Spread your wings and fly

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Beta kya banega? Doctor ya engineer?

Whether at a family friend’s house, or a birthday party, kids often face this question. If a child below the age of twelve replies with teacher, princess, magician, it is considered cute. A teenage however, is expected to respond with “doctor,” or “engineer”.

If a child is interested in something else than these options, they face follow-up questions about why they’d like to chose a different career. When I told one of my family friend that me and my husband are OK if our daughter wants to be an artist, she gave a confused look.

According to a survey, India is world’s suicide capital with 2.6 lakh cases/year and it breaks my heart to see kids going through so much pressure. Most parents do not even give kids the choice of choosing their own after-school activities. They are enrolled to classes often based on the parent’s interests.

There is lot of pressure on kids to excel in academics. This level of pressure at a young age, kills their creativity. Dreams to become a photographer and click pictures of animals all over the world or be the best singer in the world get crushed even before they realize.

Things that I want my daughters to know:

I will support your efforts, no matter what you want to do in life. Happiness is the best choice. I will support you to fulfil your dreams.

The possibilities are endless. Spread your wings as you can achieve whatever you want to if you try.

Do whatever makes you happy.

 
-Deepa Malhotra Gandhi; A dietician, choreographer, and a mother of two lovely kids

 

 

I need a phone. Please give me that this year!!!

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“Meem …a mobile?” asked my 11 year old daughter. “Why do you require that?” I asked her. “I require that to call you  when I stay at home before you get back from work”. I thought for a while then replied “But you can always use our landline phone?” She answered “Please meem, you can give me your phone, and buy a new one for yourself. I do not mind using your present phone”….

She has been asking us for a mobile for quite some time now. We have been postponing her request. She takes my phone once every evening to check messages at the whatsapp group of her school batchmates. Now a days, even 6th standard kids have their whatsapp group. I sometimes monitor the messages to get a feel about their discussions. Their discussions center around wishing friends on birthdays, sharing class notes, travel, and sometimes jokes. And seems like many of them already have their own mobiles.

“Meem please tell me whether you plan to give it or not before my birthday this year”...and our discussion continues. “Why don’t you buy that with your own money? How much do you have now?” I tried not to disappoint her, and at the same time wanted her to earn a mobile if she is really desperate. Earn with her own money that she gets as a monthly allowance from us :). “It will take me a year and half to buy with my own money!”

Next morning, she seemed to be very active. Unlike other days, she woke up early, and started watering the plants in the balcony. “Meem from today onwards, I will help you with other household chores.” “That’s great, but what made you decide this?”, I asked. She mentioned “I want my mobile in another 6 months time. You have to compensate me for other work too. I want to earn double than that you give me now for watering the plants. I will wash my clothes, do dishes with you, and help you fold the clothes”….She actually has been doing all of those for the last few days!

“I need a phone. Please give me that this year!” Did I ask my parents for any such gifts when I was a kid? I was desperate to get a camera. Those days we had cameras where one had to buy the roll. And one did not have the option of seeing the pictures before developing the film into photos. I remember requesting my parents a lot, and finally getting to buy with my stipend money when I was in 11th standard. That was a proud day for me :)

“Actually you do not require a mobile phone, but want to be included in the group of friends with mobiles. Am I right?”, I asked. She hugged me and mentioned “How do you always get to know what I feel?”… “Because I am your mother”, I chuckle out. That night, we sat down and discussed about our concerns of handling a mobile to an 11 year old. She understood that. She promised us that she would use her mobile to pursue her interest of photography, and use it whenever absolutely required to connect to us!  A mobile is possibly on its way for her 6 months down the line, but she has to work hard to get it…

Dr. Ananya Chakraborty

What’s the fuss about 4C skills for Kids?

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21st-century skills” refers to the 4C’screativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration. Educationists throughout the world feel that students need to be oriented to these skills to thrive in today’s world. The 4C’s compliment the traditional 3R’s of education i.e. reading, writing, and arithmetic towards academic success.

Today’s students are fortunate enough to have powerful learning tools.  They locate, acquire, and create knowledge quickly. Thanks to the advances in internet technology, and search engines. When I was a medical student, the resource for more information was the Institute library. The library used to have fixed work hours. We had to wait to get to dig into the huge books for additional information. We used to pick the brains of seniors and visit the hospital during odd hours to get a hang of interesting cases. We also used to meet our teachers to clear our confusions. Microbiology was the only class where the teacher used an overhead projector. We would look at the white screen, eyes wide with wonder!

Has learning become easy now-a-days? The answer obviously is yes. It is easier to learn about things, get in-depth videos and tutorials, and prepare write-ups and presentations. The 3Rs of education has been greatly enhanced by modern technology. So, what’s the fuss about 4C skills? (www.p21.org) To me, this question holds the secret to differences between academic success and real-life success. A student succeeds in academics by mastering the content in the core subjects. In real life scenarios, success depends on the knowledge of the content plus the execution. And here, knowledge bolstered with the 4Cs – creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration come to the fore.

Let me tell you an incredible real-life experience of mine. This is in my final year of MBBS. I was posted in the emergency department. A patient was brought in. He was choking, was unable to speak, and looked terribly pale. The attendant told us that he was fishing when he suddenly got sick and fell down. To my surprise, the senior doctor immediately gave a nick, and inserted a catheter to clear the airway. And then we took the patient to the OT. And to the utter surprise of all of us, a live fish was extracted from his throat! Apparently, he had tried to unhook the fish with his teeth when it escaped his clutches and lodged itself in his throat!

