Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Technology and learning in toddlers

Technology and learning in toddlers

“The most important period of life is not the age of university studies but the  period from birth to the age six” Maria Montessori

98% of the brain develops in the first five years. Parents and educators can create brain compatible environments to support this growth. The brain needs stimulation, complimented with brain compatible practices. Routines, rituals, stimulating toys, more choices, child led activities, open ended questions, logic games, toys, outdoor activities and more are many of the brain compatible practices to nurture brain development. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Society of Pediatrics states infants aged 0-2 years should not have any exposure to technology, 3-5 years be restricted to one hour per day, and 6-18 years restricted to 2 hours per day (AAP 2001/13, CPS 2010).
Screens have become a babysitter or the third parent for many parents and families, but this result is definitely worrisome because it means that at the crucial brain development age our children are actually being exposed to unhealthy habits that lead to weak neural structures. What we are dealing with is a different kind of ‘brain drain’. We are draining the brain before it is built so the foundation of life skills, learning, memory, health, language, social skills are all affected and this leads to fractured childhood and children who will grow up to be weak in all areas and aspects required for life and learning.

According to Maria Montessori there are 6 sensitive periods during the early years which are crucial to the all round development of children, in neuro science circles this is what is called the critical period:

  1. Sensitivity to learning through the senses- sensory perception
  2. Sensitivity to language
  3. Sensitivity to order
  4. Sensitivity to small objects- small detail
  5. Sensitivity to walking- movement
  6. Sensitivity to the social aspects of life

I will now detail how each of these critical periods is affected due to exposure to screens and technology.

When very small children get hooked on tablets and smartphones, says Dr. Aric Sigman, an associate fellow of the British Psychological Society and a Fellow of Britain’s Royal Society of Medicine, they can unintentionally cause permanent damage to their still-developing brains. Too much screen time too soon, he says, “is the very thing impeding the development of the abilities that parents are so eager to foster through the tablets. The ability to focus, to concentrate, to lend attention, to sense other people’s attitudes and communicate with them, to build a large vocabulary—all those abilities are harmed.” Between birth and age three, for example, our brains develop quickly and are particularly sensitive to the environment around us.  (sensitivity to learning through sensory perception)
Learning through story telling v/s screen based story telling- Technology exposure too early can impact many cognitive skills in children. For example when a screen is used to tell stories to young toddlers then it feeds images, words, picutures and motion all at the same time, so something like ready- made thinking and imagination. But when an adult tells a story to a toddler the toddler brain would have to process the language, imagine the visuals, and exert some effort to follow the story, no ready-made thinking so this would exercise their cognitive muscles. With screen stories their cognitive muscles remain weak. (sensitivity to small objects- sensitivity to details )
Language development is crucial in toddlers and language is about having a conversation, language development cannot be a one-way process. Due to too much technology exposure, children are not spending enough time with other humans and instead are spending time with machines. Their language development would naturally suffer because of lack of ‘serve and return’ interactions, screens are a one way traffic so naturally children who grow up with screens as companions lack the necessary social skills to take part in conversations, they learn that if you don’t like it- change it with a swipe or a remote! (sensitivity to language)
Children are being pacified with screens so we are bonding them to machines instead of emotions! They naturally become materialistic because it is the screens that calmed them, cajoled them and not the humans. So human touch, empathy are all being reduced. If a child is calmed when upset with a screen then attachment is to the inanimate object and not a human being, as the child grows older the attachment will transfer to other things like drugs instead of seeking human help.
When young babies and children are exposed to screen voices, screen instructions more than real life voices and conversations, they naturally get attached and give more importance to screen world, a living example of it is the recent ‘blue whale’ addiction. It has its roots in childhood screen addiction. Today the screens and the world within are controlling these teenagers.
The brain’s pre frontal cortex or the thinking brain  is the area responsible for  understanding  social interactions. This part of the brain is the seat of empathy, non-verbal communication, logic, and understanding about the world.  And this part of the brain develops during toddler years, and is dependent on human interactions. So if  toddlers spends all the time with technology instead of playing, talking, interacting with humans then this part of the brain , so essential for future relationships , will be dulled, possibly for good. (sensitivity to social interactions)
Have you noticed how young toddlers who are exposed to screens, use the swipe motion even when given a book? well, it may look ‘aww, so cute’ to adults but it is a grave sign of addiction to technology and an ‘internalization’ which leads to ‘instant gratification’- that all my actions will have an immediate effect/response.   This quick response that they get from screens also gives the a quick dose of ‘dopamine’ a brain chemical that is associated with feelings of pleasure- thus the addiction to technology. But in real life when they don’t get ‘quick results’ or ‘cant change things as they want’ or ‘stop looking at what they don’t want to’ then this lack of ‘instant results’ and ‘pleasure chemical’ can lead to many disorders.

