CHILDREN, parenting, preschool, school, Uncategorized

TEACHING CONSENT TO PRESCHOOLERS

photograph of happy children

Some of you might wonder as to how the topic of this article holds valid for Preschoolers.

Fair enough. Allow me to explain how the very thought of discussing ‘consent for Kindergartners ‘ cropped up.

Many a times, young parents walk up to me and ask, “My child is asking me questions about the # Me Too movement . They see it on television / newspapers and want to know what ‘Me Too’ is all about . Aren’t they too young to be talking about this? What do we answer them?”

It is such questions that led me to discuss the matter at length.

To nurture the 21st century learners, one thing which doesn’t work at all, is to brush things under the carpet. So let’s discuss this clearly and openly. Adult guardians need to discuss this with each other and when needed, with their children too.

Is it too early to talk about ‘consent’ to Preschoolers?

Firstly, we need to disengage the word ‘consent’ from ‘sexual consent’.

With early childhood learners, we need to deal with consent as a vital life skill.

So once we deal with ‘consent’ as a life skill, then the answer is – “No, it is not too early to discuss this with your child”.

Just as we teach them about tying their shoelaces , buttoning their shirts , cleaning themselves , courtesy and good manners , so also we must teach them to learn to read body language and nonverbal clues. (Their own as well as those of their peers/ family etc).

Such as, a frown means – I may be confused.  A smile means – I am feeling happy. A high five means – I agree with you.

How Can you Teach children to recognize  Non Verbal clues?

The best way is by talking to them.  While reading a story about Grizzly Bear, you may casually remark, “Ah, look at Ishaan. I don’t think he would like to be in the forest “.

If grandmother is sitting reading her prayer book, you may say, “I don’t think she would prefer to be disturbed at this time”

If your pet is taking a nap, you could say, “This is definitely not the time to play with Zorro”.

If the elder sibling is doing some Project work, you may say, “Didi needs to work by herself. Let’s check with her an hour later if she is ready to play with you “.

Remember, children need to be taught how to read body language and how to respond to that as well.

“See, Grandma is thankful that you let her complete her prayers “.

“Didi is thrilled because she completed a wonderful project. She looks so excited “.

“Zorro is ready to play now. You can see him wagging his tail and that’s a happy signal “.

Do not confuse ‘privacy and space’ with lack of empathy or feeling of togetherness. Treat it as an expression of their sexuality. Each child has his / her own unique sexuality and we need to teach our children to respect their own sexuality and those of others as well .

I remember my childhood days when a particular look on my father’s face would make me disappear from his line of vision for hours ! Teach your children to read your body signals and clues . They are as important as the spoken word.

Why do the stage and the mirror form an important part of our Preschool set up?

Well, it is to teach children to see what emotions look like. To learn to read a happy/ sad / confused face. It is as important for children to learn to read their emotions as well as those of others. (There are umpteen researches which reveal that children with relationship issues in adulthood were never taught to recognise and read emotions during childhood. They never learnt how to express emotions either)

Do children know when to say Yes / No?

The honest answer is that children at this age are on their way to a number of discoveries! Just as they are beginning to realise whether they have a sweet tooth or not, whether they prefer an orange candy or vanilla Ice cream, similarly they are beginning to discover some body urges / moods and preferences. This is the building up of their sexuality -the way they like to eat, walk, talk, sit, dress etc. So they need help in defining what a no or yes mean.

There is nothing wrong in setting up a home rule which says that “Dad likes to rest for half an hour after lunch, so no noise!”.

“Mom likes to read a book in silence on a Sunday afternoon, so no noise “.

Rahul loves the colour pink , so yes – he can have a pink bag .

Validate their body signals

Allow your children to shape up their preferences and express them too. Most children need help in recognising body signals. When your young one is rolling on the floor in an interesting display of tantrum, you may say, “I can see that you are upset. But rolling won’t get you anywhere. Talking to mummy could help”.

Some teachers use a good welcome practice. While ushering the children into the class, they give them multiple choices as to how would they like to be welcomed – with a hug, a high five, a jig or a verbal welcome. When this exercise is repeated a couple of times, children gradually learn to recognise what they like. They learn to recognize their body signals. Encourage them and respect the same .

