Mrs. Nirmala Prabhu is an educator with over twenty years of experience and various accolades to her credit for her innovativeapproach to teaching and skill development in students. She has recently set up her own entrepreneurial venture, FAME (Focus Achieve Master Excel) Education, which provides niche, creative services to students, teachers and even parents to enhance the experience of imparting and receiving education. In our first interview for the blog, we spoke to Mrs. Prabhu about her thoughts on modern parenting, holistic education for children, the omnipresence of technology in our lives and other aspects of the modern-day equation between parents and children.
To start off, what are the tenets of conscious parenting?
“Firstly, parents must realize that every child is unique and has his or her own skills and gifts, as well as their own style of learning. While certain schools do focus on assessing multiple intelligence in their students, the practice is not widespread as yet. If the parents and teachers of a child are aware of his or her learning style, it would make the process of educating that child much more effective.
Secondly, while recognizing and understanding the learning style of the child and his skills, parents must not push the child to pursue conventional career goals or paths. Instead, they should focus on honing their child’s gifts and allow him or her to make a decision on what they would like to do in their life. In India, we tend to focus too much on pushing our children into engineering, or medicine etc., without really analyzing whether they are actually suited to those professions. This could later prove to be a waste of time and potential, as your child may suffer a burnout or end up feeling unfulfilled in his or her professional life as an adult.
Thirdly, parents must realize that just as they are individuals in their own right, as are their children. While it is their responsibility to focus on the well-being and welfare of their child in every way. I find that many parents end up waiting for hand-and-foot on their children, thereby preventing them from growing into mature, independent individuals capable of handling the world and the challenges it throws at them. I often tell the parents I have met through seminars or workshops that they need to take a step back and just let their child be and that despite being parents, they need to have a life of their own which is not connected to the child. Further, parents need to make their child understand that they will not be available all the time for him or her, as this hinders the child’s development and makes him or her overly dependent on the parents.
Fourthly, I often caution parents against being too effusive with praise or too harsh with criticism with their children. Balance is key in every aspect of parenting to help one’s child develop a well-balanced personality. Also, making negative statements or comparisons as a means of disciplining children must be avoided, as it does not do much to help the children see the error of their ways. Instead, I advise parents to tell their children about the positive change they would like to see in them, as opposed to taking a critical approach to point out their flaws.”
What is the approach that parents should take with respect to disciplining their children?
“I feel that parents should let a child be a child. I don’t think that children should be burdened with multiple classes, whether academic or extracurricular in nature. As I told you earlier, I believe that children respond better to positive statements than negative ones, in terms of being instructed about what areas they should improve on at the academic and personal front. However, I would dissuade parents from attempting to discipline their child through a system of ‘rewards’ wherein the child receives benefits in terms of material gifts or perks for good behavior. The reason I say this is because when a child is raised on the basis of such a system, he or she will eventually become accustomed to the idea of being rewarded every time they do or don’t do something that would otherwise have been a part of ordinary expectations from them in terms of self-regulation and decorum. It would, therefore, be harmful to children to grow up with such a sense of entitlement, not to mention a rude shock to them when they have to face the real world as they get older.
My husband and I were honest with our children about our financial situation from time-to-time to make them understand the value of money and the struggle behind earning enough to support a family. We believed that keeping them informed about the expenses in the household and how we planned the same would inculcate the value of money in our children, which it did. In addition to that, it made them realize the effort that we were putting in as parents as an investment in their future.
I would also caution parents against using technology excessively in front of their children, as it leaves an impression on the latter that dependency on technology in everyday life is acceptable as a routine. Ensure that your children read books and that their use of technology is monitored.”
What are some of the important lessons that you have learnt from your experience as a parent and teacher from your children and students about parenting?
