Parenting is a lot of things- it is an ongoing process; it is a thankless job; it is a chore at times; a pleasure at most; it is also a rigorous daily exercise that we cannot avoid or escape. The past few weeks, when the world is in the grip of a global pandemic and children are all home, parenting has a new dimension added to it- of being creative as well.
Creative parenting is the need of the hour, where you cannot depend on friends, grandparents, and school to engage your child.
So what is the main difference between a normal parent and a creative parent?
A normal parent is dependent on specific purpose materials like toys, games and craft kits to engage the child.
A creative parent can use any and all objects at home to contribute to child’s development. A simple example of this is involving the child with cooking, cleaning, gardening which can be exciting for a child who is suddenly given the jobs he has only seen an adult do so far.
A normal parent would give regular books and toys.
A creative parent will look for sensorial experience in everything. An example of this is water. Water is a very sensorial rich material; children should be allowed to have water play.
A normal parent would end up saying “this is the game. Go play or this is the art. Can you do it?” a creative parent would instead say “let’s do it.” you have to be the role model for your child where you work with the child. The idea that a parent is willing to come down to their level and work inspires new impetus for the children to think creatively.
A normal parent is always expecting the child to understand their point of view.
“You have to wait for mom to finish this call.”
A creative parent is always observing the child, understands the child’s perspective and addresses all situations accordingly.
“I know you are waiting for me. I will come to you as soon as I am done with my call. Would you mind setting things up until I can join you?”
A normal parent corrects a child when they commit a mistake.
A creative parent will look within for what may have gone wrong in your communication and analyse if the mistake is not a mistake and more of a learning experience.
Creative parenting is all about looking at who you are as a parent, understanding the limitations around you and always placing the needs of the child first. But more importantly, it is your willingness to spend a little more time and tweak some routines to engage your child.
In the words of dr. Maria montessori “imagination does not become great until human beings, given the courage and the strength, use it to create.”
arenting and discipline are words often used in tandem with each other where parents are expected to ensure discipline in their children. But the reality is not so black and white. The easiest way to achieve discipline is by helping children understand the need for discipline and guiding them to inculcate it within themselves.
So what are the five ways in which you build discipline in children?
1. Know that your child is predisposed to be disciplined. It is intrinsic and inherent. The external deviations to this discipline come from the people who surround the child. The first step for parents to take is to model the discipline we wish to see in our child. We want her to wake up early, we wake up early. We want her to eat fruit, we eat fruit. A child below six years will absorb any and all behavior that surrounds her, and hence the onus lies on parents to model the best behavior.
2. Know that discipline begins at a very young age. Humans all are born with a sense of order that is strong even in a toddler. When the activities or engagements of the child satisfy this sense of order, the child cannot help but be disciplined. Hence it is very important that we understand the needs of our child at each age and cater to them.
A toddler needs to touch and feel everything because he is getting to know his new world; he wants to crawl and explore. But instead, we pick him up and keep things out of his reach. He becomes irritable and rakes up a fuss- beginnings of indiscipline.
A six-year-old is developing an intellectual and reasoning mind for which he needs to ask questions and find answers, but we cannot find the patience to answer everything and we ask him not to bother us. The child becomes mute in front of guests, doesn’t do what he is asked to because he has understood that not all interactions have to be mutually productive.
A teenager will want you to give her space and not pester about academics when she is struggling to cope up as an emotionally fragile young adult who is caught in the middle of two worlds- her secure childhood and unseen adulthood. But this is the time we put the most pressure on the children to study. And we call the indiscipline arising out of this as troubled teens.
3. No should always mean a no. Always, always think before saying no to a child. If we think back on the latest instances when we have said no to our child one of these scenarios would have played out- we said no said just out of instinct; or because we know it is yet another hair-brained scheme that will not work or because we don’t have time to hear the child out fully- or was it genuinely because we felt the child was not ready for something.