 Many parents want to take the screens away from the toddlers but when they do, it results in complete mayhem as toddler breaks into uncontrollable tantrums! And parents who are unable to calm them down, commit the grave error of giving them the screen just to pacify them. It’s important to understand why this happens- two parts of the brain are involved when your child is using a screen:
1. the visual system and 2. The vestibular system
so the visual system has to work overtime to take in all the stimuli that come from technology, in kids the visual system is still at the developing stage and this makes the brain work in ‘overdrive’ to keep up with the oncoming images, sounds etc. this means the brain is working in a hyper mode. 
Now the visual system is closely linked to the vestibular system, have you noticed how a toddler using a screen, can see nothing else and is completely focused on the screen?  The vestibular system also has a significant impact on mood.  So your hyper focused visual system locked up the vestibular system and your child was in a ‘no mood’ zone.
Now when you take away the screen, the visual system that was on hyperactive mode goes from ‘100 to 0’ in a spilt second and because it is released now it releases the vestibular system, so your child goes from ‘no mood’ to ‘too much emotion’ and all hell breaks loose. Your child does not know what to do with so much hyper focus and nothing to focus on and thus the huge tantrum! Because the brain is still in the hyper mode and has nothing to process your child will go berserk trying to calm a hyper brain!
The solution according to experts is to reset the  brain.  Get your child moving. Jump, swing, and run around. The vestibular system is in charge of motion so these kind of   linear acceleration activities will reset the vestibular system and calm the entire body.
Learning in toddlers can be damaged by technology but sadly we cannot keep technology away from our toddlers as they are born in a ‘tech bubble’, so I urge parents and teachers to do the following so that learning and brain growth are not affected in toddlers:
1.     Do not give hand held screens to children below the age of 2 years.  Because the young brain is developing at a fast rate during these years and you are actually ‘killing’ neurons with screen exposure.  If you are unable to do it then put the screen on airplane mode so that the harmful microwaves emanating from them don’t harm your child. Limit to two 15 minute slots per day
2.     Ensure that the content is non-violent and pro social. Maximum discipline issues happen when kids watch violent or abusive content, and since children learn by imitation they mimic these in their behavior.
3.     Be with your child during the screen viewing time and chat with your child during the show. This is because face to face conversations are a must in the early years to build the foundation of social skills, television is a one way process and so children don’t learn important social skills like waiting for the other person to speak.
4.     Absolutely no screen time 3 hours before bedtime.  The excessive blue light emanating from screens affects melatonin production thus reducing sleep in young babies and toddlers and making them cranky and unfocussed all the time. Sleep disruption also affects growth hormone.
5.     Avoid any kind of technology during meal time, meal time is a sensory process that starts with the taste in the mouth and the process of seeing different colours on the plate and feeling the same in the mouth. When children are hooked on a screen during meal time they lose out on the sensory experience that aids the release of digestive juices and may chew less or eat more leading to digestive and obesity issues.
6.     After playing with handheld screens ensure that your child is engaged in some sort of high physical activity like jumping, skipping etc. so that the extremely high focus reached by the brain during screen time is clamed down to avoid tantrums and a feeling of suddenly being bereft of stimulation. Ensure that babies and toddlers get at least 3 hours of physical play /outdoors play time.
7.     Children are great imitators and if they see you addicted to screens then they will follow in your footsteps. When interacting with your child do not have screens as the third party! Can you ask a child to keep away from sugar while you are merrily chomping on a bar of chocolate?
8.     Never use screens as a pacifier to calm them during a tantrum or to make them eat or listen to you or as a baby sitter as this makes them lose out on human emotional bonds and makes them connect to materialistic satisfaction of their emotions.
9.     The first 3 to 6 years are critical for brain development and brain requires hands-on stimuli, face-to-face conversations, and opportunities to think, explore and listen to new words. Ensure that you include story telling, rhymes, non-battery toys, and outdoor time in your child’s daily routine. Check out activities given on

The author, Dr. Swati Popat Vats is the President of Early Childhood Association (  and the Director of Podar Jumbo Kids Preschools and Daycares. She is also a parenting mentor and is the parenting expert on a unique parenting initiative called Born Smart,

Dr.Swati Popat Vats

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Fake news...keeping children safe from it.

