Another year and a whole new set of resolutions and promises. How well we know that these last a month or two and we are all back to our old ways. When we speak of our children, we very well know how Instagram is deleted in January and is back in March, how good habits are formed and last till the end of the month, how promises to play online games only on weekends are soon lost in the maze of excuses.
We all have been there and seen it.
Children are able to relate better when they listen to logic and when rules are backed by reasoning (some solid research and data).
Here, I have tried to put together few known but often overlooked, basic guidelines.
1) Discipline: Yes, Discipline never gets old. With changing times, we may change the methods or ways, but it is still the bedrock of success. Discipline is required at every step of the way whether it is for sleeping on time, studying, playing games or eating.
Certain ground rules need to be laid like no screen time two hours before sleeping. In Finland, parents would start dimming the lights, switching off any screens several hours before sleep so when it is time for kids to sleep, they immediately fall asleep. This ensures a good night’s sleep which ensures that the kids are energetic and constructive the next day. Another aspect involves discipline to study everyday not just during exam time and to have some sort of physical activity every day.
Discipline needs commitment and cooperation from all family members. As we say, Lead by Example. You cannot expect your child to study while you are glued to Netflix.
2) Schedule: Creating a schedule makes life so much simpler. Once everything has been accounted for and scheduled, there are fewer chances of messing up. Schedule everything, even play time, only one condition, follow it to the end. To make the schedule work for the children, let them personalize it. After all, it is their schedule; let them make it. They want to play first and then study - perfect but do study. The key is to stick to the schedule. And sure enough they will find that they have time for everything.
This will have two advantages. First, they are not leaving everything for the last day and then scrambling for guides and shortcuts. Second, they are forming a Habit which will last them a lifetime whether they are competing in a cutthroat corporate world or taking care of a family. Also, when they make their schedule, chances are higher that they will follow it.
3) Prioritize: Let’s be real, the syllabus is vast, extra-curricular activities daunting, exam pressure stressful and add to the deadly combination, a dose of peer pressure, social media and unrealistic pressures from parents. It is all very intimidating. As parents and teachers, we should help children prioritize their activities and studies by explaining to our children that the challenging subjects need more time and effort so instead of procrastinating, they should deal with it. Keep aside an hour for the challenging subject every day. Mathematics is a subject which many fear or just love. Whatever place you are in, this requires regular practice. So half an hour every day for someone who is good and an hour for someone who is not so good.
When we prioritize, we need to make sure that Health - Physical, Mental, Emotional is of paramount importance. Health is and should always be the number one priority with all other things following later.
4) Health: We come across children talking about burn-outs, being mentally stressed and experiencing anxiety and nervous breakdowns. Ever heard of a child doing well in class but not performing well in exams? Sounds familiar? Making silly mistakes, not reading the questions carefully, giving up halfway through the exam are all too common.
The emphasis on good health-physical, mental and emotional cannot be stressed upon more. In a world of technology and social media, children are exposed to unrealistic and often unnecessary stuff. The responsibility is ours, as parents and teachers, to understand these challenges and deal with them lovingly and patiently.
Each aspect has to be addressed. Ensure that children have enough physical exercise in the open air, let them play games/sports with friends, let them get dirty, fight, resolve, lose and win. They learn a lot just from playing, whether it is team spirit, resolving issues and a valuable lesson that you cannot win all the time.
Help your children to understand that it is fine not to be good at everything, that it is fine to love English or History, that everyone does not need to be an Engineer or a Doctor, and that each profession is important. Make them believe in themselves, help them be confident and at the same time be mentally strong to be able to accept their flaws.
Emotional health is often either overlooked or stigmatized. Listen to your children by making time for them. Do not trivialize their achievements however small, and do not ridicule their failures. No one is perfect. Listen to them, not just hear them, advise when asked, understand their view point, not just push yours because you are a parent. Just be there for them and let them know that you will support them no matter what!!
5) Goal Setting: When we are able to visualize our Goals, it becomes easier to work towards them. These can be short-term and long-term goals. You can simplify it further by breaking it to mini goals with each mini goal working towards a larger one. Do not forget to applaud their achievements. Each mini goal leads to a short-term goal leading to the ultimate or the final goal. Make sure that children do not lose focus of the Final Goal. Small steps go a long way to achieve the objective.
Teenage is both a beautiful and challenging age. So many changes are taking place - physically and mentally. This is also a time when we need to be sensitive to our children’s needs, their problems and their stress. Grades do matter but let us strive to build an environment where children love doing what they have to do. It no longer becomes a burden but a voluntary and wilful step. Not all children are the same, not all can become doctors. We do need a psychiatrist, an architect, a lawyer and even an entrepreneur. It is about doing anything with honesty, sincerity and passion. Once we achieve this, the Sky's the Limit!!!