Make Quality Time with your Child Count

Juggling Career/familyIn today’s busy world, work, household chores and social activities all put a strain on your time with your child. But as you well know, it’s imperative that you spend quality time together. It helps strengthen the bond between parent and child, and lets your child know you can be trusted and counted on. Children who spend quality time with their parents often do better in school, and excel in extracurricular activities, hobbies or sports. And though it can be ‘scheduled’ to a degree, it’s something that happens when you least expect it. Therefore it’s important that you do spend as much time as possible with your child in a relaxed atmosphere and do things together that you both enjoy.

But you’re asking yourself, “Where am I going to find the time? My schedule’s crazy enough as it is!” Well, for something as important as your child, you need to start digging around in that crazy schedule and find the time. Prioritizing is the key.

Here’s some helpful suggestions on how to make the most of your time and find quality time where you least expect it.

choresLook at your household chore list and decide which ones can be left undone or be done imperfectly in order to make more family time. You might also want to consider leaving certain things until after your child has gone to bed to make the most of your time together.

Turn some of your everyday routines together count. Sing some favorite silly songs on the way to daycare, or make that drive to and from school a great opportunity to discuss what’s happening in your child’s life.

If you have more than one child, realize that each of them needs your individual attention. You may really have to juggle things around to make this happen, but try to be flexible and creative when spending time with each of your kids. And no matter what, don’t skip those individual times with each child. By doing so you show them they’re lower down on the priority list than the dry cleaning or the grocery shopping.pic 3 kids

Children thrive on stability and routines, so plan your quality times so that they can takeplace regularly. Maybe you can walk the dog together on weekend morning, take a shopping excursion together, have a scheduled night each week for a sit-down dinner together, or make a trip to the park.

Can creativity and discipline live in the same house?

What comes to your mind when I utter the word “Creativity”?

Creavitivy1

 

Let us check what happens with discipline.

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The two seem like irreconcilable opposites.

Scene 1

Now I imagined a world with creativity but no discipline – how life would be.

I would have a lot of freedom. Lots of fun. Do what I like, when I like. No one can order me around. It feels great when I enjoy  all these.

But then every one around me too will enjoy these same benefits of creativity without discipline.

How will that affect me? Will I like that?

I go to a restaurant. There is no one to take my order.  So I go to the kitchen. The chef is busy practising on his guitar. His assistant is in deep meditation. The two waiters are playing chess.

I ask the chef about the menu and he says, “I have not made up my mind. I want to do something different.”

“When will I get something to eat?”

“It all depends…. on when I decide. After that, we will buy the necessary things..”

“Will it take a couple of hours?”

“Maybe more..”

“Should I go somewhere else..?”

“It is your choice, sir.”

“Thank you.”

“Have a nice day. Hope you get something to eat fast.”

 

Scene 2

Let’s stick with the food analogy and consider a world with only discipline and no creativity.

I come home. My mother is waiting for me. I tell her I am hungry. She is ready to serve me lunch. I sit at the dining table. There is dal, rice, some bhindi and some roti.

“Mom, again the same thing?”

“Bhindi is good for you.”

“I don’t want bhindi every day.”

“This week is bhindi week.”

“What about the dal?”

“I have made it for the whole week. I save a lot of time this way. For the next week, I will make what you want.”

“It will be the same for the whole week?”

“Yes. That is the most efficient way.”

“But it is the most boring thing to do.”

Luckily, life is a happy mix of both. There is space for creativity and there is space for discipline.

Consider, as an example, the film production business. The time to be creative is when we are thinking of a movie plot. It is has to be fresh, different, surprising and appealing. Tried and tested won’t do. Once the plot, screen play and dialogues are finalised, we need the discipline to follow the shooting schedule, minimise retakes, control costs and finish production on time and on budget. If we don’t do this, we will go broke.

Interestingly, if we are disciplined but are not creative in the initial stage, then too we will go broke.

