On Child Perfectionism and Freedom Boundaries…
I had the privilege of being invited to attend a seminar hosted by Maya Menon through her NGO initiative named The Teacher Foundation on ‘Schools Today at a Cultural Crossroads’. The panel consisted of a wonderful mix of four people: a Principal of a well established school, a Parent, an Ex-Student and a lady Psychiatrist. The audience was a large number of teaching faculties from different schools based in Bangalore and Mumbai.
The evening spanned into a wondrous and powerful exchange of views and experiences on how children from different cultures in schools must be handled in today’s modern era of virtual information and exposures: good, bad and ugly. This was certainly a great initiative Maya took and many of the topics covered were real eye-openers.
However, the reason why I am drawn towards writing about this seminar are two very critical points covered which I am personally and emotionally very involved with and often talk about it in my own workshops for parents, students and the teaching faculty: (a) Child Perfection and (b) what should be the freedom curbs or ‘boundaries’ that one needs to create around a child during their adolescent years. While I was able to speak on the first topic very briefly, which was well accepted by the panel and the audience, I was unable to express myself on the second one due to a shortage of time. Hence this blog…
On Child Perfection: I have always firmly believed that the very words ‘perfect’ and ‘perfection’ should not only be wiped out of the English Dictionary but also in the minds of all parents and teachers! I grew up in one of India’s oldest boarding schools and was continuously made to think that only ‘Practice would make me Perfect’! What a terrible anomaly of a statement!! In my view, ‘Practice can never make perfect’. Practice can only make IMPROVEMENT! And why be perfect?! Because when children are literally grilled to think that they must be ‘perfect’, they lose the very sense of their own being and live within a box with no other choice than to become perfect. But when children are made to think they must ‘practice to improve’ is when we help them to think out of a box and think innovatively. This very statement of ‘practicing to improve’ removes the shackles of fear in their pursuit to be ‘perfect’ exclusively desired by their peers. As a father of two wonderful daughters, I never spoke about perfection. Instead I always helped them to innovatively and continuously improve on whatever they were passionately pursuing either in their studies, extra-curricular activities or at home. And that’s one of the reasons why, as grown up girls, they are just amazing in whatever they do!
On Freedom Curbs or ‘Boundaries’: Most parents tend to create ‘boundaries’ to how much freedom a child must enjoy based on their own childhood experiences misused by they themselves as children just as their parents, grand-parents and great grand-parents did. Most teachers tend to create freedom ‘boundaries’ just because it is the ‘dictate’ of the Principal, caught up in a system that may not exist even in his own home, or for the reputation of the school. Ultimately the child suffers and becomes a clone of his or her parent when they have children of their own! Children don’t need their freedoms to be curbed. When you curb their freedom you become the aggressor. But when you flow with them accepting whatever they do, wrong or right, you become their Mentor, Friend, Guide and Leader. They willfully begin to respect what you say and want them to believe.
A father, who shared a very close bond and relationship with his children, once stumbled upon his young teenage daughter’s open laptop and discovered that she had begun to surf porn sites on the internet. For a moment he was taken aback but then burst out laughing. He laughed for two reasons. The first one was that this discovery made him realize that his daughter was no more the young little child he always imagined her to be and the second one was that she wasn't ‘gay’ because the porn sites were ‘straight’ ones!
Over the weekend when he could be alone with her, he told her that he knew she was viewing porn on the internet and had absolutely no issues about it and he really meant it. His daughter was initially surprised on hearing this revelation and then couldn't help feeling embarrassed. But he continued telling her that when he was her age he had also seen a couple of ‘blue’ films with his friends and viewed a host of porn magazines. But soon he asked himself whether all this was worth feeding his mind with or creating a sledgehammering mind fed with information that could make him stand out of the herd and realize every dream he had for the future. He said he chose the latter one and that’s probably the reason why he got to what he was today.
Over the years, his daughter passed out of her college with flying colors, completed her Masters and began chasing her dreams turning them, one by one, into astounding realities! Quite frankly, he still doesn't give a damn whether his daughter watches porn on the internet or not!!
And that’s all about great parenting J