Fake news?

All of us at some time have been taken in by fake news! Fake forwards, fake news, fake brands, and fake people!

But our teenagers and young children need our support and guidance to understand how to differentiate fake news from real news, fake ads from real facts. Because it is a world that works on fake facts to sell, create communities and create fear.

I recently conducted a workshop for teenagers and their parents on how to verify if any news that they are reading about or have received is fake or real.  

It all started with a teenager excitedly telling his friends that the Prime Minister follows him on twitter! His friends had two reactions, one group were in awe of him, ‘Wow! He is followed by the Prime Minister’, another group chanted, ‘faketa hai’ (he is fibbing). And soon the two groups were arguing and almost came to blows.

The school decided to hold a workshop for children and their parents after a lot of fake news about schools closed, airports closed, bandh declared etc. during the recent riots in Mumbai. Parents and teachers all fell prey to fake forwards doing their rounds on WhatsApp.

In my workshop with the group of children and parents, I helped them understand how to differentiate between fake and real news by using a verification process. So where all do we encounter or use a verification process? On your phone, on your email, on your social media accounts, there are passwords. What is aadhar card, pan card, passport? These are verification documents. They help only the real user avail of the services so that fake users cannot get access.

So we must always verify any news in three steps:
1.     Who did I get the news from? Is a trusted core group member? So trusted core group members are your parents, siblings, best friends, and teachers.
2.     How did they get the news? From where? Was it a forward?
3.     Why do I believe it is true? Can I check it on other sources or with other people?

In the example of the child who thought that our Prime Minister was following him on Twitter, we asked the child what makes you believe it is the Prime minister? The child said the profile has his photo, his name. Now, lets ‘verify’ further, how many followers does this profile have? Is there any other profile of our Prime Minister? Check that. How many followers? Which has more? Ask an adult or compare both profiles, which one do you think would be the real one? This is a verification process that starts by asking relevant questions. Go to the source before believing the fake news.

Fake news is floated to create mischief, to create unrest, tension, stress. It is for us to ensure that we are smart to question before we forward or believe. In parents and educator whats app groups a common fake news is about a predator with his photo and a message that says “This man kidnaps from schools, watch out for him.” And such messages always have in bold letters- FORWARD TO AS MANY AS POSSIBLE. Or there will be news about someone needing an organ or blood and it would be going viral pan India. Out of our fear or need to help we respond to these only to realize that they were fake news. And then like the proverbial story of the ‘Boy who cried Wolf’, when we do receive a real cry for help we ignore thinking of it as clutter and fake news.

I then showed them photos of branded goods, watches, bags, jackets, phones, with their logos tweaked a wee bit. Now identify which is the original and which is the fake. This activity helped them understand how to scrutinize and verify before accepting something as real.

At this point a young teenage girl stood up and said, “Ma’am, there is a news channel that does a viral sach”, to verify all WhatsApp news. The girl’s comment meant that she and the group have now understood that news received as a forward or not from a trusted source can be fake and needs a verification process before believing the same.

Our young children and adolescents use the net; social media and can get taken in by fake profiles, fake news, and fake people. It is for us to ensure that we teach them how to differentiate between the real and the fake and when to differentiate. It is important for us and our young children to understand that everything that is printed, in a photo or in a video need not be real or correct. Remember Photoshop?

And this is what is most difficult for children to understand, they assume that anything that comes on TV, News, on Google search is real, but well times have changed and with it have sadly changed the moral values of many sites, channels and ads.

Teach verification to children, teach it to yourself too, and don’t forward anything till you are not sure. Don’t be in a hurry to forward, or accept friends on social media. Children learn by imitation so give them good habits to imitate.

I have taken this a step further and included it for our early years program, now each class has a password, a word that is chosen every day by the class and if you want to enter the class then you have to give the password to enter. A fun and early starting point for children to grow up understanding about verification.

Let us create a real world for our children.