Encourage children to read emotions – If a child is visibly uncomfortable at being hugged, tell the child that its okay with you.

If a child is not comfortable holding hands, tell the child that this is okay too. Let them be for a while.

Give due attention and regard to their body signals.

If a child wants to use the washroom in the middle of an Activity/ Homework, do not shush them down. Help them believe that they are beginning to read their body urges well. Yes, there will be some false signals and alarms out here, but most children will gradually wean off from giving false alarms.

If you shush them at this point of time, they lose faith in their ability to read their body signals & urges. From bladder control to building of anger / excitement to natural sexual curiosity – children need to be able to read them.

If the teacher /parent disregards or disclaims their urges and brushes them away often, children stop trusting their natural instincts. Such children are not likely to talk to their adult guardians years later when they undergo hormonal changes, menstrual discomfort and matters of sexual exploration

Because they have no faith in their own body urges, they apply the same principle to their peers, friends and companions. They are unable to recognise a nonverbal clue or physical discomfort of people around them.

They are unable to take a ‘no ‘ for a no.

So teaching consent and respecting consent needs to be brought in from an early age.

And again, the trick is to keep things natural, conversational and as free flowing as possible.

CHILDREN, little millennium, marathon, Olympics, school, Surat, Uncategorized

THEY RARELY MAKE HEROES LIKE HER ANY MORE !

img-20190120-wa0224It would definitely not be a hyperbole to state that the Indian Track & Athletic  Queen, PT Usha, belongs to the limited edition series !

A wonderful opportunity enabled me to interact with the Payyoli Express at the Little Millennium Kids Marathon at Surat. She was the Chief Guest at the event , aimed at motivating parents to nurture physically agile and alert children (along with cognitively alert) . The city was excited at the news of her arrival, the parents of young kids even more so !

Tall and athletic , she carries herself with the grace of a seasoned athlete.  Her face bears attractive lines of a well experienced International athlete . She is a much travelled lady and she understands  people and cultures rather well. She wears her celebrated feats  with such a charming ease that it comes as a pleasant surprise to all who meet her. You would expect a winner of 103  International and 800+  National medals, the winner of Arjuna Award and the Padma Shri ,  to carry such weight heavily on her shoulders . But not PT Usha. She carries her accolades , her achievements, her talent , her perseverance with an angelic simplicity and charm.

She carries her own bags. She travels without a fancy entourage.  She moves around unfettered without a posse of sychophants.  She happily stops and poses for selfies. She shakes hands with people who way lay her at the airport , the shopping mall or the kerbside. And always with a smile . There are many who walk up to her with a questioning brow (while raking their Olympic memory) and ask, “What is your name ?”. She smiles and says, ” PT Usha”.

She doesn’t stand in a special queue at the airport check-in and nor does she expect any preferential treatment. You may keep throwing endless questions at her and in the middle of it, if you chirp in,”Are you getting late ma’m ?” . All she says is “No Problem. Please carry on”.

And she is like the girl next door when she quietly quips in nonchalantly , “Can we manage to go shopping  ?”.  Hallejullah , she’s a true blue female like us 🙂

She talks about her first International exposure  as a 16 year old to the 1980 Olympics , when many of us saw her on our ‘black and white ‘ television. She travelled without her coach , saw a synthetic track for the first time and was in awe of the burly athletes competing with her. Yet , she made her mark.

She talks of travelling to Pakistan for a tournament  on an unreserved seat in a train and how it was absolutely normal for athletes in those times. They did not concentrate on the frills , they concentrated on the performance !

If I could do it then………..your children can do it ten times over , now “, was her address to the parents .

Parents thronged her to seek her blessings (and selfies). Some made their children touch her feet to draw upon her magnetic strength, someone brought their 3 year old straight from the hospital and still on a drip , while another brought a 2 month old baby – just to seek her ‘touch’.

Long hours of travel , delayed flights , hours of waiting make most people restless and short -fused. But not our lady. She  has a short power nap, stretches a bit and smiles and turns around and asks, “What’s next ?”

One of the biggest lessons that this International athlete taught to many of us was ” Good things do come in simple and honest  packages as well !”

