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Posts Tagged ‘personality development’

A common question that adults ask children is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I remember posing that question to a bunch of kindergarten students once. The answers were pretty interesting. A girl said she wanted to be a princess; another five-year old said he wanted to be a dad and yet another child said she wanted to be a fairy when she grew up!

This shows that children are not ready for those future-related questions and for that type of thinking. All they see and know is their present world. The things they hear about in stories, the people they see in real life – are their models, their heroes. They think about what they want to be according to what they see. When a child says, “Look Mommy, look Daddy – I am so big!”, we often fail to see their excitement about the present and instead start thinking about how big they will be in the future and what they will do.

Children are little explorers who are not yet stuck into their futures and who are not aware of their ambitions in life. They are very open-minded. Anything is possible for them. We have no right to limit our children’s thinking with our own desires, standards and ambitions.

Do you know that parents have been known to decide what their children will be not only when the children are starting to think about university, but also when they are in middle school, primary school or even in play-school?

In fact, it will probably not come as a surprise that children’s future is decided by their parents even before they are born and in certain cases, even before they are conceived! It is heart-breaking to imagine what a tough life such a child will live – the pressures he will go through, the arguments he will have regarding his dreams, the suppression of his passion for his interests, and in the ultimate analysis – a   puppet-like life he would be likely to live.

In all of our plans, we forget that a child is an individual, living in the present. What he will be doing in the future may not be in our hands. We can only ‘fix’ the present and that will automatically take care of the future. Stacia Tuscher has said, “We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today.”

Let us not forget what our child is today. Let us remember to give him the love and attention he rightly deserves; the respect he needs for being an individual with his unique personality; and the encouragement he needs from us. We, the parents, are the ones help the child to see his strengths and to enhance them – right now, in the present, not in the future!

~ Nivedita Shori

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Schools are places where most children spend a large part of their life. Traditionally, schools focus on education, often without realizing that education is not just academic. It covers all-round development. Education turns students into thinkers. A question worth asking is: Do schools foster child development by encouraging creative thinking?

The following video by Sir Ken Robinson gives a viewpoint on whether schools are doing enough to encourage creative thinking:

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Children who could be truly exceptional end up living mediocre lives during school and when they grow up or worse still, even struggle to prove themselves. This happens because we are often unable to go beyond academic scores and label childrens’ intelligence on the basis of their grades. However, intelligence is not just limited to that – one child could be great at poetry, the other at Math, one at art, the other at verbal communication and so on. These are all absolutely wonderful intelligences to have, if harnessed in the right way. Here’s a Youtube video on multiple Intelligences:

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In a world that is being increasingly influenced by solitary lifestyles and indifferent approaches, the need for cooperative learning cannot be emphasized enough. Cooperative learning is not a new approach to learning. It has been highlighted as an important factor in child development since at least the early 1900s. But with its practice, more and more evidence has been gathered that demonstrates the importance of cooperative learning.

What cooperative learning inside a classroom looks like:

–          Children try to solve problems in pairs or small groups of three or four, rather than individually.

–          Children care for each other and help each other without being asked to. The teacher has an important role to play in setting up this community of caring learners.

–          Every child gets an opportunity to participate in the learning by contributing ideas within their groups.

–          Each person has their own share to fulfill in the assigned task and there is a system for tracking individual performance.

–          The rewards or consequences are given out to the team as opposed to individuals. However, each person of the group is accountable as they are graded individually.

–          Students engage in academic conversations with one another. They could either agree with their group members or disagree but have to maintain a respectful decorum.

–          Children, under the direction of the teacher, carry out several different ways of group input. For example, there could be sharing of ideas on one large piece of paper as a group; students could be given the chance pair up to discuss the response to a question before answering it out loud; after independent working time, there could be the opportunity to add to others’ work; students could become experts of a topic and then go around to other groups and share their learning with them.

Benefits of Cooperative Learning:

–          Working together helps students create bonds with their peers that are not possible with individual learning.

–          Children learn to share their successes and divide their problems.

–          It teaches them communication skills that are an essential factor for personality development.

–          Students learn responsibility as they are required to contribute their own bit towards the success of the group.

–          They learn how to listen. It is surprising how even some of the best communicators lack appropriate listening skills. Cooperative learning teaches these skills at an early age.

–          Children learn how to get along with others. In their life to come, they will often come across people that they don’t necessarily agree with but still have to get along with them.

–          This process teaches them the values of sensitivity, trust and kindness.

–          They are able to develop deeper thinking skills. It helps them see the perspective of others and to analyze their own. They also understand how to value others’ opinions and to see that they are not always correct.