In my view there is no room for debate on creativity vs discipline. Especially while bringing up kids. I would err on the side of more creativity and less discipline. I would like my child to be able to imagine possibilities. Have an open mind to explore many options. Have the freedom to use her gut feel. When it comes to doing things I would like my child to be smart (combining creativity and discipline) and be able to think of doing the right thing at the right time. It requires imagination to think of different options, it requires rigour to choose a smart solution, and it requires discipline to execute the solution well.

It is some what like a diagnosis and treatment. One might do all the various tests and logically arrive at what is the problem then prescribe medicines. However, experienced doctors might creatively connect the dots and quickly diagnose the situation and start treatment. It saves a lot of time and agony. And, it requires discipline on the part of the patient to follow the prescribed course of treatment.

Verdict: Creativity and discipline, not creativity versus discipline. You can’t do without either.

Re-published with permission from the blog of ParentEdge, a bi-monthly parenting magazine that aims to expose parents to global trends in learning and partner with them in the intellectual enrichment of their children.

Chores Can Help your Child Learn about Teamwork and a Strong Work Ethic

Chores can help develop a sense of responsibility and self worth in your child.  It should be understood by all family members they are expected and necessary to a household running successfully and efficiently.  They can help create a sense of unity and family and is a great place for your child to learn about teamwork.  Parents should take special care to handle the delegation of chores to children so they don’t become a source of frustration or create arguments.
Allow your child to have an active say in the delegation of chores.  Give them choices.  We all have household chores that we don’t like to do, but if it’s a chore the child enjoys doing then there’s less likelihood it will create a battle in the end.  The child will most likely appreciate having the chance to be heard and having a choice. child-chore
It’s imperative that you set parameters early on for the successful completion of a chore.  They may not perform up to snuff when they first start performing the chore, but show them where improvement is needed and praise them for a strong effort.  Also make sure the child understands there will be repercussions if they only put forth a minimal effort.

Ensure the child understands the need for the chore’s effective and efficient completion. Set consequences for substandard completion as a team.  Make sure they see that if they don’t perform their chores, it affects the other members of the team. Spouses must work together and be a strong example for their children by completing their own chores each day.  And don’t allow a child to undermine your authority by battling with you over a designated chore.

Stand your ground and don’t give in, and emphasize the consequence and negative effect an uncompleted chore has on the family.
And keep an open mind when a child wants to discuss their thoughts or express their opinions about chores.  Make sure the conversation stays positive and on target.

The Process of Negotiating the Rules with your Child

We all know as parents that discussing and negotiating the rules with our children is never easy.  Children are all very different, and what might need to be a rule for one, may not even be an issue for another.  That being said, there are many parameters that we set as parents that are the hard and fast rules – those with no ‘wiggle room.’ Those are the rules set forth to protect our child’s health, safety and well-being.  These rules and their consequences should be very clearly defined and it should be understood by all involved that they are there for a very important reason and that they are ‘all or nothing.’
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Rules that keep our children safe are of the utmost importance.  These could include everything from teaching youngsters not to touch the hot stove to teaching your school aged child the importance of obeying the laws while riding their bicycle.  Children need to understand these rules are to be followed to the letter and there is no room for negotiation here.

For adolescents and teenagers, such rules should include expectations about drinking, the use of illegal drugs, or safe defensive driving.  These rules are also imperative to a child’s health, well-being and safety.  There should be no room for experimentation or relaxing the rules in specific social situations.

There are rules that can be fairly and equitably negotiated with your children as well.  Rules regarding how many hours per week can be spent on video game playing, what time a child is expected home for dinner, what time each night homework is to be completed, or how late a teenager is allowed to stay out on weekend nights are all rules that can be discussed openly and honestly between you and your child. These should also be consistent, however.  Don’t’ allow 11 p.m. one weekend night and then tell your teenager 9:30 the following weekend night when going out with the same group of friends.  If your teenager broke the 11 p.m. curfew the weekend before, the consequence of losing the privilege of going out that weekend should be strictly enforced.  Don’t bend the rule just because your teenager seems genuinely sorry and promises never to do it again.  Consequences should be consistent, fair, and always followed through.

