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

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Swacch Bharat Manners!

H1N1 virus (swine flu) is back again and it can be prevented  with Manners! Yes, simple everyday manners like- covering your mouth while coughing or sneezing will
help reduce the risk of swine flu and by practicing the most important manners – toilet

Just like there are table manners and phone manners, similarly there are toilet manners!
And it is these manners that we need to cultivate in kids if we want them to be hale,
hearty and healthy all their life.

What are toilet manners?
Simple, everyday acts that will help us reduce the health risk to ourselves and others,
they are-

  1.      Always flush after use.
  2.      Wash your hands after using the toilet, you have touched things like the door, lock, flush handle, so wash hands.
  3.      Teach little boys how to use the western commode without sprinkling and little girls how to use it without squatting on it with their feet  on the seat!
  4.      Washing hands with soap is better than just with water.

Toilet hygiene is very important as
       Many germs are found in toilets.
       The germs grow and spread in dirty toilets causing the spread of diseases.
       Clean toilets prevent this health hazard.

So what is hygiene? Did you know that the term "hygiene" is derived from Hygeia, the
Greek goddess of health, cleanliness, and sanitation?

Teach children a small song that they can hum every time they wash their hands, this
song will help them have fun while washing hands and will remind them about
thoroughly washing for hygiene reasons-

Wash your hands- (tune of row, row, row your boat):

Wash wash wash your hands wash them all around
See that all the germs and dirt are washed all out
Scrub, scrub, scrub your hands, scrub them all around
See that all the germs and dirt and washed all out
Rub, rub, rub the soap, rub it nice and slow
Find, find, find the germs, and find them all fast, fast
Between the fingers, on the thumb, see they do not last.
Rinse, rinse, rinse, your hands
Rinse them out with water
Dry, dry, dry your hands, dry them on a napkin.
Clean, clean clean hands is what you have now,
So remember to always wash your hands
So that everyone can say vow!

So when we help kids do the above we keep our kids safe, hygienic and healthy, so let’s fight all diseases, including swine flu by bringing manners back in fashion.

Watch our special Swacch Bharat video and spread it to more children, parents and schools.

This article is written by Dr. Swati Popat Vats, President Early Childhood Association and Podar Education Network.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

I’m Only a Child

Today is World Nature Conservation Day, and on behalf of Early Childhood Association I would like you all to read the following extract from the speech of a 13 year old appealing to adults to take care of nature …if not for us then for our children.-Dr. Swati Popat Vats, President Early Childhood Association.

At the plenary session of the Earth Summit at Rio Centro in Brazil, Severn Suzuki (age 13) spoke on behalf of the Environmental Children’s Organization. She exhorted the adults there to change their ways, so that the world would be a better place for the future generations.
“I am here to speak on behalf of the starving children around the world whose cries go unheard. I am here to speak for the countless animals dying across this planet because they have nowhere left to go. We cannot afford to be not heard.
I am afraid to go in the sun now because of the holes in the ozone. I am afraid to breathe the air because I don’t know what chemicals are in it.

Did you have to worry about these little things when you were my age? All this is happening before our eyes and yet we act as if we have all the time we want and all the solutions.
I’m only a child and I don’t have all the solutions, but I want you  to realize, neither do you!
You don’t know how to fix the holes in our ozone layer.
You don’t know how to bring salmon back up a dead stream.
You don’t know how to bring back an animal, now extinct.
And you can’t bring back forests that once grew where there is no desert.
If you don’t know how to fix it, please stop breaking it!
At school, even in kindergarten, you teach us to behave in the world. You teach us;
®  not to fight with others,
®  to work things out,
®  to respect others,
®  to clean up our mess,
®  not to hurt other creatures.
®  To share-not be greedy
Then why do you go out and do the things you tell us not to do?
You are deciding what kind of world we will grow up in. Parents should be able to comfort their children by saying ‘everything’s’ going to be alright’, ‘we’re doing the best we can’ and ‘it’s not the end of the world.’
But I don’t think you can say that to us anymore.
Well, what you do makes me cry at night.
You grown ups say you love us. I challenge you, please make your actions reflect your words.”

