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.

Uncategorized

COURAGEOUS WOMEN & FEARLESS MIDNIGHT RUN

6y2a2151 (2)A group of motivated  and passionate women ran a Fearless Midnight Run in the city of Durg -Bhillai recently. They all came dressed in pink, in singles and as families , from young girls to young mothers to women in prime . Cheerful , enthusiastic and keen faces thronged the arena which reeked of high energy and great camaraderie.

The moment I read of the event , it set me thinking.

The word used was ‘Courageous women’ – in my eyes two synonyms used at the same time !

I mean, the word ‘woman’ tantamounts to courage , isnt it ?.

The very DNA of a woman speaks of courage . The very fact that the only homosapiens who dare to nurture , is a woman.

The one in whom Nature bestowed the life giving womb , is woman.

And in my eyes, to nurture and recreate is one of the biggest act of valour.

To all the women who made the darkness shine with their abundant energy on the night of the Run, the effort will bear complete fruition and multiply further  when you carry it to all the days ahead of you .

  • Nurture your daughters to follow their passion freely
  • Nurture your sons to speak of their fears freely
  • Do not fear to accept yourself the way you are
  • Drive away the cliché fear – what will people say ?
  • Stop fearing change – it’s the only constant in life
  • Do not fear another’s talent – appreciate it
  • Do not fear asking for help – it is actually a brave thought !
  • Courage does not mean absence of fear. It means taking a step ahead with ‘fear’ neatly packed in a backpack and slung over our shoulder.

 

On a lighter note , why do we never hear of a Fearless Midnight Run by Men ?

Does it mean that men are proven fearless and don’t need to re iterate that ?

Certainly not. A lot of gentlemen will agree that they are caught by fear many a times – fear at work, fear of wife :), fear at learning a new skill , fear of parent and so on. Its just that societal norms do not encourage men to talk openly about their fears.

And to the contrary , societal norms encourage women to feel the fear ! To be fearful at every new step.

When will Fear turn gender neutral ?

The day it does , that is the day we will celebrate as an epic one .

That is the day we will pehaps have many ‘Midnight Fearless Run by Men as well ‘.

Till then , a cheerful high Five to all the women out there who ran the midnight marathon !

Not just the night , but carry the spirit of fearlessness into all your waking hours as well.

 

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.

 

Uncategorized

TEACHER – BALLOONS ?

balloons calm clouds colorful
Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com

Balloons fascinate children as much as stories do .

Have you seen a child run after a balloon ? Her face is a pure vision of joy , focus, excitement and fascination .

Is there anyone who has not played with balloons in their childhood ?

Undeniably  balloons have been a part of every childhood – be it ours or even our parents and grandparents.

Air filled balloons may have slowly given in to helium filled ones but no birthday or celebration is complete without balloons .

If a party is festooned with balloons , the child will forever be looking wistfully at them.

The best take aways after every children’s party are the hand me down balloons . Even with the most expensive return gift in hand , the child will say , “Can I take that balloon as well ?”  .

Strangely , as we grow up , balloons form less and less, a part of our life .
Isn’t that strange ?  Why should that be so ?

Let us introspect ….

Balloons and children are so similar .

Balloons are vibrant and always wanting to fly . So do children.

Balloons  always want to bounce higher and higher . So do children.

Balloons are simple to manipulate – no folds , no layers, no gadgetry  . Children are just as easy to understand .

Balloons know no excuses .Big or small, green or yellow – all of them want to bounce higher. Just  like children.

Balloons form ‘play’ wherever they are placed. For children too , life is a playground, no matter where they are .

Balloons never tire , they are always ready for a bounce. So are children

Balloons inspire children to chase , bounce and jump. Such valuable life lessons . Isn’t life meant to be like that ?

Nothing can keep a balloon down for very long. Balloons teach us to rise after every fall. They are as resilient as a child .

If a red balloon bursts, children shift to the blue one or the next. “Oh ! that’s down and out, never mind, let me go for the next one”. Balloon play teaches our children such positive self talk .

Balloons carry no burden , they are as light as ‘today’ . There is no baggage of ‘yesterday’ or ‘tomorrow’. Children are as light in spirit as the balloon, isn’t it ?

Would it be right to say that children live life balloon style ?

So what happens when children begin to grow up and get infected by all adult worries , concerns and fears.

Our worries and concerns slow them down. Bouncing up requires an effort.

Life is no longer a playground, it begins to map out into a survival ground .

Getting up after fall is difficult as we begin to carry so much weight .
Weight of yesterday and weight of tomorrow .