Get Involved in your Child’s Activities, Hobbies and School

It’s probably no secret that children who have involved parents are more happy, healthy, and well-adjusted and excel at their educational and extracurricular pursuits.  It can increase their cognitive development, keeps them motivated, strengthens the parent-child relationship, and has a direct positive influence on their overall academic achievement.  In turn, it can also help parents achieve a positive outlook on their parenting, increase their own self confidence and self esteem, and will most likely feel more satisfied with their child’s educational experience at school.

But where do you get involved?   With today’s busy schedules between home, work, and school, it may feel that the average family has very little quality time to offer.  However, different options and levels of commitment are available to fit every parent’s availability, and with some careful planning and dedication, you can make ifile9141338162937t a positive experience for both yourself and your child.

First of all, discover what your child is most passionate about.  Maybe you’ve thought about volunteering for the school bake sale to raise money, but your child is actually more actively involved in her local Girl Scouts troop.   If that’s the case, then get together with the other Girl Scout parents and see what you can contribute to help the troop.  Maybe you could organize a bake sale to benefit their next summer outing.

It’s also important to consider what skills, talents and abilities you can bring to the table.  Maybe your child’s school is in desperate need of your help organizing a fundraiser, but your skills in sewing and designing might better serve the school if you were to help in making the costumes for the school play.  Remember, you want this to be a positive experience for both of you, and if your child senses that you’re not happy with what you’ve chosen to become involved in, then they likely will not be happy as well.

But the bottom line is get involved and stay involved.  Children of involved parents are less likely to get into mischief, have emotional problems, or have problems in school.  You benefit by connecting with and staying connected to your child.  It’s a win-win situation for you both.

What is Homeschooling?

home sch

The term ‘homeschooling’ basically refers to the process in which one or more children of not more than 2 families are instructed by parents or legal guardians, or a member of either household. The laws that define homeschooling vary from State to State. The legal requirements for establishing a homeschool also vary with the State.

For most children, the actual process of learning begins much before school. Many children already know their alphabets, the names of animals, colors and other more complicated stuff before they reach school. This is mostly due to the hard work of a member of the family who has taken the time to teach the child. Homeschooling is just a natural progression from here. Instead of sending their children to a public school, parents make their own curriculum and teach their children in ways that best suit the child. This is homeschooling, in its most simplistic form.home sch 1

Before you decide to go in for homeschooling, there are certain important matters for consideration. First off, meet with parents of other homeschoolers. Find out the pros and cons of homeschooling. Then ask yourself why you would want to adopt this method. This is a very important aspect, as the success of the program depends on the clarity and sincerity of your purpose.

Next, it is time to consider the expenses of homeschooling. It may cost anywhere between a few hundred dollars to a few thousand every year. More importantly, you are also effectively shutting out any job opportunity for one of the parents. It is only obvious that one parent will have to stay at home full time to manage the homeschool. A home-based business however is a great alternative.Are you qualified to take on homeschooling for your children? Teaching is a continuation of your own learning process. With the advent of the internet, information is aplenty. There are various books and resources for those interested in homeschooling. Go through the various methods of homeschooling and choose one that is most suited to you. It helps if you know what kind of learning style your child has. Also, find out what your child feels about before you start.

Every state has its own laws regarding homeschooling.For instance, in North Carolina, you must first file a ‘Notice of Intent’ to start a home school. In this you have to mention if the school is a ‘Private church’ school or a ‘qualified non-public school’. The persons providing the education are required to have at least a high school diploma. You have to maintain an annual record of the child’s attendance and disease immunization. Every year, the child is required to undergo a standardized test. Each student attending the eleventh grade has to take a nationally standardized test. These are the requirements in North Carolina, but it is enough to give you a good idea of what homeschooling entails.

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Homeschooling may seem like a lot of fun and freedom from the outside. However, things are seldom as simple as they seem.Homeschooling is a lot of added responsibility and hard work. But, if successful, it will forge a strong bond of love and respect between parent and child, while providing your child with the best form of education he needs.

