What’s inside the box: 5-tips that helped a bullied child

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The other day, I was walking past the corridor on my way home from work. As soon as I walked past the elevator, a huge cardboard box caught my sight. I was curious about what might have been wrapped inside! It was written shoe-stand with shoes :). I thought our new neighbors might have shipped stuff from the middle east. Because of curiosity again, I tried to peep inside the box. And guess what! I discovered a young boy hiding inside with his hands and legs folded. He somehow managed to fit himself inside the box. I became alert. I pulled him out. Thought he might be with a gang of friends playing ‘Hide and Seek’. I started talking to the boy.

– Are you hiding from your friends? Playing hide-and-seek?

– No

– Why are you sitting inside this box? Where are your friends?

– They are playing inside the house.

– What? Why are you here alone? Let me take you to your friends.

We rang the bell. There were 3-4 kids in my neighbor’s house. The leader mentioned that they do not play with young kids. And that’s an instruction from his parents. I understood now that the boy was sad and the box was his cocoon shelter. Can you please play with him outside for sometime?  “No auntie, he has damaged a flower pot already”. And they all came out and showed a pot that the boy had kicked in a fit of rage and damaged! There was some spill over soil to testify their fact!  I looked at the boy, and his sadness had increased. He murmured softly that he already said “Sorry” to the team of elder kids. And told that he kicked the pot because he was left out of the games. “Don’t you have other friends to play with?” To this he mentioned that his age kids usually return little late from school, and come late for playing.

My only option was to safely take the boy to his house. But the I decided to spend some time with him. I talked to him, tried to instill some life skills. The only reason was that I wanted to see him happy. Here are my 5-tips that helped the bullied boy:

1. Listened to his story: I gained the trust of the boy as I offered to listen to him. I took him to the house of the elder kids, and tried to solve his problem. I discussed with him various options, and offered solutions. But most importantly, I listened patiently. It’s a common suggestion to parents when their kid becomes a victim of bullying.

2. Made him aware of his mistake: I took the boy near the flowering pot. I explained to him that plants are living objects. And that he must say sorry to the plant for having kicked it. The boy did what I asked. I mean he really stood before the plant and said sorry in all earnestness. He was aware of his behavior. He promised that he will not hurt others just because he is angry or sad.

3. Helped him to come out of sadness: My conversation with the boy helped him come out of his sadness. As we discussed options of play for him, he came out with the idea of going back home to his mother, spend time doing painting, and come out to the play area in the evening when his other friends would be around!

4. Directed him to his safety net: The boy was hiding inside the cardboard box.  Somebody could have easily pushed it to the side and he would have got hurt. Luckily that was not the case and he was not hurt. I showed him the way to his safety net i.e. his home.

5. Imparted him the SHIFT-skills: Overall, I had to quickly ensure that his confidence does not take a hit, and help with a strategy to overcome the rejection and mild bullying that he encountered. First was to help him Show confidence, to be able to Handle emotions, to learn to Ignore bullies and Find good friends, and to confide in a Trusted adult are the skills to be imparted to victims of bullying. I explained to the boy that if the elder kids do not want to play with him, he must move on and find good friends of his age. And that he must discuss this incident with his trusted adults.

bullying

Bullying is such a common phenomenon that all of us see it around us. Kids can become victims and perpetrators of bullying without really consciously being aware of it. Some are mild forms of bullying, and some are severe. Either way, the victim does go through rejection, sadness, and can lose confidence. And we have to get them out of it and help them come out of it.

“One person can make a difference, and everyone should try”- John F. Kennedy. I hope I tried the right way to pull out a kid of his danger zone…

5-reasons why to involve kids in cooking

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On our recent visit to hometown, some friends and family members complimented my 11 year old daughter about her cooking skills. They were quite surprised that we let her frequent the kitchen, let her experiment with dishes, and sometimes prepare her own meal. The common questions asked were “Do you let her light the gas-stove?/Is she not fearful of the kitchen knives?/Don’t you think she should utilize those time on studies?” I understood many people follow my posts on social media! And that in a small city, kids have the luxury of love and care from extended family other than parents. Even if parents are not around, an aunt or grandmother will be around to help them serve or warm up food or during meal times. They are not encouraged to spend time in the kitchen.

“Do you let her light the gas-stove?/Is she not fearful of the kitchen knives?/Don’t you think she should utilize those time on studies?” Needless to say, no sensible parent would want the child to spend time in the kitchen at the expense of studies, sports, or time with music/dance/painting or whatever else the child likes to do. Nevertheless, these questions made me ponder. Think about 5-reasons why to involve kids in cooking!

My daughter used to be part of our grocery shopping right from a very young age. She used to love to add different colors of fruits and vegetables in the shopping cart. This helped her learn colors and numbers. I used to make her sit in the kitchen slab, and play with wheat dough! Used to let her crack eggs. She learnt about various textures! Later, she used to plan for school snacks parties with friends. And learnt about the food habits of people of various parts of India. Her interest in the kitchen inspired her to browse for cake recipes in youtube. To our surprise, our angel learnt to bake!

Am I a good parent? So many questions asked at home town! Here is what I barged into: “Crawling, walking, catching, running, riding a bike and learning to swim – all essential activities to learn for a child. But cooking? It might not sound like a core skill but an increasing amount of evidence points to the fact that learning to cook has numerous benefits for children…A study conducted by the Children’s Food Trust (formerly the School Food Trust) discovered that learning “how to cook enhanced children’s recognition of healthier foods and, furthermore, encouraged their desire to eat them.”

