Talk to me

father-talking-to-child-9122229With the rise in episodes of children being kidnapped, sexually abused, taking to drugs, turning anorexic etc., parents find themselves at a loss as to ways to address the situation. Before we find ourselves amidst such undesirable circumstances, it might be worth thinking about what we can do to pre-empt the situation now.

So, what do we do? In most of these situations, the answer is really simple as it is in any relationship in the world – building a culture of communication. Yes, communication is a culture that one can nurture within a house. There are a few elements that go into building this as a culture.

The first, of course, is a no-brainer – being present. Are you already thinking about how hectic your work is at office and at home and how you would love to but are not able to be present for your child? Well, think again. Being present is about being able to demonstrate your intention to be there. Try making time during meals or at bedtime or in the morning. Many times, presence needs to be scheduled. Schedule it on your calendar if that is what it takes. Do you call from work or when you are traveling and make it a point to talk to your child, irrespective of your child’s age? Afraid they might miss you more? Don’t be. Take the risk. Your being there means more to them than your not being there for sure. At least once a day, for just a few minutes, are you able to be present for your child? If not, perhaps it might be worth a think as to what gets in the way?

The second part of building a culture of communication is to talk. Yes, sure, talk about yourself. Talk about your day. How was it? What did you do? What did you learn? Did something funny happen? Did you miss your child at work? Are you planning a vacation? When you talk, you are opening the door to sharing. If you expect your child to report everything that happens every day without setting the precedent by sharing some bits of your day with your child, think again. So, yes, start talking yourself first.

The third element of a culture of communication as we all know is, listening. It is, however, not as simple as it sounds. You might be responding in monosyllables or say ‘hmm’ while you are busy with your laptop or phone or newspaper and you might like to believe that you are listening. Well, not quite. Listening, many times, is also about listening to what your child is not saying. It might start with your observing their body language, drooping face or an upcoming tantrum and might mean that you need to sit down and ask you child a question. ‘What happened’?

Speak words and you will get words. Ask questions and you will get answers. Keep waiting for a child to initiate a conversation and opportunities for communication will fly by, walls will be built, which may only grow higher as time passes by. Be purposeful about building a culture of communication at home. Just start talking!

This blog post is a reproduction of my blog written for Parent Edge, one of India’s leading parenting magazines.

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Teaching Kids to Learn from Failure

failure_successThis blog post has been reproduced with permission from ParentEdge, a leading Parenting magazine in India. The post is written by Sudha Kumar, CEO of Prayag Consulting, which publishes ParentEdge.

An article by a friend “Bring on the failure” set me thinking on the Indian parent’s attitude towards failure of their kids. We have been taught, as we grew up, that it is important to do well; very well in fact, and that it is not fashionable to fail ( to be read as achieving a below expected outcome)! That value is firmly entrenched in many of us, which has made us risk averse and afraid to experiment.

I must say that a part of this conservatism has also got to do with the dearth of opportunities – be it in professional colleges or later when we started our careers. Thus, a perfect report card, an impeccable resume, was the need of the hour.

The scenario in India today presents a total contrast – the opportunity landscape has exploded, literally, compared to the time I completed high school and college. Exposure has also become far more global. We have learned through our professional “cross border” interactions that it is alright to fail, provided you infer what went wrong and move on to try again. We have learned that other societies do not frown as much on failure.

Now, what are we doing with this learning? How are we equipping our kids to deal with failure? Are we, when push comes to shove, switching back to the “play safe and don’t be sorry” mode or are we encouraging our children to take calculated risks? Are we telling our children – it is ok to make mistakes, it is ok if you do not get the top grade all the time, it is alright if you do not get selected for the school team in a sport. But, do your best. Figure out what went wrong the earlier time and make another attempt.

We have to be honest and think about how our upbringing and innermost attitudes play out in “crunch” situations, especially with our children. It is a tough thing to consciously adopt practices we believe stood us in good stead, while at the same time, adapting our style of parenting to today’s context. Inculcating the right attitude towards failure in our kids falls in the latter category. What do you think?