Don’t live your dreams through your child!

"She can speak Kannada, Telugu, Hindi and Oriya," you claim proudly to your friend visiting you at home. "She's only seven, and she learns karate days a week. And we enrolled her for dance lessons because she has to win the competition in school next month!" Ever thought that your kid might have too much on her plate? That, after coming home from school, she might want to pull on her oldest pair of shorts and run amuck with her friends? "Do not try to live your dreams through your child. Give your child the freedom to dabble, make mistakes and learn from them," says Nazneen Haider in her article for The Health Site.Every time I  see my neighbour’s 8 year old, she’s either going to an extra-curricular activity class or returning from one. In her mother’s words, the girl is an ‘all-rounder’. She does swimming, quilling, dancing and is also training to play the guitar. Of course, karate and drawing classes are considered default, which means every kid does it. What bothers me is she always looks tired and is always in a hurry to reach to one class or the other. I am assuming that she eats her dinner while trying to finish homework.When I tried to tell her mother about my concerns, she said that I was worrying too much. She even suggested that I should enroll my toddler in some classes, because sooner they start, the better. And this has become a norm, with playschools and activity classes accepting kids as young as 16 months! A friend who sends her 18-month-old to play-school said that the teachers promised that they’ll instil some sense of discipline and the child will be standing in the queue and not running amok within three months. When I exclaimed that toddlers are supposed to run amok and be ‘free’, she only gave me ‘the look’!
So enrolling a child in 1001 classes has become the norm. I was feeling like the only one bucking the trend and had doubts about whether my kid would be left behind. So I spoke to Dr Shachi Dalvi, Child Psychologist, about whether it is healthy to put a child through so much and how does it affect their development — positively or otherwise. One thing that worries me the most is hygiene in play areas and classes, and whether it is safe for very young children.Dr Dalvi says it is definitely not healthy for a child to have such a packed schedule. With schoolwork, weekly tests, then all the pressure of extra-curricular activities, the child has precious little time left to actually enjoy and explore what she enjoys. A two or three-year-old doesn’t know whether she is interested in dancing, music or a particular sport. This is not to say you should not expose the child to different arts and activities, but the idea is to let them learn and explore and then decide what they like. Also, many times working parents enrol their kids in all these classes to keep them busy. If you are a working parent and worried for your child’s development, even reading together is a great bonding activity and bedtime stories can actually make your child smarter!Before you enroll your toddler in a class, keep these points by Dr Dalvi in mind:
  • Let the child explore and develop a natural inclination towards an art, activity or sport.
  • Do not pressurise your child in doing something that you like. Your child may or may not like to participate in those activities. Respect her choice.
  • Your child may not be interested in anything for now, and that is completely okay. One can develop a liking towards an art, activity or sport anytime in their life. If your child is not ‘gifted’ with a passion for something, accept it.
  • Do not try to live your dreams through your child. Give your child the freedom to dabble, make mistakes and learn from them.
  • If your child is a prodigy, you’ll see signs like they pursuing something passionately, like if they are interested in painting they’ll do it for a long time and be really good at it. In such cases, you should help them enhance their skill.
  • Follow your child’s cues and sent them for activities they are interested in.
  • Do not give in to peer pressure — just because 20 kids are going to a karate class, do not send your child who might be interested in music.
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