The emergency insertion of the catheter in his airway saved the patient! And no medical textbook could ever teach this! Only because my senior had applied his critical thinking skills, we could save the patient. This creativity and collaborative spirit was there in our studentship days. And communication was incredibly important too. Information was not always available readily. We did not have access to huge online library, computers, and other gadgets. We did not have classes where teachers could show videos, or project pictures of rare cases. We could not clear our doubts over internet, learn the subjects by using simulation, or virtual lab work. So we needed to communicate, collaborate and brainstorm with our peers to understand, grasp and find answers to our questions. Not every building block of a concept was available. So we needed to apply critical thinking to connect the dots.

Today, information and answers are readily available. Today’s kids can instantly curate information on google. Learn through various apps and videos that abound the internet.  And in a way, that can come in the way of collaboration, critical thinking, creativity and communication. The ‘dots to connect’ are often already available. The mental exercise, wrestling with pieces of information and critical thinking may not get enough practice. And as kids get concepts on their fingertips, collaboration and communication with peers may not get the importance that it deserves.

It is a rapidly changing world! What we learn today, is going to be obsolete in a not-too-distant future. This is why 4C skills are even more relevant today! Children must be able to learn new things. Things they are not necessarily taught in the classroom. Critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication come in handy in picking up new things.

So, how do we help kids master the 4C skills? Each kid is born with varying degree of the 4C skills. If someone is naturally creative, we have to see that this never withers away. If a child loves to work in groups, discuss things with friends, then these inherent collaborative and communication skills need to be nurtured. As parents and teachers, we must encourage the natural inclinations of kids. Like any other, these skills also can be practiced. We must find ways to give our kids more practice to develop these. Let’s empower our children so that they can thrive in the rapidly changing world.

Dr. Ananya Chakraborty

Raise the kid you have, not the kid you want

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A parent should not force their wish list on their kid. Instead, they should nurture the interest the kid has, and the talents the kid is born with. Classic development research conducted by Doctors Chess and Thomas has identified 9 temperamental traits in kids. “Raise the kid you have, not the kid you want”… As a parent, do you love to celebrate your kid regardless of his/her abilities, desires or personality? Do you know that there are 9 temperamental traits in your kid? Identifying the traits early can help you know your kid better. Here are the following traits:

Activity Level: Did you observe how active your kid is generally? Some kids are movers and shakers. Even as babies, they are quick to roll over, wriggle, and crawl. They like to reach out, grab, and play with the toys. As toddlers they like to explore the world around them by crawling, running, and climbing.  They are generally curious. Highly active kids in later life may channel such extra energy into success in sports; may perform well in high-energy careers and may be able to keep up with many different responsibilities.

Distractibility: Distractibility refers to how things going on around your kid disrupt his/her thought processes and attention. Some babies sleep nicely even if the lights are switched on, or there are movements or sound around. As toddlers, they remain focused and can concentrate on tasks for long periods of time. As they grow up, they may learn to concentrate on work despite environmental distractions. It may be difficult to divert their attention when they are upset.

Intensity: Intensity refers to the amount of energy kids use to express emotions. Some kids are born with very strong emotional reactions. Others are born with little feelings. Some kids throw tantrums when they do not get the thing they ask for, while others cry silently. Kids who can express emotions with intensity may be very good at performing arts.

Regularity: The trait refers to the predictability of biological functions like appetite and sleep. Does the child get hungry or tired at predictable times? Or, is the child unpredictable in terms of hunger and tiredness? It has been observed that kids with high regularity enjoy a structured classroom but may have problems with changes in routine. Kids with low regularity, on the other hand, may have difficulty following the school routine and cause disruptions in class. They are less bothered when things do not go according to the usual plan.

Sensory Threshold: Does the kid react positively or negatively to a stimulus? Kids with a high sensory threshold are less likely to be bothered by sensory stimuli. They are more likely to be artistic and creative.

Approach: Does the kid eagerly approach new situations or people? Or does he/she seem to be hesitant and resistant when faced with new situations, people or things? Fast-to-warm up kids are always eager to explore. Slow-to-warm up kids think before they act. They are less likely to act impulsively during adolescence.

Adaptability: How long does the kid take to become comfortable to new situations? It has been found that adaptable kids are more likely to participate in class, enjoy school, more satisfied with life, have higher self-esteem, and have a more concrete sense of meaning and purpose in life. A slow-to-adapt kid, on the other hand, is less likely to rush into dangerous situations, and may be less influenced by peer pressure.

Persistence: Does the child continue to work on a puzzle when he has difficulty with it or does he just move on to another activity? The highly persistent child is more likely to succeed in reaching goals. A child with low persistence may develop strong social skills because he realizes other people can help.

Mood:  Some kids always seem to be in a good mood and cheerful, while others glum and negative about whatever they encounter. Helping kids understand about their mood and emotions early in life may help them express themselves more positively, and this may help them to stay healthy in future.

Sandra Scarr, a psychology Professor from Yale University has rightly mentioned “Children are just different from one another, especially in temperament. Some are shy, others bold; some active, others quiet; some confident, others less. So respect for individual differences is in my view the cornerstone of good parent-child relationships.”

“Raise the kid you have, not the kid you want”…to my opinion is the secret to raise a successful kid.

-Dr. Ananya, BloomBrite