“One of the lessons or trends that I have observed is that parents strive to be termed as being ‘lenient’ these days, even at the risk of causing harm to their healthy development of their child. Education of any kind, whether at home or at school, is ultimately a service and asset that parents and teachers provide to their children or students to prepare them to face the real world and its challenges. I think that it is especially important to set mutual expectations between parents and children, as this enables children to learn by example from parents and understand the rationale behind their parents’ insistence on the fulfillment of their expectations from the children.”
In your opinion, how can parents find a balance between allowing their children to use technology for education and for entertainment?
“I think moderation is key in this case, as technology is ubiquitous these days. Parents must monitor their child’s access and exposure to technology, and ensure that a majority of their free time is spent in doing something stimulating like reading books, or playing games outdoors or doing puzzles or learning something new. Children are prone to addiction to the screen upon excessive exposure to it; this is the manner in which the media is packaged to young ones and it is intended to have that effect on them. Therefore, it is the responsibility of parents to ensure that the right balance is struck with respect to the usage of technology by their children. As I said earlier, limiting their own usage of technology in the presence of their children would be a step forward in this direction by parents.”
Could you recommend some methods or exercises for stimulating creative and lateral thinking in children?
“Playing games which are creative in nature and which involve quick thinking, doing puzzles and brain-teasers, encouraging your child to utilize their imagination and develop innovative thinking, and providing the child with opportunities to hone their gifts or talents are some ways of stimulating creative and lateral thinking in children. Imagination is a crucial component of developing multiple intelligence in children and firing up their thinking abilities.”
With respect to self-esteem issues, in your opinion, what can parents do to ensure that their children develop self-confidence in the right measure?
“I think children ultimately look for acceptance and approval from their family. So it is important for parents to assure their child about the fact that he or she is unconditionally loved and accepted irrespective of their so-called failings. Also, as I had mentioned earlier, it is important to maintain a balance between providing positive encouragement to your child while not giving him or her a false sense of self-importance.”
How can parents teach values like kindness, compassion, sacrifice, fairness and empathy to children at an early age?
“In my opinion, value education begins at home. Children are most likely to emulate the people they look up to and observe on a daily basis, such as their parents. So observing their parents displaying virtues like kindness, compassion, fairness etc., through their words and deeds would be a great way for children to follow their lead. I encourage parents to have conversations with their children on a daily basis to understand how their day went. what they learned from school, how their interactions with fellow students and teachers were, etc., to have a better perspective on the kind of individual their child is shaping into.”
On a lighter note, what book or movie would you recommend for young children from your personal experience?
“Among movies, my personal favorite is ‘The Sound of Music’. Among books, it is hard to recommend anyone book as my family and I enjoy reading immensely and have had great times reading books together. What I will say instead is that parents should encourage their children to read books as often as possible across various genres, while ensuring that they are age-appropriate in terms of themes and language.”
As a teacher, you have had ample experience in dealing with children of various dispositions and aptitudes. How can parents teach their children discipline or self-regulation and self-reliance without having to get too strict or overbearing?
“My advice is that parents should follow a system of ‘consequences’ and not ‘rewards’. What I mean by that is the children should be made to understand the value of their choices or decisions as well as the consequences of the same. Making them aware of the pros and cons of their stance will enable them to make better decisions
What is the best advice someone has given you about parenting or the best lesson you have learned from your personal experience?
“From my personal experience, I feel that the key is to strike a balance between being a disciplinarian and a mentor while providing unconditional love and support. The aim is to raise a conscientious, independent, productive and content human being and parents obviously play a pivotal role in shaping their children in that mould. However, in the process, parents should ensure that their child is allowed to be a child and enjoy all aspects of childhood. Also, parenting, which is ultimately about raising your child as best as possible on a trial-and-error basis does not imply that parents should focus solely on their child’s welfare and happiness. It is equally important for parents to have independent lives of their own as I stated earlier.”
On that pragmatic note, we signed off our interview with Mrs. Nirmala Prabhu following a conversation with many valuable insights about parenting and education. We hope that you find her advice and tips useful and look forward to hearing your thoughts and personal experiences with parenting today.