With passing years , our energy begins to deflate .

Perhaps that is why the balloons slip away from our world………….

Time to change that.

Come, let us go back to being like a balloon aka a child.

And not let the balloon slip away from our child’s hands either.

Let us model to our kids that the air in the balloon is equal to the good that we do . The more the good, the more we bounce, because  good that we do keeps us happy and afloat .

The minute we  lose out on the joy of present  and lose faith in ourselves , we begin to lose air .

A simple inexpensive balloon teaches us what the most expensive possessions cannot.

Go, grab the balloon , you and your child, and never let it go .

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IT’S MY BIRTHDAY

adult-baby-beautiful-1115786Call me old fashioned or nostalgic, there is something about celebrating your child’s birthday at home that tugs at your heart.

Maybe its the month of October and festivities, maybe it’s the anticipation of festivities that ushers in such feelings.

The Millennial parents these days spend considerable energy, effort, planning and of course a great deal of money in hosting their toddlers / Preschoolers birthdays at all kinds of fancy joints. Themed Adventure Parks, Water Sports Arenas, McDonalds, Pizza Hut and the likes of it make a decent killing by opening their doors for such celebrations.

By no means do I stand on any judgement here and nor am I questioning such preferences. I quite understand the challenges faced by the millennial parents due to nuclear family structures and the hectic work schedules, which leave the young parents with less time and even lesser energy to plan such events at home.

I am simply trying to paint the canvas with some birthday celebration hues. The choice of frame is entirely yours.

Let’s begin with the child’s third Birthday celebration, as the first two are more for the parent than for the child, isn’t it?

By age 3, children are stepping out of the ‘ego’ stage (My Mummy! My Papa!) and begin learning how to make friends, jump the trampoline , know the meaning of a ‘gift’ and the word ‘party’. They want to contribute in household chores and want to listen to more and more stories.

They begin to understand that Birthdays mean cake, friends, fun and lots of people around.

In this state, if you announce that their Birthday party is going to be hosted at home, you will see a whole new  face of your child cropping up .

You are likely to be bombarded with such questions:

Will I get lots of presents?

Can I have gems on my cake?

Please show me picture of my last birthday?

Can I not invite my younger brother / sister? 🙂

Will I have to share my presents?

Will you make pizza?

You mean all my friends can come over to my home?

Post the announcement, think like a budding entrepreneur – this  is the perfect time  to tap the excitement and allocate age appropriate responsibilities for the party , like :

  • Your room has to be super clean , dear
  • Let’s pick up 5 toys that you are willing to share
  • Let’s pick up 10 books that you are willing to share
  • You get to choose what colour icing to put on your cake.
  • You get a chance to help mummy & papa bake the cake
  • Let’s make triangle sandwiches!
  • You will be the host standing at the door receiving all your friends!

And that’s the day your child can learn real life lessons.

The excitement will build up days before the party. Take your child shopping with you, be it groceries or return gifts.

Let you child stretch with you when you bend or step up the ladder to bring out the extra cutlery.

” Ah! that’s where she keeps the extra spoons!  “(Your child will make many such ‘Columbus’ discoveries)

If papa has to contribute for creating the fun game – Tailing the donkey – he will receive willful help and attention from the child.

“Go, get some of your crayons “, says the parent. And off the young one dashes.

“Get me some more chart paper”. Your child runs like a budding athlete and you didn’t know that!

“Let’s clean up the mess as your room has to be looking the best for the party “. Action follows and you can almost beat the ‘Housekeeping team ‘ of the best hotel in town.

“Will you lay the table for your friends “. Likely reply, ” oh yes, but the cake has to kept where no one but me can reach it! ”

And then arrives the big day. Your home will be the epicenter of so much of vibrant energy.

Curious kids, excited kids, naughty kids and hurricane kids 🙂

There will perhaps be some orange stains on your carpets, a few fingerprints on your sofa and the dining room may resemble a battle field at the end of the day.

But the memories you will create, the energy you will generate, the life skills that you will help build and the adrenaline that will flow, will be unmatchable.

Your young prodigy will have a secret hint of admiration, joy and pride in his/ her eyes that you may perhaps find difficult to read and the young one may find no words to express the same.

Your child will begin to nurture a strong sense of pride in his home and parents hereafter.

Big or small, yellow or white – that’s his home and his fortress.

Years later while clicking through the family album, your child too will wonder – “How did they do they do this all?”

Your child may just turn around and give you a quiet little hug and a loaded look.

You may wonder then, would it have been the same had we not made the home as the core of all his/ her  childhood celebrations ?