–          Cooperative learning takes the classroom experience to a higher level for students. They start to take ownership of their learning, under the guidance of the teacher.

The world is a highly social place. If we don’t help children acquire the necessary social skills at the right age, then we cannot really expect them to be able to make the appropriate social adjustments in life later on. Of course there are a few things that are best suitable for individualized learning only, yet effective classrooms try to incorporate cooperative learning as much as possible. This method of learning is the stepping stone for a congenial society where individuals think beyond themselves. Cooperative learning, although a simple concept, yields great results.

~ Nivedita Shori

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Bullying is the act of intimidating or threatening a weaker person in order to prove one’s power or to make them do something. It is an unfortunate practice that takes its roots right from childhood. In the last few days I was involved in an in-depth research about bullying at schools and in play-fields. It gave me the opportunity to do an extensive study on this issue using theories from experts, interviews with children, teachers and parents. The results have been eye-opening. I will try to highlight some of the most important information which can be helpful for us to save our children from either being bullied or from being bullies.

Bullying has many forms. It can be physical (punching, poking, strangling), verbal (using words to generate inferiority in others), and psychological/emotional (ignoring, isolation, rejecting or terrorising). The other emerging type of bullying which is spreading like an epidemic these days is ‘cyber-bullying’. This includes sending hatred messages over the internet and emails including prejudice, racism, sexism and other comments to distort self-esteem.

Bullying is an intended intangible crime mostly performed by minors on minors and can be extremely dreadful. Unfortunately there are no strict laws and no formal regulations from the school boards and governments. The best we can do is to identify it at the earliest and to take a strong and well-planned action to nip this evil in its bud.

Bullying is not a one-time event. It always happens repetitively which makes this practice more severe and fatal. Children who lack social skills and who have no friends, who are physically weak or insecure and emotional can be easily traced by bullies who are like sharks smelling blood in the water.

There are some tips for parents which can help them to figure out if their child is a victim of bullying:

–          Are there some occasions when your child could not explain to you the reason for his bruises, scratches or torn clothes?

–          Does your child often complain of stomach-aches and headaches, especially when it is time to go to school?

–          Is your communication decreasing with your child? Do you often find him or her isolated and disinterested in activities?

–          Are your children frequently losing their stuff at school? For example, toys, stationery items, lunchboxes and even cell-phones?

–          Is your child’s performance deteriorating without any visible and understandable reason to you?

–          Are they becoming more temperamental? Do you find frequent crests and troughs in their behaviour?

–          Are they never being invited at birthday parties and other gatherings by their fellow students?

The above mentioned signs may indicate that they are going through something rough at school or in the playfield, which is worth observing. There are some very simple questions you can ask your child which can help you dig deeper to see if they are going through any physical or emotional problem at school:

–          Do you like your school? Why or why not?

–          How many friends do you have? Do you like your friends? Why or why not?

–          Who is your best friend? And why?

–          What kind of activities you perform at school?

Always try to communicate with your child about the school activities, about their involvement and about their interests and concerns. Build and improve your child’s self-confidence. Some people enrol their child in more aggressive sports and self-defence courses. Bullying cannot be stopped by responding in the same manner as the bully. The best method is to equip your child in such a manner that he is better able to handle those who bully. To avoid being bullied, here are some things children should know:

  • Be friendly but try not to be too noticeable when you know a bully is around.
  • Be confident. Think positively about yourself. If your self-esteem is low and a bully thinks he can dominate you, he probably will.
  • Be polite but firm. Giving these signals right in the beginning usually prevents a bully from coming at you.
  • Revenge is not the answer. The bully’s behaviour will only worsen. Ignore the person who is trying to hurt you.
  • Take control of your feelings. Sometimes writing your feelings down or talking to an adult helps.

The Other Side:

It is also important to know about the bully. There can be chances that your child himself or herself is a bully. Historically, only boys were considered to be bullies. But these days, girls cannot be neglected as potential bullies. Rather, in issues of verbal and emotional bullying, girls are more active and hurtful than boys. Never underestimate the negative impacts of bullying and never take it lightly considering it to be just a fun activity.

Statistics are suggesting that more than fifty percent of children who bullied others at school end up getting involved in a criminal offence at least once in their lifetime. Make it very clear to your child that you will not tolerate any kind of bullying behaviour and also discuss with him the negative impacts of bullying on the victims he will target.

Being parents, we should be quite careful about the behaviour and personality of our children. It is very important to monitor them closely, although with minimal interference. Once grown up, they may forget some specific incidents, but they will not forget their own or others’ behaviour. The impact of that behaviour in their childhood will largely influence their personality and well-being as adults.