Dr.Swati Popat Vats

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Where the heart beats and not the hand…#Iwillnot

Where the heart beats and not the hand…#Iwillnot

Early Childhood Association with First Moms Club and Born Smart recently conducted a survey on ‘spanking’ with 1790 mothers and the results were that 77% mothers spanked their children! The study was published in Times of India and Hindustan Times on 15th February. ( ( )

Our vision behind this survey was to support rather than judge parents. We know that parenting can be both exhausting and exhilarating. It is in the exhausting times that a parent may lose control and resort to hitting, spanking, or pinching their child. We are here to help you  overcome the hand that hits and help you make it the hand that hugs. Parenting is where the ‘heart beats’ and not the ‘hand’.

Its time to practice ‘mindful parenting’.

The common reasons why mothers said that they spanked their children are:
1. Struggling to bring up children alone, as the father rarely participates, so overwhelmed all      the time.
2. Inability to control her anger, irritation, and frustration.
3. Trying to juggle home and career and ensuring that the child is well looked after, or                giving up a career and finding it frustrating.

Some mothers even wrote to us saying- “ I hit my child but it’s for the child’s best interests and its ok for mothers to once in a while hit their child, afterall they love them so much”.I don’t judge mothers who hit their children but I definitely judge mothers who condone it, because there can be no excuse to resorting to violence when it comes to children.

Don’t men who hit their wives use the same excuse?? When did love become violence and when did love give you the sick power to hurt, humiliate and hit? If you really love your children then let your heart beat for your child and not your hand!

Look at what’s happening around you today, young teenagers are killing, hurting others, violence has become a norm, acceptable. Children learn by imitation and when you try to control them with violence then they learn that violence is the solution for everything in life. And when you try to condone that violence by saying that ‘I hit you because I love you’ then you are bringing up ‘wife beaters’ and ‘acid throwers’. Love never, ever hurts or harms! In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “punishment hardens children” and that is exactly what we are seeing today, children who have hardened emotions who kill, hit and harm because empathy is dead. How did it die? It was beaten out of the bodies of our children.

I am not going to be soft or considerate in this blog, as it is time we as women realized that giving excuses of frustration does not give us the right to physically harm our children. A physical harm that scars our children for life. Come on women..mothers…are you saying that you are so weak that you take out the frustrations of life and husbands on your children? You are much stronger than that. You  are the stronger species and that is why you carry the child for 9 months and you are the nurturers and protectors. Don’t give in to momentary weakness and end up hitting, pinching, and slapping your children.

Most mothers who come to me for counseling admit that after hitting their children they feel guilty and then go and hug their child, say sorry and give them gifts. This teaches children that violence is a way of showing love. What kind of husbands and wives will these kids grow up to be? They will be husbands who beat their wives because they ‘love’ them and they will be wives that take that beating and pass it on to their children, because they ‘love their husbands and children.

Its time to ensure that with our smart phones even our parenting styles are getting smarter! Its time for ‘mindful parenting’. Mindfulness is all about realizing when your emotions are racing ahead of you, when your emotions are taking over you, listen to your beating heart and control that hand that beats.

I am not going to enumerate the negative impacts of spanking children because you don’t need a reason to stop hitting your own child/ren, you need control, self control. So tie a red ribbon on the hand that you use to hit your child, this will be a constant reminder that you have to control that hand and the red will remind you that instead of seeing a red mark of a slap on your child it would be so much more loving to see the red mark of a kiss on your child.

If you are finding your child stubborn, irritating, unreasonable then realize that your child was not born that way. Remember that cherubic angel you held in your arms? When did that angel  become ‘Dennis the Menace’? Something you did or did not do as parents led to this transformation in your child, well then there is something that you can do as parents that can once again transform your child, all you need is a mentor, seek one.

Promise yourself that you will not push your child on a ‘merry go round’ of violence, because remember, children who are beaten..beat, it’s as simple as that. Just because you are a mother does not give you the right to beat your child and that is why in most countries it is illegal to hit or harm your child. Its time that ‘Mother India’ also stops hitting their child and stop making excuses like, ‘its just a small phatka’, ‘its for the child’s good’, ‘ it hit because I love my child’, etc.

Become the parent, the mother whose heart beats for her children and not her hand. Go on your Facebook, twitter, instagram and become an enlightened and empowered mother by posting #Iwillnot

Come become part of this campaign to ensure that mothers are known for nurturing and not for harming and that mothers are stronger and can control their hand when it comes to taking care of the heart of their lives…their children. #Iwillnot

Dr. Swati Popat Vats

Monday, 20 November 2017

Learning from Padmavati film row and Miss World win

Learning for educators and parents from Padmavati film row and Miss World win. 