Kids should learn to cook. They should feel comfortable enough to pull a few ingredients into a simple meal. Its a basic life skill that will come handy in future too. Here are 5-reasons why to involve kids in cooking:

1. Builds self confidence: When kids help prepare a meal they feel a sense of pride in their creation. They learn how to contribute to a goal. It builds self confidence.

2. Helps nurture fine motor skills and brain development: Stirring, mixing and pouring all help the development of fine motor skills. If you have a pre-schooler or child in the primary, get her/him to sit beside while you make a meal. The process engages all of their senses – seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and  tasting!

3. Encourages healthy eating: Cooking together provides a wonderful opportunity to talk informally with kids about types and origins of food. You can show what comprises a balanced diet and explain the importance of healthy food. Being involved in food preparation, talking about and handling food encourages kids to be more adventurous when it comes to trying new types of food.

4. Kids are much more likely to eat what they make: Cooking creates a sense of ownership. When kids help in the kitchen there are fewer meal-time battles and more willingness to try new food items. It gives you chance to experiment. And even if it does not come out as planned, you can all laugh about it. So many moms share that their kids are fussy eaters. When the child helps prepare the meal, she/he gets engaged in the process. They usually happily eat what they helped prepare.

5. Family bonding: Making a meal together provides a crucial opportunity to bond with your child. It offers you an opportunity to ask how the child’s day has been. Get to know about the child’s friends and peers, likes and dislikes, pressures and influences that the child may be exposed to. The informal setting allows you to have some casual chit-chat, some banter and engage in some playfulness. All these are extremely important to keep the channels of communication smooth as the kids enter their adolescence. And guess what, it’s fun. Like the picture above says – it’s the little memories that last a lifetime.

Cooking is a basic life skill. And every child must be exposed to the process. Initially just as an observer. Gradually as a participant. With time switch roles as you take more of an observer’s role while your child makes some simple dishes. And along with the practical aspects, the 5-reasons why to involve kids in cooking, its also so much fun to do this together.

5-reasons why festivals help in the development of Kids

FESTIVALS OF INDIA

 

I was on my return journey  from my home-town after celebration of Durga pooja festival. In the flight, I was seated next to a young girl and her mother. The kid sat in the middle seat, and myself at the window. I offered the window seat to the girl, but her mother politely declined. She mentioned that her kid was sleepy and won’t really enjoy the view down! She was right. Within minutes, the kid slept off. I observed her. She had mehendi on both hands. She was carrying a small hand fan, that was lying in the seat by her side. I used to see those in the carnivals during festivals. Usually made of palm leaves. After sometime, even I felt sleepy! My next interaction with the family was after 2 hrs when I got up with the landing announcement. Me too was sleep deprived after a week of mega celebration!

Which city do you like the most, Bangalore or Kolkata? I asked the 7 year old. Within secs, she announced “Kolkata”…because her nani, nana, mousi, mama, chacha, chachi, cousins, all live there. She gets to play in a big house. And does not need to go to the “Day-care”! She enjoys trips to the zoo, carnivals, and visiting a nearby shop for chocolates. And also the pandal hopping, different types and sizes of Goddess Durga, the themes, and concepts of the pandals. Why didn’t you get everyone here to Bangalore with you? I asked. To this she said her house is small and will not be able to accommodate all! All this while, she was sitting very close to her mom. I could feel her sadness… I was thinking about joining my work, and the kid about her day care, I guess.

On my way back home from the airport, I was remembering my conversation with the kid. Pandal hopping, chocolate, the hand fan…reminded me of my childhood days. How we kids used to look forward to festivals, the fun, family time, and freedom from studies! Here are my 5-reasons why festivals help in the development of Kids:

1. Family time: During festivals, parents, extended family members, and friends come together and spend quality time together. We get together and forget all our worries, our work burdens, and are left only with joy! We exchange gifts, take meals together, and get involved in various traditional activities.  This experience helps kids to grow as a happy, well-adjusted, and contributing member of society.

2. Bonding with others: As we become more reliant on our smart-phones, and more “connected” through Facebook, we can actually become more disconnected from the real world. There is a concern that people have become lonely in this digital era. Festivals are time when we come out of the virtual world. We gain real life experience in the 4C skills: Collaboration, Communication, Creativity, and Critical thinking. These skills play an important role in “Bonding” with family and friends. Also, festivals help in bonding with people from other religions.

3. Organizational skills: Kids imitate their parents, and learn many things from them. Any festival requires planning, arranging, and execution. By being with parents and extended family during festivals, they gain an experience in organizational skills.  This experience will help them in planning, arranging and executing their  homework, chores, and other tasks  with increasing consistency and efficiency.

4. Empathy: Festivals are the times when we feel for others, and get involved in various community charity activities. As kids learn empathy both from watching us and from experiencing our empathy for them, festivals are the right occasions to inculcate empathy in kids.

5. Awareness about Culture: Awareness about culture is an important aspect of education of kids. It helps them differentiate between right and wrong, pros and cons of various things that come up in life. And ingrain the values associated with cultures.

As I mulled over the incident on the flight, I visualized the moments the child spent with her extended family during the festivals. The joy of being with all family members, the bonding that it brings with various people. How she’d be more aware of the culture and how it would subtly orient her with the values held by her folks. I could see, visualize, all the 5-reasons why festivals help in the development of kids. What are your thoughts on this?