An Author and Life Coach who has initiated a career transformation in more than 10000 professionals and students.
"Raise' your standard of living", they said!
As our little one started crawling, everyone around warned us, "Better keep away all the delicate glass and crystal and important things on your higher shelves and baby proof your home!" That is when the "Raise" you standard of living joke started circulating within friends. We like to keep a spic and span, beautiful home. As first time parents we were oblivious that our little one who had discovered the art of moving on all fours now, could bring in a tornado of chaos.
But I thought to my self, "Why should my baby be considered as someone who is going to destroy the sanctity of our house? It's her home too, and she must grow up loving it and nurturing it the way we do."
If you really stand back and observe, when we are bringing up kids, we are actually raising future adults. These little beings are going to one day walk on their own two feet and go make a mark in the world. So shouldn't we be accountable for raising responsible and caring individuals. I assume the foundation of this would be to teach them the value of 'RESPECT'. Respect for places and people.
Caught in Action!
Respect Spaces - 'A Place for Everything and Everything in it's Place'
This was not at all an easy task. All the parenting books and advice led to letting the child explore. Give them the freedom to experience different things, and that is how they will learn. Never kill a child's curiosity!
I approached this curiosity to explore spaces with some great tips from my mom and family. The first step was to give her a safe space to play and basically go nuts, with her toys and things. A nice colorful sheet, with all her play things on it, leaving her to wander and play at her own will. In a typical teething stage of 6- 8 months, she was obviously interested in tasting everything. She was honing her motor skills as she tried to grab or throw everything she laid her hands on. She would crawl under the tables and chairs, feel the different textures with her tiny hands, her bald baby head popping up at unexpected places, but all inside the confines of her safe, sanitized zone.
As soon as playtime was done, I would make her sit and together we would collect all the toys one by one and place them in a basket. I would touch everything to her tiny fingers and she watched that object disappear and get stowed away neatly. So the thought, 'I can play and make a mess, but I must pick up and clean after' was planted subconsciously. As she turned 18 months, her playschool carried forward this habit, with their "Tidy Up" song and the cute army of toddlers loved to pick up and clean after they were done playing for the day.
Respecting Spaces-'Mine', 'Yours', 'Ours' and 'Their'
Parents often have the walls in their home scribbled with crayons, which they proudly showcase as their toddlers artwork. It can be a tad bit embarrassing, especially in a rented accommodation, where the landlord is not too pleased with your 'Miniature' Monet. Our little one was no different. The first time she attempted her pencil art on my Parents freshly painted room, I promptly brought an eraser and showed her the magic of making those marks disappear. She toiled to rub them off for an hour and decided never to take the trouble to use walls for her art again. She realized that her 'art on paper' gets a special place on Grandma's fridge, but 'wall art' simply gets wiped off.
As suggested by one of her teachers, we put up charts all over the walls of her room. She was now free to express herself and imprint her fingers in rainbow colors. I won't deny we found the most absurd of drawings really cute, and admired this wall art whole heartedly, in the true spirit of parenthood. We are glad we nurtured this talent, as today this teenager's art often get's framed for all our walls.
We also decided that we need that one peaceful sanctuary in our home for us as a couple to relax and entertain friends and family, our living room. So whenever Anoushka crawled into the living room and tried to touch anything that was basically not a toy, she was immediately lifted and placed in her baby crib. It left her puzzled initially, but slowly it registered, "I am allowed to have anything I want, anywhere I go, but this area which they keep calling the 'living room', I seem to end up back in my room as soon as I touch their stuff." She was subtly learning to respect other's spaces. This made life really easy for us, as we never had to baby proof our home and could travel to anyone's home, especially our parents and friends, who had extravagant spaces, filled with precious artifacts. Our baby left many adults surprised, when she crawled around without disturbing any of their exquisite belongings. She was happily enjoying her own toys and books, which we never forgot to carry.
It is okay to use the word "No", lovingly, yet assertively, when it's required. This will also teach your future adult to use it, if they ever feel their personal space is being encroached or abused.
Respect Your Own Space - Clean up your mess
When you declutter your home, you clear up space in your mind and soul
As she grew older we smiled at how conscious she was to make our home look pleasing, especially when we were expecting guests. My six year old was eager to lend me a hand when I was dusting, or making beds. She felt so important if I asked her to set the dinner table. She had explored the world in her own way and discovered it to be a place she needs to make more beautiful. Our standard of living was definitely "Raised"...in Love.
