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An interesting way to understand your children better

Abhay has a lot of questions but his teachers don’t have the patience. His parents don’t have the time. So Abhay spends a lot of time on the internet to find out what he wants. And he really knows a lot.

Abhay keeps hearing about young people who are successful. Not just in business but even in sports and other fields. “Studies alone will not make one successful.” Says Abhay. He also sees how young people have become so famous. His heroes are people like Mark Zuckerberg who changed the world!

Abhay is rather reticent. He does not say much, though he knows a lot. One reason is that his parents constantly keep interrupting him or correcting his facts or grammar. So he just clams up. However with his friends he is the life of the party. They call him Mr Google Of India.

He likes to be seen as a smart guy, who knows what he is talking about. However he is not the argumentative type. He does not suffer fools but does not let his disgust show. He thinks success is more than money and fame. According to success is when you achieve your dream small or big, whatever that may be. His dream is to run a school without teachers.

What upsets him most is that people just don’t spend time to understand his ideas but jump in to criticize him. That really bugs him. Some times when his parents do that, he feels really sad.

He can’t stand arrogant people; he avoids them like the plague.

He is afraid he may not be allowed to follow his passion. (He has often thought about running away from home!).

On days he feels good, he thinks he can persuade his parents to see his point of view.

 If you are Abhay’s parent, will this description help you get into his shoes? Therefore, will it help you communicate better and more effectively with him?

Insight: If you have to get into some one else’s shoes, you have to get out of your own shoes first!

 Back to empathy maps. The best way to create an empathy map is through informal conversations. Let the kid speak, you simply listen. After the conversation, jot down your notes. Have a conversation on one aspect at a time. Like “What do you see around? What do you like about it? What about it irritates you or makes you sad?” etc. Spend an hour at a time. Within a week you can create an empathy map. Father & Mother can create independent maps, and compare notes!


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Sridhar Ramanathan is the Founder of IDEASRS, where he is also a Strategic Innovation Coach. Sridhar’s mission in life is “to help those who want to do things better and differently”. His work involves conducting creative problem solving workshops for clients, and buidling competencies in creativity and innovation. He also blogs at www.ideasrs.com.

5 thoughts on “An interesting way to understand your children better

  1. Kritika Srinivasan

    This is so innovative and interesting Sridhar. And your example with Abhay shows that it can be used to great effect! A couple of questions:

    1. Is it recommended that parents do this exercise or someone else – a person who the child is comfortable with but does not know too well? I ask because I am wondering whether the child’s responses will be coloured by the fact that her parent is asking these question, so she may choose to make the answers ‘acceptable’, or in some cases, ‘provoking.!
    2. Secondly, at what age do you think something like this should be carried out? I would love to try it out with my daughter, but feel she may be too young to articulate some of the things – she is almost 8.

  2. Sridhar

    Hi Kritika,

    1. Parents should carry out the conversation themselves. That would be preferable. If they believe some one else might be able to help the kid open up and speak freely, they can consider an outside person.
    2. I don’t have a definitive answer to the prescribed age. I think you can try this with your 8 year old daughter. I believe it will work. As long as we enjoy the process, have an open mind and don’t worry about what will come up or how to use it. Don’t use it to somehow validate your views, won’t work. Kids are quite sharp and they will sense it.


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