Community Service

For children who are living in a bubble of privilege or affluence, community service can be a great grounding experience. Normally, as adults, our days and weeks just whizz past, attending to work at office and chores at home. Same is true for the kids, who rush from school to coaching, swimming, or music classes. Only to be back to home for more homework, projects or test preparation. Somewhere in this daily struggle, we lose sight of the fact that we are part of a wider community. A community which has great disparity in terms of the levels of income and education.

While there are many NGOs around engaged in social welfare projects, such as the Robin Hood Army, Akshay Patra Foundation, CanSupport and Goonj etc which one can join, it is equally rewarding to spend time helping an underprivileged child in your neighborhood with their homework, a domestic help with opening a bank account, or acting as a scribe for the visually challenged students. Animal lovers may enjoy looking after the needs of stray animals. Whatever route your youngster might choose to serve the community, make sure you walk with them every step of the way. After all, you need to develop empathy and time management skills too!

Observations

Scientist Claude Bernard did not exaggerate when he said: “Observation is a passive science, experimentation an active science.”

The ability of individuals to make observations and then strive to find the underlying explanation has led to many scientific discoveries down the ages. Archimedes is a case in point, who famously discovered the formula to calculate the density of an object while observing the volume of water displaced while taking a bath in a tub. Similarly, painters thrive on observations of natural or physical phenomena, before bringing it alive on the canvas. And at one time, even medical practitioners relied upon the observations of physical symptoms for treatment, in the absence of diagnostic procedures.

In short, academic learning aside, it’s important for children to activate and harness the power of observation from their natural environment in everyday life. After all, something as mundane as driving also requires quick reflex actions, in response to observations on the road!

Free Speech

Freedom of speech and expression is a right guaranteed to citizens by most democratic countries around the world. It is cherished in modern society because it enables and protects the diversity of thought, propagation of new ideas, and dissemination of information. As a concept, it is still evolving, having come a long way from the earlier times when a brilliant astronomer like Galileo Galilei was tried by the Roman Inquisition and placed under house arrest in the 17th-century. For saying that it was the earth that revolved around the sun, and not the other way round!

In the internet era, we have seen misuse of free speech through individuals spreading fake news. Also, use of the social media to malign and attack people whose views may be divergent is rampant. However, the upside is that it has also given rise to social activism. This new push to activism has brought about sweeping social, political and policy changes. For this very reason it is important to teach your child about the importance of free speech. Children must recognize the power of their own thoughts, and learn to share it with others. On the other hand, it is equally important for them to develop tolerance for the ideas and opinions expressed by other individuals. Yes, of course as long as it is within the realm of law.

Ambition

Traits like intelligence, hard work and perseverance are admirable, but do not lead to momentous achievements unless combined with ambition.

Achievement need not be defined in terms of just money and power. It sometimes manifests in the success of an Arunima Sinha scaling the highest mountain in the world despite a disruptive leg amputation. Or Orville and Wilbur Wright using their everyday engineering skills learnt  while working on bicycles to doggedly experiment and build the world’s first successful airplane. Encourage your child to think of a goal, and ignite their ambition to work towards that goal.

Indigenous Knowledge

Do you recall your childhood, those days when your grandmother rushed to give you warm milk with turmeric as an antidote to injury, or cloves to clench between your teeth whenever you had a toothache? Have you made a conscious effort to impart that knowledge to your own children? Perhaps not. After all, how many of us think it is valuable. To set the record straight, UNESCO does. UNESCO has started recognizing indigenous knowledge as local knowledge unique to a culture or society, which is ‘the basis for agriculture, food preparation, health care, education, conservation and the wide range of other activities that sustain societies in many parts of the world’.

Source of indigenous knowledge is practical experience in natural surroundings. Like a farmer gains while working in the fields, or a fisherman acquires while going out on the sea to catch fish. The evolution of Ayurveda and Yoga in India are some prominent examples. We are losing indigenous knowledge. This is mostly due to our endeavor to modernize our education. To protect and advance indigenous knowledge, we need to consciously work with the next generation in formal and informal ways. This knowledge is our treasure, we must ensure that this is not lost in the corridors of formal education.