To the children at the marathon , she was a perfect Real Hero . A real hero to emulate. To learn from & follow.

Cinderella and Red Riding Hood have been a part of their bed time stories.
PT Usha is their ‘hero at dawn”. If she could do it , so can they .

For the world, she is the “Golden Girl of Indian Athletics”

For us , she is the “Girl with a Golden heart and purposeful stride

PT Usha, you left behind a trail of fans at the Little Millennium Surat Kids Marathon …..

 

CHILDREN, school, teacher, Uncategorized

ALTRUISM AT ITS BEST

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The dictionary states the meaning of ‘altruism‘ as unselfish regard or devotion to the welfare of others .

If that be so , there can be no better champion of altruism than a teacher .

A teacher is ‘born’ for the sake of children.

Its very difficult to pinpoint the moment when her / his altruistic journey begins.

There is no course or syllabus that can totally equip the teacher  with the much needed  ‘ child facing techniques’. There are hundreds of theories that she/he rote learns but none prepares them for dealing with the most spontaneous , pure and intelligent of the species – the child.

All theories fly out of the window when the teacher is left alone in a class full of expectant and dynamic energies.

There is no single glove that fits all hands , there is no single trick that works the magic.

Gauging , innocent , mysterious eyes watch every single move of the teacher (no mother in law in any Hindi serial can beat this 🙂 )

She is ‘one’ and the class is ‘ many’. And the teacher is devoted to all.

The teacher  does not give up.

Emotions are at the heart of what teachers do and why they do it. Educators take up  teaching with dreams of changing the odds for disadvantaged children, inspiring a love for learning or developing critical thinkers.

Maths and Language are taught through books  but there are no periods  for teaching ‘thank you ‘ ‘please’ and ‘ May I ?’.

Those are not a part of the teacher’s  penned down role and responsibilities , but it’s a given.

Teaching is an emotional practise but no teacher training college has a curriculum that helps them build these competencies.

The teacher takes it up very very bravely and goes ‘beyond the curriculum’.

She still does not give up.

A teacher is required to be omnipresent . The Prime Minister of a nation can manage to take a trip overseas but the teacher finds it impossible to leave the class even for a minute . Tired muscles and aching feet – a smiling child is all they need !

The school bell rings but it doesn’t cut off the teacher’s umblical cord. She carries the children in her heart and mind (and these days the phone 🙂 as well )

Her family is the audience to a hundred tales of  children in  her class. Their antics , their concerns , their behaviour is passed around more than the casserole at the dining table . Her students squeeze into her ‘family time ‘ so very neatly.

There are so many rules in the school almanac that talk about how to deal with children.

But there is no rule  in the Parent Handbook that talks about ‘How to treat your child’s teacher?’.

She faces parental disappointments , their anxieties and fears like a champ.

She still doesn’t give up

Literacy is a given goal but she takes great effort in cultivating emotional literacy as well. She diligently makes progress notes, tracks family history and studies children’s behaviour in the playfield, library and all arenas out of the classroom as well. Does she need to do that ?

I guess not but still does so , for some strange reason.

There are many  who dare to mock and call her ‘just a teacher . The pay cheque at the end of the month never spirals her  to the HNI segment , nor entitles her to enjoy  a bank’s wealth management services.

She still does not give up.

Children graduate to the next class and eventually storm the world and make their own niche place. Some come back with an occasional thank you note and some do not. She knows that years later , she may just be reduced to a middle spot in the class photograph .

She still does not give up.

Rules and policies change more often than the text books  and many a times they clam and choke her.

She still does not give up. She is doggedly loyal to her children.

All she remembers is that those 20 or 30 or 40 cherubic faces in her class are dependent on her . And that gives her a motive.

No pay slip , no promotion and no appointment letter drives her. What drives her is that she feels ‘good about doing good ‘. She gets a helpers high . It is the children who energise her.

She neglects her health and willingly sacrifices her ‘me time ‘ for her class children.

She dares to nurture those ‘not borne from her womb’

Can there be a better example of altruism ?

On this Children’ s Day , let us salute these altruism unsung heroes and send out a cheer for them.