Just like most parents of growing children, my wife and I are a part of Whatsapp group of friends where every parent, mother or father, is always looking forward to the next opportunity to put up pictures of their child’s achievements, be it a sports medal, certificate at an art competition or just a good grade at school. While one puts up the picture, others duly return the gesture with a customary ‘Thumbs Up’.
Just casually, a friend put up a picture of his eight year old daughter writing a script for a Thea Stilton play that she and her friends are going to enact soon for their parents. That got me wondering and I posted a question on the group:
‘If you identify a passion and an ability in your child, is it ok to let the child enjoy it without any intervention or must parents try and put a ‘structure’ to it to hopefully mould it into a career?’
Within the next 30 minutes, I had almost 75 unread messages, all from the same group with some very interesting, at times passionate points being raised by parents about their perspective on the subject.
Here’s how I concluded my understanding from that chat:
Introduce them to all
Often parents, mostly mothers, are found guilty of being over indulgent or over ambitious, almost always under peer pressure to ensure her child aces at all – academics, all subjects and all sport. Hence the need to send them to all and sundry classes! As long as both parents have talked through the process, worked out a time table and struck a good balance, it is OK to introduce the child to different curricular and extracurricular activities.
If they resist, don’t insist
My good friend’s 8 year old son is one of the best swimmers I have seen. He can beat the other kids in a lap of freestyle swimming hands down. His mother took him swimming to two different institutes with great dedication for almost 2 years in a row. One fine day, the child said he didn’t want to go for the swimming class. Upon questioning, he threw a tantrum and was stubbornly clear that he didn’t want to. It is pointless to reason with an 8 year old about the demerits of his decision.
His is not the only case. Kids that age are generally shifty and restless. It is quite normal, I learn, for kids to be interested in one thing today and another thing tomorrow. It is the parents’ duty to try and keep pushing them. But the parents also need to draw a line and leave the child alone if she just doesn’t want to pursue an interest further.
Maybe it is best to leave the child alone, let her enjoy what she loves doing the most not worrying about how good she already is and how she could get better if you enrolled her in competitive coaching.
If they want to go ahead, get competitive
This could probably be the trickiest zone for the parents to be in. Once they cross the age of 5, kids realize and cherish the joy of winning. The parents then go through the motions of transitioning from a neighbourhood class to a better known academy, joining Whatsapp groups of parents whose kids are pursuing the same, also beginning to have a few sleepless nights on how hard and how far to push the child at the cost of grades at school and other essential skills.
When competitive, it’s a team effort
For the ones who have crossed the above line, there’s hardly any looking back. The family is now beginning to get consumed by thoughts of the child’s competitions. While both sides of the discussion have their merit, we see enough and more achievers, especially international sports persons whose parents are dedicatedly sitting by the courtside since the childhood cheering them on. It totally is a team game there on. It is a conscious family decision to compromise and sacrifice all else for this one sport or art or subject.
Free play time most important
It is the biggest crime to steal your child’s free play time. No excuse is good enough for this one. At least one hour of free play time every evening goes a long way in making the kids smart, learn important skills such as leadership and teamwork, most importantly make friends for life. Parents who are found guilty of this theft and must be punished and made to attend classes while their kids can play!
It’s OK for your child to be average
The founder of Alibaba.com, Jack Ma recently said in an interview “I am OK with children being average at school. Only then will they have time to learn the most important life skills”. So true! How many super achievers you know or idolize were child genius? Probably none!
In conclusion, I must only say that indulge as much as you will, just not at the cost of your child’s childhood.
- Saurabh Shah
- February 23, 2017
- 1 Comment