Media has been going berserk on the Padmavati film row, with arguments and shouting matches by those who support the film and those who don’t! And in this frenzy came the news about our girl from Haryana winning the Miss World crown and bringing it back to India after 17 years by replying, ‘mother’, to the end of the pageant question- ‘Which profession should be the highest paid and why?’ And her reply again has those that think it was an apt reply and those that don’t.

Both the news are splashed everywhere, so much so that it is difficult to ignore them and kids, especially youngsters are definitely influenced by both the news. This is where we as educators need to step in and help them analyze, deliberate and decide otherwise they will end up taking sides without learning the most essential skills of logical thinking so required in understanding conflict.  If we really want to change our education system then its time to start discussing contemporary issues with students. Discussing not arguing or judging!

Our children and youth have a question regarding the Padmavati film row- ‘Who is right?’ Many educators and mothers applauded the reply given by Ms. Chillar to clinch the crown, and our students have a question, ‘She did not answer the question, so will we also be applauded if we don’t answer questions in the right context?’

The Padmavati film row is the right opportunity to teach our children and youth the following-
1.    There is never a complete right and wrong in such conflicts, the important part is resolving the conflict to the benefit of both parties and without any harm to a third party.
Discussions are raging about proving each side wrong or each side right but we must realize that in this situation like many such conflicts there is no innocent party or the right and wrong party as both parties have broken rules and have erred. The choice now is either to continue to argue that this party is less guilty or more violent than the other or to ensure that both parties are brought face to face to resolve the conflict. Youth need our help to understand how media also has two sides, the ‘reporting’ and the ‘rehashing’, it is the rehashing that we need to be careful about and train our children to understand that it happens for TRP and once they understand the difference they will be able to make logical choices instead of depending on the ‘brain washing’ of the rehashing!
2.    Creative liberty or liberty of speech is our right but we also have to respect the right of beliefs and sentiments.
We are a proud democratic country and we have the right to speak our mind, our thoughts and practice creativity. But with every right, comes a responsibility and it is this combination that we need to make our children and youth aware about. What they speak and how they speak can hurt someone’s beliefs and sentiments, are they aware of the same? Or are they clueless about the same? Or are they aware but choose to ignore the same? This requires intelligence, sensitivity and empathy, all signs of a good leader. So help students to analyze their decisions, thoughts, and speech on these guidelines before they decide to speak, print or go public.
3.    Tackling upset people by becoming more upset with them does not diffuse the situation. What helps is knowledge of conflict resolution.
Our children need to be given the understanding that Violence can never be condoned and any kind of violence is deplorable. But violence cannot be defused by sarcasm, mocking or shouting. Violence happens when the thinking brain has stopped thinking and is now on flight or fight mode. The more you shout, threaten or mock such a brain it will resort to more violence as it is on ‘shut down mode’. The only way to calm violence is to bring in conflict resolution. This needs to be practiced at the micro level by teachers in schools and parents at home by not resorting to violence when tackling an angry child or teenager or by shouting and mocking their behavior. This will only ignite and incite them to do more bad behavior. If children see adults handling a volatile situation in a clam manner and succeeding in diffusing the same then they will grow up learning conflict resolution skills that will go a long way in ensuring that they become law abiding citizens that contribute to a peaceful society and world. Our children will face violence in the form of bullies and bullies cannot be done away with more bullying! Conflict resolution is a 21st century life skill that we need to ingrain and pass on to our youth.