 

Celebrate your Child’s Uniqueness

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Just like a snowflake or a fingerprint, every child is unique in their own special way. Every child has a unique way of feeling, thinking, and interacting with others. Some children are shy, while others are outgoing; some are active, while others are calm; some are fretful, while others are easy-going. As a loving and nurturing parent, it’s your job to encourage them to embrace their uniqueness and celebrate their individual qualities. 
Allow your child to express themselves through their interests. They may find a creative outlet in theatre, dancing or art, or they may be exceptionally talented in the sciences. Encourage them to embrace what they like to do, what interests them, and what makes them happy. Help them realize that they don’t need to worry about being ‘like everyone else.’
Teach your child to make positive choices, and praise them for good deeds, behaviors and positive traits they possess. Encourage them to become actively involved in their community, and introduce them to activities that promote a sense of cooperation and accomplishment. Be firm yet fair when handing down discipline for misdeeds or misbehaviors, and make certain the rules and consequences for breaking the rules are clearly defined. Show a cooperative, loving and united front with your spouse when it comes to discipline.
Accept and celebrate your child’s uniqueness. Remember that your child is an individual. Allow your child to have his or her own personal preferences and feelings, which may be different from your own.
And finally, encourage your child to be true to themselves by doing the same. Show your child how to make positive choices with the choices you make, and that nobody is perfect and you too make mistakes. Show your child that mistakes can be a great learning experience, and that they should not be ashamed or embarrassed about making them. 

Computers for Kids

image 3 computersGoing to kindergarten in this new age is a lot different than it was when we were children.  Modern children are more aware of the adult world, more sophisticated and certainly more aware of technology and the internet than was imaginable even a few years ago when that youngster was a newborn.  So we have to take that into consideration when we begin to prepare a child for kindergarten because there is really no level of schooling that is untouched by computers and technology.

The first step for finding out how much your child needs to know about computers and the internet day one in kindergarten is to visit the school and talk to the teacher.  It really isn’t a matter of kids being forced to learn about cyberspace.  Schools are simply using the internet for teaching because kids are showing up already knowing all about it.  As you look around any modern kindergarten class, you will see dozens of computer kiosks so the kids can connect to the internet and use the internet for anything from research to communications to learning games to exploring the galaxies.

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So much is made about the dangers of the internet and those are certainly real.The next step is to find out just how much your little angel already knows about computers and the internet.  If you have a computer and you allow your child to wander around the internet already, she may know more than you imagined or wished she knew.  But by having a conversation with your child or by sitting online and exploring some basic web sites together, you can gauge her level of skill and knowledge.  It will be an unusual meeting between parent and child because its very possible that at times you will be teaching her things and other times she will be the teacher and you the student learning the most modern things that young people, even very young people like your child, already know about the online world. But there are tremendous resources that the kindergarten teacher will take advantage of to take that new class to wonderful new places using safe and carefully prepared web sites that can enhance the child’s education.

 Be sure when you begin to expose your youngster to the internet that you have also made sure the internet is a safe place for her to be.  You can create specific account on your computer just for your child that is heavily restricted. You can get some excellent tools that are often called “net nannies” which will keep your sweet innocent child from accidentally going to sites they should not see.  You can even set up a set list of web sites you will allow them to be on and restrict their browser so only those sites are authorized.

 Helping your child build internet search skills will jump start her into the modern world of school wonderfully.  But there are other computer skills that being online will help her develop to make her more efficient even in this very basic level of schooling at kindergarten.  If you can open the world of email, instant messaging and chat to your child on kid safe web sites where she will be talking to other children only, your five year old will actually develop fairly well developed typing skills being motivated by the fun of online conversation with other kids.

There are other computer tools that will of tremendous value to your child that she can begin to get exposure to in the months leading up to kindergarten.  The Microsoft office suite which is so useful to adults will be an important tool set for any student even in elementary school.  Learning to use the powerful resources of Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint will give your child ways to accomplish their school assignments that are fun because they are on the computer and so much more efficient than the old pencil and notebook method.image 3 computers

By thinking like a twenty first century parent, you can start even at the kindergarten level to see your child’s school experience as one that will be heavily influenced by computer skills and the internet.  And by equipping your child to be ready to use those tools from day one at kindergarten, she is jumping into school way ahead in terms of being equipped to be a big success in her academic career.