~ Prashant Shori

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The story of what I gained and what I lost

Every child is unique. Each person has a strength that may not necessarily be the same as others. For children going through peer pressure, this can sometimes be hard to see. In order to be accepted within their friend circle, children want to be like their friends. Being different means rejection for them!

I passed through such a phase myself. I was exceptionally bright at academics, due to a strong work ethic set by my mother since a very early age. However, I was not a physically strong child. I also did not have any siblings until I was nine years old, when I was blessed with a brother. Due to that, my formative years were spent mostly reading or engaging in some kind of intellectual activity. During the evening, when a couple of my friends came over, we usually played some creative game that had to do less with physical exercise and more with mental activity. And I loved it.

At school, it was a different story though. My peer group was athletic and very “street-smart”, so to speak. They seemed to know a lot of social ways whereas I was a star only in the classroom. When it came to playground and other social activities, no matter how much I tried to “be like them”, I was still the odd person out. I was the butt of jokes and everyone seemed to be united in making fun of me. When dividing teams, I was always the unwanted one as I didn’t really bring much athletic ability.

It was an intense and frustrating struggle to cope with this. At the age when friendships and socialization mean a lot to a child, having no real friends was not a pleasant situation. On the outside, I kept showing a strong interest in my friends, but on the inside, I started being lonesome.

But just like every individual makes adaptations for survival, I started to make mine. I started to build a shell around me. Being good only at academics started being enough for me. My hobbies were reading and writing. I stopped trying to be good at anything else, although I secretly did wish that I was, when I looked at my classmates. Since it was embarrassing for me to play with others as I had no skills to show off, I started avoiding my friends. Whenever someone else told me that they needed help with something and came to talk to me, I felt very uncomfortable and apprehensive as I anticipated ridicule.

Although I managed to stay clear of a lot of embarrassing situations, yet this lonesome lifestyle had a toll on my personality. I was not able to shape and sharpen my social skills. I went into isolation when any guests arrived and felt really uncomfortable getting along with others. I did not ask for help when it would have been helpful; I did not get a chance to explore the multi-faceted nature of people; and I even fantasized schemes against others when my brain was idle, as I had been suffering at the hands of others. Of course, these schemes never came to fruition (thankfully in retrospection) as I did not step out of my own shell to carry those plans out.

Through my initial experience, I was not able to open myself up for a lot of successes that could have been mine. Adolescence struck soon enough and it became even harder to deal with the changing hormones as well as changing schools and friends. I was apprehensive of approaching and befriending people for the fear that it would only lead to me being bullied and hurt. My overall performance started to decline in pre-University years because I couldn’t balance the intense course work as well as my emotional tension that came with the desire to still be a part of the peer circle.

Fortunately for me, by the time I entered University, I had found a way to be at peace with myself. I started discovering my own strengths as a result of being a “loner” for a long time. Putting those strengths to use, I turned into a more mature person with goals for myself and strong personal values and morals. This helped me re-achieve my academic brilliance with the understanding that each individual’s strength is different.

These skills have stayed with me since then. But I do feel sad for some irreversible losses of my personality. I still don’t feel socially confident and always feel apprehensive of expressing myself for the fear of being ridiculed. If someone had seen through my childhood issues at the time they were occurring, I might have been a stronger person today.

In case of children who go through such issues, family members probably consider the child’s social incompetence as a flaw in the child itself instead of an external issue that can be resolved with timely intervention. They lecture and discipline the child and feel frustrated on receiving no positive response. I was often questioned as to why I did not like to dance at family gatherings and why I preferred being a ‘bookworm’, and I received several ‘guidance sessions’ with family members to learn the ‘wisdom of the world’, but what I needed at that point was someone who could  read the hidden messages being sent out by my actions.

A good option might be to dwell deeper on what embarrasses the child, what gives him pleasure and what are his fears? The child’s indifferent behaviour could be a survival mechanism used for coping with a hostile world. In that case, your child needs help and parents are then the most important characters in shaping the journey that would determine the child’s life.

Nivedita Shori

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Children need the company of people who will
help to bring out the best in them. The way to do
this is not through criticism. In fact, more than
critics, children need role models. They need to see
a ‘friend’ in their parents, guardians and teachers.

Children can be moulded into anything at a
tender age. The environment around them needs
to be conducive to nourish their personality and
foster their overall development. Physical, mental
and spiritual – all aspects need to be focused on.
Most importantly, a balance needs to be
maintained.

To ensure closeness and healthy relationships,
we do not have to make our children dependent
on us. Instead, we have to provide opportunities
for them to get their wings and help them fly to
reach the stars!

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