmony, of enriching oneself. Next time you are out with your child -
try doing nothing - just be with each other.
Again 'doing nothing' reduces premium on achieving. We are not against
achieving - but too much focus on that is just going to increase the stress
levels. If we have learnt one thing by leaving corporate life is: *to go
easy, to take breaks, to enjoy the holidays and life!*
* *Breeze blew,
the trees swayed,
rocks sat drenched,
clouds floated by,
Thoughts came to me,
An article by
Aditi & Ratnesh
on doing nothing
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