The Miss World win is the perfect opportunity to help young impressionable minds understand the following:
1.    Ms. Chillar is a young budding medical student, so she is a perfect example of beauty and brains. In today’s world it is important to understand the meaning of beauty is not just in being born with great looks but making yourself beautiful with exercise, a good food plan and grooming. All that is possible for everyone. And the earlier we make them aware of the same is better. Healthy food should not be confused with dieting and exercise should not become exercise binging! Grooming is all about health and hygiene.
2.    So what is a good figure? Will be a common topic of discussion in young boys and girls, well, its time to help them understand that a good figure is one that makes you feel comfortable and healthy.  Going on life threatening diets or severe gym plans is only a temporary and dangerous solution.
3.    Even in a beauty pageant the clincher is always the question and answer round, so you may win all the beauty and fashion rounds but it is your presence of mind, confidence and smartness that ultimately gets you the crown or keeps it at arms length from you. This helps children understand that nothing in life is dependent on just good looks!
But a teenager asked me the most important queries on the question Ms. Chillar was asked and the reply she gave, the query,  ‘Was her reply correct?’, to which I said well she did not answer the question but replied to it in a different context. Because after the entire question posed was, ‘Which profession should be paid the highest salary and why?’ and the meaning of the word profession is  - a paid occupation, especially one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification. So yes her reply, ‘Mother’ is not the apt reply to the question but she smartly gave it a different context and thus won the heart of the jury.

And now the teenager asked me a second question- ‘So should not schools also allow us to answer questions in a different context? Why do they insist on having a right answer…only one answer?’

And this is what I leave to all educators and parents to think about, especially those that are applauding Ms. Chillar’s reply, why cant we give our students the same freedom when it comes to replying to questions that can have more than one context?

Its time we used contemporary everyday affairs to help us teach our students and children so that they are better equipped to face the world and its trails and tribulations on their own with confidence, zeal, determination and logic

Dr.Swati Popat Vats

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

An 11th standard boy kills a young boy… Schooling or parenting

An 11th standard boy kills a young boy… Schooling or parenting. Who is to blame?

In the gruesome murder of the young primary school boy in a Gurgaon school, the CBI has now found that it was not the school conductor that killed the boy but an 11th Standard boy of the same school! Reason? He wanted to postpone the exams and the parent- teacher meeting!

When the child was murdered it was schools that bore the brunt of anger, mistrust from parents. Now if this new  truth is out, whom do we blame? The parents? The school? Or both?

Lets remember it takes a village to raise a child.   Parenting and education should be equally responsible for how our children turn out to be as adolescents and future adults. But sadly today parents and schools are each at opposing ends with mistrust between them. Both should ideally work together, hand in hand to ensure the safety, security, and holistic development of each and every child.

What has led to this huge rift between two of the most important pillars in a child’s life? Somewhere parents are not taking their role as parents seriously and expect the school to do parenting and education and somewhere the schools are not educating parents about their role and are unable to support both children and parents in understanding challenging behavior or lack of performance. Parent teacher meetings have become a farce and a bane for children as both the teachers and parents blame them and no one has any solution to support them.

Parents and schools should be focused on inculcating essential socio-emotional life skills like sympathy, empathy, honesty, conscience but are busy teaching and focusing on academic performance….academic performance at any cost…

This is where the root cause of the problem ailing our youngsters lies, they have no moral compass, no sensitivity towards others. This murder is not the only case that has happened in recent years, Two boys kill their grandmother for her cash and jewelry, as they had to pay some betting debts. A young boy plots and kidnaps his cousin, who is then killed for ransom money to fulfill gambling debts. Both these are real life cases- recent cases that have shocked everyone.  There are hundreds of such cases where young adolescent boys from so called ‘safe happy, well educated and well to do families’ are committing such heinous crimes.

My question, didn’t the parents know their kids? Were they unable to see this coming? Were they never aware of such deadly ideologies lurking in their kid’s personalities? All these kids started as innocent young boys, so then when did they cross over? Why did not their parents notice it in their talks, discussions, or behavior? It went unnoticed and then it was too late.

Most Parents and schools rarely talk to kids - they only lecture them! Most  parents and schools rarely discuss, instead only question them. Most parents and schools  try to change behaviors of kids only by threats, bargaining and bartering. Such kids behave well in front of their parents, but are completely opposite in their absence.

Moral values, morality, ethics, and truth are qualities that are not nurtured in our kids today. Parents focus more on excelling and succeeding, at any cost and buy their kids ‘co-operation’ with materialistic bribes. Thereby, nudging their kids towards a lifestyle and mindset that focuses on material gains at any cost.

Motivation is extrinsic, behavior is extrinsically controlled, and nothing is intrinsic any more in our kids. They have lost their ‘moral compass’ usually called the conscience because it was never awakened, they never saw it being used, talked about, or practiced.

