Freeing your Child from the ‘Me Too’ Trap

7fb20439bb92b8be3cc81ad7eaae707aGetting a child out of the ‘Me Too’ zone can be one of the most challenging tasks for a parent. It is a phase that perhaps most children get into when their need for belonging and social acceptance overrides their own sense of being. Before you know it, ‘I want that toy too’ turns into ‘I want a brother too’ and ‘I want a new house too’ and the list is endless. While each of us would have different ways of handling such demands and we might, on occasions offer no explanation but just say a ‘No’, it is important to realize that every time such an opportunity presents itself, we have a window to help a child think and make a decision.

When my daughter gets into this zone, I start by asking her a series of questions – ‘Why do you need it?’, ‘What will you do with it?’, ‘Do you think this is the best thing for you?’, ‘What will happen if you don’t have it?’ and then usually, our discussion turns towards listing a set of things – material and otherwise, which she has, which many others might not have. We start talking about what we like about those things and people who are present in our lives and it is usually enough to deter her from picking up the topic again.

The idea is not really to distract the child but more to offer the child a different perspective, that we, as parents are equipped to provide. Buying something for a child just because someone else has it, is reinforcing the belief ‘I must have what someone else has’. At every step, making the child think and then choose, is what a mindful parent might consider doing.

As a coach, one of the many tools I use with clients is that of ‘Gratitude’. There are studies to indicate that people who are grateful about the things they have in their lives (including people and relationships), are far happier than those who aren’t. With adults, the situation is no different, really. Many of us want everything that the other person might have – that which money can buy and that which money cannot. Expectation is often the root cause of disappointment. In contrast, if we replace expectation of things we don’t have with gratitude for things we have, a new world of happiness opens up.

If that does not work, encouraging a child to say a small prayer at bedtime to say thanks for the things that made him / her happy through the day is another wonderful way of initiating a child into gratitude. Another practice that might work better for older children is that of maintaining a ‘Gratitude Journal’.  Writing about the people and the things that made a positive difference every day or every week, can be very de-stressing and calming for any individual.

In essence, the key lesson is ‘Be thankful for what you have’.

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

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Parenting Lessons from the Cricket Field

family-playing-cricket-beach-19683791This blog post has been reproduced with permission from Parent Edge, a leading Parenting magazine in India.

I have been a fan of cricket for as long as I remember. Though I don’t have the time or the inclination to watch every match that is aired on TV anymore, I do follow the progress of the Indian team with great interest and sneak a peek at the occasional IPL match. And so, it is with much delight that I have been tracking the spectacular performance of young Team India at the Champions Trophy. I thought about what may have caused such a dramatic turnaround. To be termed the best time on view and, what’s more, the best fielding side in the tournament is no mean achievement. What can we, as parents, learn from this?

Instill self-belief: To me the biggest factor in this transformation is the belief this bunch of 20 somethings have in themselves. They do not care too much for past records, nor do they seem to worry all that much about media and expert opinion. Instead they are oozing with confidence and a can-do spirit. Likewise, in our interactions with children, if we can consistently demonstrate that we believe in them, and that they should back themselves, it can go a long way in making them well rounded, confident and purposeful.

The sum is greater than the parts: The current Indian team is devoid of legends- it has no individuals who overshadow the team with their individual talent or their personality. However, as a team they seem to be performing way beyond expectations. And that is the second lesson- as parents, all of us are eager to make our children feel very special. Our focus is all the time on honing their talent and sharpening their skills. Not to say that we should stop doing that, but can we also educate children, even as they are growing up, on the importance of doing things together, looking out for each other, and developing a genuine sense of team-spirit? In this super competitive world, I think this is really important.

Learn to spot the hidden levers: Dhoni has been crying himself hoarse for a long time now on the need for fresh legs on the field. I must admit that even I at times thought the point was being exaggerated. But, I stand corrected. The fielding by India has been top notch, and has proved to be a great source of “competitive advantage”. Swift and canny fielders have saved precious runs and, as importantly, got critical breakthroughs. There is an important insight for parents here- often, we emphasize the obvious things- like, learn to bat well, or become a good bowler- but miss laying emphasis on the seemingly peripheral related areas. There are many related aspects that add up to delivering a good performance and often by ignoring an area that does not seem like the core, we may end up under-performing. Children will be prone to be carried away by the obvious. It is up to parents to do a more complete assessment of any situation and guide children.

Build resilience: Another most important lesson (linked to the point on self belief) is that there are going to be ups and downs, but if we stay committed, and do the right thing, the tide will turn. Team India has demonstrated this beyond doubt under the astute stewardship of Dhoni. As parents, if we can do the same with our children- back them when they fall, help them stand up and run again, all the time teaching them that all of this is par for the course, we would be taking important steps in building resilience in our children. To me, resilience is the single most important attribute needed to make something of yourself, and it is better to start young!

Written by Sudha Kumar

Get a life, parents!

 

b22f9bd6899daf47eac5fef391ecef7cAs parents we are always scrambling to find ways to keep our children occupied- are there week-end classes, what are the latest books for my kids to read and, if you are a teen’s parent,  is there any quick project that my daughter can work on? Sounds familiar? Parents, especially the involved ones, are so busy trying to optimize their children’s lives that they often miss out on doing the same with their own.

In my case, between managing a full time job and raising two kids, I believed that I had no time to pursue my own interests or to do fun things. In the last couple of years however, I have done some introspection: how easily I give my children fundas on time management?  And how often have I spoken to them on exhibiting a lifelong learning attitude?  How about applying these ideas to myself, I thought? And so I revived my interest in cooking and baking, began reading a lot more widely and regularly and, more recently, started to do a bit of gardening.

Now, when I look around me, I find many others I know being much more than “parents”. My husband, for example, has always found the time to do what interests him; other friends are passionately pursing everything from photography and writing to cycling and music.

As parents, by continuing to develop our own interests, we demonstrate to our children that learning need not stop at any point in time. It can continue forever. More importantly, it helps us develop a sense of balance. Rather than make our children’s lives and hence their achievements our top and most often only priority, if we set aside some time for our own interests, it helps children also get the much needed breathing space. Doing your own thing is obviously a lot of fun too. Last, when it is time for children to set out to chase their own dreams, we have something to fall back on.

So, time to get a life?

Re-published with permission from the blog of ParentEdge (www.parentedge.in), a bi-monthly parenting magazine that aims to expose parents to global trends in learning and partner with them in the intellectual enrichment of their children.