Saturday, December 26, 2009

Parenting Tools: Structure

"You cannot divorce learning from life." The truth of these words, quoted by Virginia Axline in her celebrated book 'Play Therapy' gradually dawned on me in the course of my job as a counselor for young children. The education of our children begins long before they join school. Indeed, life is one long tryst with the acquisition of knowledge, right from our first breath through our last.

Today our entire outlook toward education has taken a turnaround. The focus now is on child-centered education. There is an increasing emphasis on the playway method, on keeping the learning environment as unstructured as possible, on giving children the freedom to learn at their own pace. Unfortunately, in this overarching movement toward letting children be, we often tend to overlook the fact that a total lack of structure can be immensely unnerving to any person, let alone a child. Imagine going about with your life without having the slightest notion of what is going to happen the next minute….or hour…..or day! Scary thought, that! More like walking on the precipice of the terrace of a skyscraper…but a terrace without walls! We all need some structure, don’t we, a framework within which we can function?

Sure the not knowing, the suspense can be exciting; creative; adventurous; enthralling. Letting the child be by himself, the way he wants to be, giving him space and the freedom to work at his own pace can truly result in spurts of creative inspiration; make the child scale new heights, explore the unexplored, and utilize his potentials to the hilt. I don’t deny that. But what we need to realize is that even a bird soaring high into the skies, reaching out for the clouds needs the assurance of a nest to come home to, a place he can call his own and where he can unwind himself. So also for a child, daily on the brink of new discoveries and inspired flights to unknown lands on the wings of imagination, there ought to be the security of the routine, some parameter to measure his creativity against. Surely a certain amount of predictable pattern regarding daily activities won't do the child any harm? A fixed time for eating, sleeping, waking up, studying will not curb his growth. In fact, it will only go on to inculcate self-discipline in the child, which is after all, one of the most precious gift we can extend to our child.

Of course this is not to say that a child has to be pinned down to a set of rigid rules and criteria, beyond which he cannot venture. Definitely not. But what needs to be done is to lay down some ground rules --- clear, precise, and above all, reasonable. The idea is to give the child's creativity a direction, to harness and channelize his energies constructively. And this can be done only at an early age, when the child's mind is impressionable and eager and curious --- wet clay, waiting to be molded. It's an awesome responsibility; one that cannot be taken lightly. For it is a well-documented fact that habits inculcated in childhood stay with the person throughout his entire lifetime. In fact, there is even a popular maxim which says: Old habits die hard. So let us all join hands --- teacher and parent, school and home, and try to find the golden mean, strike the right balance between structure and freedom!

Friday, July 24, 2009

What is My Intelligence

Many of us have heard of the word ‘IQ’ often enough. As you may know, IQ refers to your intelligence quotient, or in other words, gives an indication of how intelligent you are. However, do you also know that there are many different kinds of intelligence, and each of us possesses at least one of those? Not all these intelligences are measured by the IQ tests, which focus more on academics. Let us look at what these types of intelligence are, and try and understand what category you belong to.

The psychologist Howard Gardner initially formulated a list of seven intelligences. The first two are ones that have been typically valued in schools; the next three are usually associated with the arts; and the final two are what Howard Gardner called 'personal intelligences'
Verbal or Linguistic intelligence ("word smart"): One of the heavily emphasized intelligences in the classroom. It has been valued because it matches the way we have taught traditionally: lecture, recitation, textbooks, and board work. It includes the ability to express oneself orally and in writing, as well as the ability to master foreign languages.
Logical-mathematical intelligence ("number/reasoning smart"): This too, is highly valued in school. It is not the intelligence only of Mathematics, but of logic and reasoning. This intelligence allows us to be problem solvers. It seeks structure in the learning environment and thrives on sequenced, orderly lessons.
Spatial intelligence ("picture smart"): Provides for spatial reasoning through the use of charts, graphs, maps, tables, illustrations, art, puzzles, costumes and many other materials. If you are a student who finds it easier to remember concepts that are presented in graphcal or pictorial ways, then chances are that you possess spatial or visual intelligence.
Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence ("body smart"): This is the intelligence of interacting with your physical environment. If you enjoyt physical activities, sports, experimenting in the lab, “doing” thinks rather than reading about them, it indicates that perhaps your kinesthic intelligence is better developed.
Musical intelligence ("music smart"): This is the intelligence of understanding patterns, including songs, poetry, instruments, environmental sounds, and response to rhythms. By picking up the patterns in different situations, learners are able to make sense of their environment and adapt successfully. Those who have a natural “gift” for music, writing poetry, singing, dancing possesses a good musical intelligence.
Interpersonal intelligence ("people smart"): Refers to the intelligence of interacting well with others. Those of you who have the knack of getting along well with others, understainding and perceiving the feelings of others possess more of this.
Intrapersonal intelligence ("self smart"): Is the intelligence of feelings, values and attitudes. The intrapersonal intelligence helps the student connect emotionally with the subject. If you often tend to ask why you need to learn something or try to understand hw something affects you, then you are exercising your intrapersonal intelligence.
Naturalist intelligence ("nature smart"): Is the intelligence of classification. While the naturalist intelligence can include biology, botany, zoology, archaeology and geology, consider the processes that these disciplines utilize: classification, categorization, and hierarchical frameworks.

SO which of the above describes you best? Once you know what is your strength, you will be able to make the best use of your abilities.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Parenting the Gifted Child

Parenting……one of life’s greatest challenges. This challenge becomes many times more complex when the child you are parenting is a gifted one. Finding out that your child is gifted tends to intimidate and humble most parents, and they usually ask themselves, “Will I be able to be a good enough parent to this child who is so special?”

Indeed, this fear and worry is justified enough! For raising a gifted or talented child can be a full time task, and more! Your little bundle of joy will want to know answers to all the mysteries of life, will require less sleep than most peers, will be an outrageous perfectionist, will find school boring and uninteresting, will rarely have close friends who really understand him or her, and will always want to do something. Just thinking about it can leave many parents exhausted. It would seem as though to meet the demands of this child, you need to have the brains of Einstein, the resources of Bill Gates, and the understanding and sensitivity of Gandhiji! Tough ask, that.

But wait! The situation isn’t that hopeless, and all is not lost. You will be relieved to know that gifted students who succeed the most in life or who are the best adjusted are the one who come from healthy, “normal” families. From families where their special talent is nurtured and cherished, from families where there is a lot of communication and sharing of thoughts and ideas, even healthy, dinner table arguments, from families where the child is loved, above all, from families that have faith in them. After all, that’s not too difficult, is it? The important thing is to enjoy your child and his childhood, for after all; these children grow up real fast. And while you are doing that, feed the child’s interests, respond to his changing needs, recognize that this child’s needs will be several steps ahead of other kids his age, and communicate with him. Your child will later thank you for recognizing their uniqueness; treasuring and nurturing it and helping them grow.