Critique

We marvel at the explosion of talent shows on the television in the last 5-6 years. Not only adults, even little kids can be seen coming on the grand stage, and braving the spotlight to sing, dance or cook like a pro. They are then invariably subjected to a detailed critique of their performance by the expert judges. Sometimes eulogized, very often criticized for hitting the wrong note, missing a delicate step, or failing to bring out that flavor or texture in a dish. And all this is virtually broadcast to millions of households across the country. Some kids take it in their stride, even stoically. A few break down uncontrollably. While the judges look on helplessly, maybe wondering if they were unduly harsh.

The byword to deal with such a detailed critique is resilience. Always encourage your kids to recognize and develop their inherent strengths. And use the feedback from others to weed out the flaws in their performance. Whether its knowledge, talent or skill, it has to be painstakingly developed. Prepare them to accept others’ opinions with dignity and humility, but never let it halt the march towards their own goal.

Maintaining Balance

In today’s hyper connected world it is easy to lose it all, fairly quickly and without much provocation. It happens with us adults and it happens with our children. Maintaining balance in life was never easy but now it is extremely difficult for many.

Each of us has different variables in our life, different resources available, and of course different tasks to accomplish. Add to that different levels of fitness and ambition, and we are dealing with an infinite set of permutations and combinations. There is so much of information overload happening all around us, mindfulness almost seems like a mirage. Moreover work pressure, peer pressure, family pressure, etc. take their toll. In the midst of it all, it is easy to lose control over our eating patterns, working hours and sleep. Leading to major health setbacks.

Nevertheless, our kids need to learn to prioritize their tasks, ask for help, and take time to disconnect sometimes. To read, travel, enjoy music, play a sport, or simply socialize. It will help them maintain that elusive balance. And get back to their normal tasks with renewed vigor.

Equity

Looking around us, we notice that every individual faces a unique set of socio-economic circumstances. For example, for some people, their day-to-day challenges may prevent them from realizing their true potential. This has given rise to the concept of equity.

For a society, it is necessary to ensure that everyone enjoys freedom from bias, and justice as per natural law. This notion has given rise to certain programs and laws in India and all over the world. These laws are here to implement the concept of fairness and ‘inclusion’. In fact, The Right to Education Act, and the Jan Dhan Yojana, are two such schemes in India. They ensure that no individual is deprived of minimum school education, or a basic bank account, due to their family background and the lack of financial resources.

As enlightened citizens, it’s our duty to engage in and support the concept of equity. As parents, we have to bring up our children with values that inspire them to create a more equitable society as they grow up.

Disputes

A dispute is defined by the Oxford dictionary as an argument or disagreement between individuals or groups. A disagreement may break out for any reason. Between a lender and a borrower, landlord and tenant, parents and children, spouses. Or even countries. Over territorial rights, terms of agreement, social behavior, aspirations, the next meal, anything. Disagreement is a part of our daily lives. However, whatever be the source of conflict, we must emphasize to our children that not every disagreement need to degenerate into an argument.

And this should begin right at home. How do you respond to a neighbor who parks his car in front of your gate? Or to your children, or spouse, in case of a difference of opinion? Your children are subtly noting your verbal communication as well as your body language. Sitting down with the opponent, speaking politely but firmly, demanding your rights, and recognizing your responsibilities, will surely teach them that a disagreement need not escalate into a war. Remember that the world is not unipolar, so your kids need to imbibe the techniques to handle this important aspect.

Parables

Since times immemorial parables have played a role when it comes to ethics, values and wisdom. And, that role has been a word of mouth, often sans level of literacy of the recipient and the giver. While it is important to tell and share what is happening in your head, the role of parables from all regions and religions  can never be undermined.

The wisdom curve is definitely sharper when connect is holistic and influence of the narrative has a character to anchor upon. Beauty of a parable is its timing. A story in time has great potential for changing course and resolving conflicts. Sharing stories and seeding wisdom is a far better alternative than sermons and lectures. Storytelling works, if it is from a distance it just works better.

Pronouncements

At times there is a need for pronouncement but more often pronouncements are made in anticipation of a success or an achievement. Now this is where the shoe pinches. If the outcome is favorable everyone dances to the set tune. However, a minor slip and everyone pounces upon the claimer with an existential angst and without grace.

Keeping confidence about an outcome to self and extremely close circle of family and friends till the results are out is very important. Our kids must know that there are other ways of expressing satisfaction and happiness than jumping to a conclusion.  Statement like, I have done my best is more balanced than say, I am going to top. Not that there should be no pronouncements but if they are a few it lends more credibility.

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.