Parents must learn from Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket. Pinocchio had a quirk, every time he would tell a lie - his nose would grow longer. Learning from Pinocchio, parents must observe their kids from childhood – only then they would know exactly when their child is lying, hiding things from them, or just being secretive or evasive. Some kids fidget, some don’t look you in the eyes, some start clutching their hands and some lose appetite when they are breaking a rule. It’s easy to spot if you know your child and this is important for parents because just teaching about rules is not the goal. Ensuring that your child wants to follow the rules and equipping your child with ‘something’ that would make your child aware when he is breaking the rules. This ‘something’ for Pinocchio was Jiminy Cricket, his conscience. So, similarly till your child develops his conscience you will have to be his Jiminy Cricket and guide your child. Be an alert parent, be there as a guide and mentor not a police officer.

Being your child’s Jiminy Cricket, teach your child how to think through problems and how to select the right from the wrong even when the wrong looks right at that moment. Teach your child decision making under stress. Teach your child how to counteract temptation, bullies and more.   Be open to your child asking questions. To know what your child thinks, play ‘what if’ games with your child and you will know whether your child is a pessimist, an optimist, or a dreamer, who will get carried away.

In the above cited crimes had the boys thought through their actions, they would have realized that committing the crime was not the easy way out. Instead confessing to their parents would have been the better path to take. In their wrong decision and choice they have now landed in jail. So when you read about such crimes, talk to your kids and discuss with them, ‘where do they think the boys were wrong’, ‘what would you have done differently if you were in their place’.    

It’s time to give kids a healthy upbringing, it’s time to discuss with our teenagers  why the murder happened, and it’s time to understand from teenagers why they think the murder happened. This may help us understand the mental health of our kids and help us shape them better. It’s time to give good role models to kids. It’s time to understand the temperaments of our kids and help shape and guide them accordingly. There is a lot that parents and teachers can learn from the work of Rudolf Steiner (German Philosopher and Educationist and founder of Waldorf schools) and if one refers to what Rudolf Steiner says, we can understand that shaping our kids mental health is in our hands, we can choose to nudge them to success or push them over the brink to destruction, both self and that of others.
Steiner  says that children have different temperaments and teachers and parents should know these otherwise there are chances that we as adults would drive them to extreme behavior as a result of mismanagement of their temperaments. The  four temperaments are-

             1. Melancholic:
  • Is a temperament  whose attention and interest is not easily aroused, though once attention is aroused they are strongly persevering. 
  • Melancholic children  require sympathy, empathy, and respect from adults. 
  • When melancholic children are not nurtured as per their temperament needs then chances are that these kids will display extreme depression and the very extreme forms of behavior noticed in this temperament is  delusions and melancholia.

2           2. Phlegmatic:
  • Is a temperament whose attention and interest is least easily aroused, and even when attention is aroused they are least strongly persevering.
  • These kids require constant interaction with adults. 
  • When phlegmatic children are not nurtured as per their temperament needs then chances are that these kids will display extreme disinterest and the very extreme forms of behavior noticed in this temperament are   imbecility and idiocy.    
  1. Choleric:
  • Is a temperament  whose attention and interest is most easily aroused, and these kids are most strongly persevering.
  • These children require firm authority and challenges
  • When choleric children are not nurtured as per their temperament needs then chances are that these kids will display uncontrollable temper and  the very extreme forms of behavior noticed in this temperament are fanaticism and mania.    
  1. Sanguine:
  • Is a temperament  whose attention and interest is  easily aroused, though they are not able to sustain it as they have little strength of perseverance.
  • To handle them we need to discover their interests and then occupy them with it/through i.
  • When sanguine  children are not nurtured as per their temperament needs then chances are that these kids will display character instability and the very extreme forms of behavior noticed in this temperament are  lunacy and insanity.·             
The above is just one example of understanding that temperaments in children can be different and will require different handling. We need to change the face of parenting and teaching in this country, we need to educate the adults about life skills and how to inculcate them in children and to do that we need to understand children, their minds, their moods and their mindsets. And if required to seek professional help from mental health experts immediately.

To stop a repeat of such incidents from happening we need to teach kids to empathize, think, and learn to use logic with emotions and to do all that we need to first learn about empathy, sympathy, love and logic.

Every child has beauty and a beast in its personality. It is up to us as parents whether to use the beast in us and try to get the beauty in them and fail or alternatively, use the beauty of our parenting techniques and tame the beast in our kid’s personality and bring out the beauty. 

Dr.Swati Popat Vats