The world as we know it has changed from the time that we were children – from a carefree, less stressed and safer time to one that is drastically opposite to these traits. Sad but true our children just have to face new challenges, irrespective of their age. It’s become crucial therefore to build their self-confidence, tenacity and resilience such that they are able to manage whatever life throws up and become all the more confident and stronger. Childhood has been known as a time of carefree laughter, unfettered mischief and a time to enjoy the simplest things in life. Can we as parents, say that this is true anymore? It hurts to know that our children have to deal with all kinds of pressures – classroom curriculum, looking good, facing bullies, remaining aloof when surrounded by strangers and the worst verbal and physical abuse in some homes. Where did their childhood go? It is for us parents, teachers and other adults to teach our kids how to deal with these challenges and emerge victorious – come unscathed by people, situations and events that could potentially scar them for life. Yes the great news is that we can teach and they can learn the skill of resilience and tenacity.
1. The first rule I broke but have now learned and fixed is that I must not and cannot provide for everything that my child needs and wants. As a mother, it came naturally to me to try and fix and give my child whatever her little self, asked for and soon became an anxious and overprotective mother. My anxiousness soon became very visible in her behaviour and she would run to me for every little problem. She had to become self-dependent and learn to master the small daily issues herself – so I started listening to her but instead of telling her what to do, I would ask her what she thought and to my surprise she came up with some amazing yet simple solutions.
2. As mentioned, the world is a scary place and there are far too many risks and dangers and as parents, we are paranoid and always worried for our children. However, it is alright to let kids learn that tricky situations are part of life and rather than trying to protect them by building an unseen ‘castle’ around them, it’s better to let them some freedom. Again, earlier when my daughter was younger, I would instinctively reach out for her hand when crossing the road. Soon, she reached the stage where ‘holding mum’s hand is embarrassing’, so instead I taught her that she must look on both sides of the road before crossing and never ever run across the road. So while I set some limits, I allowed her some amount of freedom, which helped her to understand ‘growing up’ a bit better.
3. The main idea behind parenting, I believe, is to teach and among the things that children need to learn from our experience is how to resolve problems even if they seem bigger than us. This is my most favourite method and I dare say I am very proud – my daughter was only 9. She had never been out of the home and I felt that she was not gaining enough self-confidence and so, when a renowned, reliable company (I did my put together a trip to the hills (3 days and 2 nights), I enrolled her to go. She was scared and cried a lot (I did that too in the haven of my bath room) but put her on that train with other children her age. They were allowed only one call and when she did it seemed like she was having a really bad time. After returning, she narrated the entire trip to me with such wide-eyed enthusiasm and had even learned to boil an egg – I realized that in allowing her the opportunity to figure out simple things and find out what works and what won’t, I gave her the gifts of confidence and tenacity that are with her till today.
4. Kids need to not just assume things without talking it out! My daughter would put on theatrics at home and it was obvious that she liked to be on stage but she would never volunteer at school. I asked her the reason for it and her answer was that the teacher never asked her. She hated it – this was her challenge – all I did was tell her that the next time her teacher spoke about a program she should raise her hand and let her teacher know that she was interested. You guessed it – she was part of all programs from that time onwards and still continues to be!
5. Encourage your child to ask questions and try to figure out the answers too. This is an important skill since we will not be around forever, and the sooner and more efficiently that children learn to provide answers to their questions, the better. I am not suggesting that we never answer their questions, but don’t answer the ones you know they can find better answers too. Prod, goad and be a support – don’t jump in each time. The fact is that we are human too and it is impossible for us to have all the answers.
6. Let them learn by doing. Tying shoelaces is probably one of the most common ‘challenges’ the kids face or have faced. Each time I would tie her laces, I had asked her to look carefully at each ‘step’ of the process, so when there was no rush we would play the shoelace tying game. Not only was it fun, she soon learnt that mum did not need to help her with this ‘simple’ task. What I mean by this example is that the best way to learn is by practice – tying their shoes or using a play knife in the kitchen to understand how the tool works.
It’s wrong of parents to think that it would be catastrophic for kids to make blunders. Haven’t we made them and continue to in our everyday lives? Then why is making mistakes tied up to failure – they are not. In fact, it’s crucial for kids to know that mistakes are vital and that they must be treated as opportunities to become better and strive harder the next time.
Whatever we do, our kids emulate us and so, in order for them to become role models for someone, we must first be their beacons and be ready to accept ourselves as we are. Parenting is quite like wearing the oxygen masks in plane emergencies – first help yourself and then move on to helping your children. Helping children to build resilience and overcoming challenges is a relentless process of learning and unlearning – not just for them but for us too.