Fame

In the YouTube and smartphone era, everyone is looking for their 15 seconds of fame. TV programs, live contests, fashion shows, and videos sometimes transform next door guys and girls into overnight stars. Unfortunately, they are then left struggling to figure out how to maintain the upward trajectory. It often becomes tough striking a judicious balance between public and private life.

If we glance into the past, however, we will find that enduring fame is earned only through hard work and determination. And it actually comes to those who are not really looking for it but focusing on the more immediate and important problems on hand. I am sure people like Charles Darwin, Louis Pasteur, Copernicus, Madame Curie, Pablo Picasso or Albert Einstein were not really zealous about becoming famous. Rather they all devoted their lives to passionate pursuits of ideas that germinated in their minds.  In recent times, Malala Yousafzai  opposed those who wanted to stop young girls from going to school. She deserved and got a Nobel for her courage and determination.

It is difficult to ignore the lure of fame. We see parents expecting their children to win contests or score big in Olympiads at a relatively young age. However, children must devote their time and energy to what they love to do. Fame will follow eventually.

Possibilities

Abraham Maslow, one of the most famous psychologists of the 20th-century, claimed that, “One’s only rival is one’s own potentialities. One’s only failure is failing to live up to one’s own possibilities.” If we look around us, we will discover the grain of truth in this statement. People who recognize the true possibilities in themselves, other people, and the wider society, always manage to achieve what they set out to do. Such people do not let hurdles obstruct their path, or distractions sway them away from their journey

A Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, or a Nelson Mandela did not shy away from battling odds. Rather they never let setbacks ruin the possibility that they saw of bringing about path breaking changes. For us as parents, it is often a challenge to steer the children as per our desires and expectations. How do you get your child to become a CA when he wants to become a radio jockey? Or a doctor when she wants to pursue archaeology? Perhaps it would be better to let children recognize and exploit their own potential, dream their own dreams. Help them, guide them, but never shackle them with your own calculations to stop them exploring the possibility that life has to offer.

Nature

What is nature? Is it just the land, the oceans and the forests, or is it more than that? Actually, if we ponder carefully, nature is nothing but the source of life. Nature has endowed us with the bounty of fresh air, water, flora and fauna, that makes life possible on this earth. No artificial or man-made structure can beat the soothing effect of a glorious sunrise on a beach, the mesmerizing view of a lake, the chirping of birds in a forest, or the tinkling sound of water cascading down a waterfall.

All elements in the nature exist in a delicate balance, which is sadly getting disrupted on a daily basis. If we have to keep this eternal source of life safe for our children, we need to make consistent efforts to forge their own personal connection with nature. And they will appreciate nature only when they spend some precious time in nature’s lap. Fortunately, our country offers a vast treasure trove of landforms, climate and vegetation across its length and breadth. Mountains, valleys, plains, beaches, rainforests et al. So, take out the time to explore it with your children, so that they learn to respect and conserve this natural wealth.

Travel

Travel is a whiff of fresh cool air which blows away stress and fatigue of months in a matter of days. It is loads of new experiences on steroids and birth of sweet memories which live for decades.

Planning a trip, booking tickets and stay, packing and transporting ourselves to a different world for a few days is a huge learning experience for our kids. There is no better demonstration of “work and reward” than family travel. Walking around an area hitherto unseen is subtle talking, it is educative and informative.

There is history, past and present all packaged as one and very different than our daily rigmarole. Participation is the trick, asking kids where they wish to go and why itself presents a deep insight to us about their life and preferences.

Taking time to sit back and watch and think about what you’ve seen is important. Traveling did a great deal to me. I found that when I travel and just sit in the corner and watch, a million ideas come to me. Lionel Richie

Hobbies

What do our kids do when they have nothing to do? Hobbies are indeed an interesting and constructive pass time. Plain speaking, hobby is an activity done when there is nothing to do for pleasure. At times, hobbies become big enough and they become a profession too.  Cooking, Gardening, Knitting, Painting, Sketching, Dancing, Singing – the list of hobbies is endless. Inclination and temperament usually decides what works the best for our kids.

Hobbies aid big time in personality development and soft-skills learning. Hobbies do teach time management, team spirit, patience, self reliance and independent thinking. The urge to do something different brings in innovative approaches without being nudged to do so.

Lot of people do nothing but their work these days, that’s a drain. Let our kids know how and when to take a break and what to do to relax and rejuvenate. Let them have hobbies and tonnes of them.