This blog is the eleventh of a 12-part series on ‘Parenting is a Journey’. Ignatius Fernandez also blogs at http://thechildisfatheroftheman.blogspot.in/.
Ben Kingsley was to become a doctor, like his father. One day he went to the Shakespeare play, Richard III. Intensely influenced by it, he decided to become an actor. Although his father was disappointed, he relented and encouraged him. Encouragement from his father sparked a great endeavour in Ben, who performed great roles, including the unforgettable Gandhi.
Often our children expect us to encourage them. We could; in many ways.
1) One way is to encourage them to grow in knowledge, not just of subjects they learn, but of the world and its common concerns. In January 2008, The Straits Times, Singapore, reported on a survey among the youth. The objective was to check: a) if they were abreast of current affairs and b) what was their attitude to such knowledge. Question: Who is Obama? Answer: Brother of Osama. Question: Who is Hillary Clinton? Answer: Sister of Bill Clinton. The wrong answers apart (from some of the respondents), the attitude of most shocked the investigators. They did not care.
How knowledgeable are our children? Do they care? They could benefit if we helped them in this area. A good place to coach them is the dining table, where quiz programmes, structured to match their ages, could be conducted. Also, they could prepare short talks for the family. Such exercises would spur them into research on the topic; and learn to think for themselves, instead of toeing the popular line of their peers.
2) The skill to communicate effectively goes at a premium. To give our children that advantage, we could initiate them into the basics. John Powell wrote: “A relationship will be only as good as its communication”. Obviously, what is at stake for our children is the quality of relationships they build at home and school; later, in the workplace and with their partners. In simple terms, effective communication is understanding and being understood. For that, they should first think clearly. Then, learn to convey their clear thoughts in simple, short sentences.
3) To understand what others express, children must learn to listen. Listening with the heart integrates the heart, the head and the hand – the heart to empathise; the head to understand the message and sift fact from fiction; the hand to reach out in understanding and friendship. Listening does not come easy, because most often we pay scant attention to what others express, busy with our own thoughts. But when there is genuine interest in others, we tend to listen to their words and feelings. We also watch body language, which gives added meaning to their words. Real listening is respecting the others person’s point of view and his feelings. When our children acquire this skill they will minimise conflicts and increase goodwill; they will learn to listen like lovers.