Strong words indeed by a child, but it echoes what millions of children must be saying to us or will say to us in times to come. Lets make a new beginning by saving our natural resources so that our children will have some when they grow up!

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Bringing up sensitive boys

The blog is written by Dr Swati Popat Vats President Early Childhood Association

Are we Supporting and bringing up  Children in a Gender- Friendly environment especially making our school curriculum ‘boy’ friendly?

 Reading about the increasing instances of teachers resorting to punishments and noticing that in almost all the cases it is boys that are involved we did an indepth research of material to find out if incorrect teaching practices can be leading to misbehavior in boys, could it be that boys need gender specific instructions and interactions? ( Yes they do-

An important aspect that needs to be kept in mind both at home and school  is to ensure that we create a gender-friendly environment  in which boys and girls succeed. Boys don’t need tough environments , they too need sensitive handling. We were inspired from an article on gender friendly classrooms in YOUNG CHILD, the magazine of the naeyc and we thought of conducting our own internal research in our practices-

Two areas where we need to be extremely sensitive is

a.    In the handling of boys and their emotions and behaviour as boys are different than girls so if you have only one method it will harm rather than help either the boys or the girls.

b.    The selection of toys and how you guide kids to use all kinds of toys irrespective of gender bias.

In the handling of boys and their emotions we taught teachers the following-

1.    While every child is unique, boys tend to benefit from high activity, full-body learning. When teachers encourage all children to learn through movement, positive behaviors are the norm and challenging behaviors are less frequent. Teachers can follow these practices-  (King 2004): (Young Child  2013)

·         Follow a schedule that includes very active play (outdoors or indoors) as the first daily activity. Both children and teachers enjoy this time-and some-times work up a sweat. Maybe that is why PT was the first period in schools traditionally and now it is a quiet assemble, could also be one of the reasons of increased behaviour problems in boys.

2.    A gender friendly classroom should also keep the emotional needs of boys in mind and this can be done by (King 2004). (Young Child 2013)

·         Boys respond better to Humour to solve conflicts-  A teacher might kneel down to where two boys are arguing and say with a smile, “ oopps looks like Mr angry is sitting on your shoulder and has stolen your smiles, how about you put your friendly faces on so that Mr angry goes away and then lets discuss how to solve this problem.”

·         Boys get antagonized with threats and embarrassment. Threats end up in  power struggles and get in the way of positive teacher-child relationships.  Instead, offer the child choices. Then, accept whichever choice the child makes. For example, as privately as possible, a teacher might say, “Yash, you choose: Do you want to share the cars or climb on the jungle gym? Which will you choose?” Later, after emotions have cooled, the teacher can follow up by talking with the child about what happened and what he might do differently in the future.

·         Boys also need to talk about their emotions but don’t know how to-  Sometimes when boys appear to be angry, they are masking their true feelings of pain, embarrassment, or fear. Help boys learn a variety of words they can use to label their emotions. Encourage them to share their feelings with teachers and classmates. Acknowledge and accept emotions to let a child know you care. 

·         Boys need affection too but tend to pull away-  Boys need to be cuddled and held. They need kind words and unconditional personal regard. When they fall or when a friend uses unfriendly words, boys need you to respond in a warm, caring, and nurturing manner. Even when a boy is defiant or has hurt another child, let him know he is still a fully accepted and valued member of the class. He just needs to work on a few things. It is up to you to help him.

Incorrect teaching practices can lead to misbehavior in boys, as boys need gender specific instructions and interactions ( Let the change begin with each class so that we can nurture more sensitive boys.

(Due credit for this article goes to Young Child magazine of n.a.e.y.c, visit  )