Either way, once we have said no, it is best to stick to it and try not to overcompensate immediately. A no has to be the last word and so it has to be used and received with the respect it deserves.
4. Raising voice/hand only leads to indiscipline. If raising our voice would help children listen better or follow the rules better, we would have had opera singers for school teachers everywhere. But it doesn’t quite work that way. The only thing any of us prove by raising a voice on a child is that we have little self-control and a disproportionately loud voice. Every child understands logic. We need to trust our children to understand and empathize with what is being said to them. Give them the benefit of the doubt that when we get down to their level, hug and explain, children are more likely to co-operate.
5. Encourage self-discipline. Every child is capable of self-discipline and this needs to be encouraged. Appreciate when they show restraint; when they exhibit appropriate behavior. Trust them to emulate ideal behavior modeled by the adults. Set up routines at a very young age so these actions become second nature to children- like cleaning up after themselves, winding up after playing a game; speaking softly. These form the basis for the discipline they will inculcate as they grow.
One of the stepping stones for building discipline in a child is giving the child freedom. When a child is given the freedom to choose her work, the discipline to complete it and with utmost care and finesse comes naturally.
A prime example of it is this Timetable of work prepared by a six-year-old from our school Blue Blocks. The timetable covers a gamut of activities from academics to art for her to accomplish during vacation. Being organized like this has given her a sense of order and purpose that is paramount to building discipline in children.
First things first, there is no right way or wrong way to bring up your child. There is only the best-you-can-do way. The birth of a child also is the day parents are born. Both explore and grow with each other. While it is not just expected but acceptable for children to fall and dust themselves off before moving on, one misstep by parents can alter the course of the child’s development. But there is hope. More often than not, most of these mistakes are not irrevocable and parents can catch themselves in time and turn the tide around.
Here are five ways to avoid making some common parenting mistakes
1. Involve your child in household work. Children should not be allowed to become too dependent on parents for their physical and psychological needs. It is very essential that they start building their independent thought and acting by themselves at a very young age so the culture of self-reliance sets in. A great way to facilitate this is involving the children in the household work like sweeping the floor, setting the dining table, watering plants, filling water bottles, pumping up cushions, making the bed, etc. It also helps the younger children build their gross motor skills while they are learning some essential life skills that will become second nature to them as they grow.
2. Discipline should be necessary and sufficient. Too much discipline or too little discipline is a strict no-no. The mantra every parent should live by is necessary and sufficient. Inculcate discipline by modeling the best behavior. Don’t be overprotective about exposing the child to the harsh realities of life like failure and disappointment. Only when children face these will they be able to build the discipline needed to tackle them.
3. Listen to your child. It may sound mundane but it is the most important thing a parent can do in a day. Don’t just hear what your child is saying while you check your mail or stir a curry. Take time out, sit down, and have an eye to eye conversation where the child is doing most of the talking. The child should never feel that there is no one who understands him. He should be able to freely talk to a parent and express herself.
4. Give freedom for exploration. Avoid restricting your child’s freedom by setting up physical barriers that won’t allow the child to crawl and explore the floor; or my picking her up when she wants to run around. Let her move freely and explore the world around her by touch and feel. Remember every experience the child has teaches her something. If it is chasing an ant, she will likely learn how to avoid a stinging bite. If it is mixing chapati dough she will learn that she can be covered in white! Allowing exploration is the best learning tool a parent can give a child.
5. Believe in your child. Children are more capable than we give them credit. Give your child the chance to know his own limits when he volunteers for a task. Any realization arising out of this work would have achieved two things- the child knows that you will always believe in him and he knows that he can back himself to do a good job.
Criticism has to be only of the constructive variety. There is no space for outright rejection of any work done by a child. The minute this happens, the child will never wholeheartedly attempt to do anything in the future.
Remember parenting is a two-way street. You always work in tandem with the child. The more you give the more you get whether it is love, freedom, responsibility, discipline, or trust.