Our teenager today thinks it's cool to have a unkempt room at times, books piled up on the table, clothes strewn on her bed and her little knick-knacks on the dresser. But,the life lesson is learnt 'Take responsibility for your actions', in short, 'clean up your own mess, because no one else will',
Respect People - Play and Learn!
As parents we are the first one's who are assigned the task of socialization of our children. We lay the foundation of family values and a well cultured environment, that shapes them as adults. So why not teach them through what they love doing best at that age, PLAY!
We sometimes go overboard in buying our children all the latest toys. We are disappointed when we see that toy either neglected in a few days or simply broken to pieces. But children are a classic case of 'I don't know what I don't know'. They have never seen that toy before, don't have a word to describe it and definitely don't know what to do with it. So their curiosity takes over and they either pull it apart into pieces or worse, just throw is aside.
But toys are designed by experts to teach our children life skills, and hone other sensory and motor skills. So if you decide to buy those toys, sit down and spend some quality time showing them how to get the most of it. Let them use those toys to interact with all age groups and genders and never pass on your fears or biases.
EMPATHY - Back in school my Uncle and Aunt came over to meet us and introduced me to my adorable 2 year old cousin. I was so excited that I brought out my favorite doll to play with her, but being a kid she just started pulling the doll's hair and poking her plastic eyes. My Uncle got up swiftly and gently poked his baby's eye. I was alarmed at what I saw, but I realized he hadn't actually hurt her, but just demonstrated how it feels when you poke someone in the eye. Then he took her aside lovingly and explained how the 'Doll' is just like a little person, and she too will be upset if someone hurts her. Then I got involved in showing her how to dress up and care for this toy, called a 'Doll'.
CREATIVITY and TEAMWORK - Sometimes even simple household items make great toys. My daughter was thrilled when her aunt bought her a simple woven basket, and showed her how vegetable sellers use these to ferry their goods. She spent all day collecting fruits and vegetable from the kitchen and learning their names, as she filled her little basket.
We loved how Grandma gave us real food for our toy kitchen sets. We had to wash our tiny utensils, serve the miniature food and clean and set the kitchen, Little did we know she was sneaking in all the healthy stuff she wanted us to eat, as we hosted tea parties!
LEADERSHIP and INTEGRITY - We never let our child win at board games. So she would cry a bit, sometimes throw a tantrum, then strive to master the game. She strategized her every move and then loved to gloat over her fair and square victory. I was secretly celebrating every time she got the better of me .
So don't let those board games lie in the cupboard, they are the best way to bond with friends and a great way to build social skills. Let them struggle with miniature screw drivers in a 'mechano' set, drive those little dinky cars together, or simply toss a ball at each other.
HANDLING STRESS and much more- Our Pediatrician once explained how these youngsters experience stress. They too have days like adults, when they feel frustrated, overwhelmed and irritated. Dealing with a new school, sometimes bullies, exams, homework and much more. They need to express anger and maybe even cry. Be there for them, if they need that hug, or simply a listening ear. Give them the comfort that you will not judge or react. A great vent for their emotions can be clay or colorful plasticine, to let them pound, beat, roll and pummel. Soon they would see some beautiful shape coming of it too.
I loved how my Mother In Law would take my little one in the garden and let her water the plants, dig up the weeds and watch the bees and birds. One day they took some toy animals and built a 'Miniature Jungle' together in a tiny planter. She patiently balanced a tiny bridge over her equally tiny pond and gently placed each animal figure in their own special spot and all this while she was connecting with nature. The soothing greenery was enough to refresh her for yet another challenging school day.
Instead of tripping over those scattered pieces of Lego blocks, show them how the pieces fit together and let them make their own creations everyday.
As they build and create new wonders they develop resilience and emotional intelligence along the way. They learn from what they play and if they can respect their toys, they will grow up to respect the people they live with.
The Language of Social Skills is Universal
"When Educating the Minds of Young People, Don't Forget to Educate Their Hearts."- Dalai Lama
To sum it up, as parents we should not dictate the way our children live their lives, but while we teach them to walk and talk, we must tenderly steer them from the bad and just point them in the direction of goodness, success and happiness will automatically follow.
- As they learn to respect their surroundings, they learn to build not break, create not destroy and honor not mutilate.
- As they learn to respect the people around them, while playing with their toys and connecting with nature, they will eventually live a prudent and virtuous life.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2021 Snehal Sarkar