Planning Playdates and Sleepovers

Remember the time you asked your mother for permission to spend the night at a friend’s house and she exclaimed “No, of course not! You can play during the day, what is the need to spend the night there?”

Times have changed since then and today, parents are more accepting of sleepovers.

play-Dates1-300x195What about playdates? When we were young we simply played with the neighbourhood kids in the evenings after school, coming back home sweaty and tired, ready for dinner and sleep. But today, our children have ‘playdates’, where parents schedule the play activity on a particular day and invite other children to it. In fact, playdates are fast becoming yet another avenue to showcase the creativity (and wealth!) of the parents, involving as they do organised entertainment, catering and even return gifts!

But if you are one of those parents who believe in keeping it simple, with the primary objective of a playdate being to get children to have a good time in a safe way, then read on…

Play and the socialisation process

Playdates are very important to the social development of today’s child. Urban children brought up in nuclear families lack many elements of the socialization process that characterized earlier generations who lived in joint families. Busy parents, aloof neighbours, lack of space (no more gully cricket!) and time (dance class and abacus class and handwriting class and phonics class…..) …these have taken away an important element of childhood – romping around with friends and free play. Playdates give the child an opportunity to interact with her friends outside the formal environment of school, to learn sharing, collaboration and teamwork skills in a socially acceptable manner, and simply, to enjoy her free time with her friends.

Sleepovers take this a step further, fostering a feeling of independence in children and allowing them to feel ‘grown-up’. Plus, they are a lot of fun!

Playdates can be organised for children of pretty much any age, even those as young as one. Of course, be prepared to accompany your child on her playdates for the first few years (until she is around five), after which time she can be dropped off alone at her friend’s place, with a parent to supervise. An added bonus of playdates – parents can also have fun, making new friends with other parents, and getting a chance to indulge in some adult conversation beyond the usual baby talk!

Sleepovers, on the other hand, are difficult to organise for very young children. Your child must be toilet-trained and used to sleeping alone before she is ready for a sleepover. Most importantly, she should have no strong anxieties – about the dark, night time noises, etc. – that will prompt her to wail for you in the middle of the night! Children aged 10 and above can generally be expected to make the most of sleepovers.

Playdate ‘fun’dae

What to do: So it’s your turn to organise the playdate. First, decide whether it’s going to be an indoor or outdoor one. If you plan on an outdoor one, be sure to enlist the help of other parents, and maybe maids, so you can monitor the children and the different activities. Also decide the timing and duration of the playdate upfront so parents know at what time they need to pick up their children. The duration of the playdate depends on the age of the children – for toddlers, anything more than an hour could be tiring, whereas for older kids even three hours will not satiate them!

What to feed them: With younger children, it’s better to serve some dry snacks which will not make too much of a mess. Older children can stay over for dinner, especially if it’s a Friday or Saturday. Do ensure that you check with parents about allergies and any strong dislikes/food preferences. Keep the food simple and easy to eat. It is better to serve all the children on similar looking or neutral tableware – you don’t want the children all clamouring for your child’s Cinderella mug or Winnie the Pooh plate!

Safety precautions and rules: Attention to safety is a very important aspect of organising playdates. Firstly, no matter what the age of the children is, it is essential to have adult supervision in the vicinity. This is not just to mediate between children in the event of disputes, but more importantly to ensure the safety of children. You can also set rules upfront for the session that all children need to follow – clearing up after each game and before beginning the next activity, no rough games inside the house, no shoes inside the house, no jumping on the furniture, no playing with scissors, etc. Children should be made to understand that these rules are for their own safety and any child not following these rules will not be allowed to continue playing with the others. Do ensure that you have the contact numbers of all the parents in case of an emergency.

Sleepover ‘fun’dae

Sleepovers are more complicated to organise than playdates – you are actually committing to taking responsibility for some highly excitable children whom you cannot admonish or punish! And that too at night – the time when most things seems to go wrong! This is why sleepovers are usually organised only for older children who are independent and have some amount of maturity and understanding – typically 10 years and above.

Whom to invite: This is a no-brainer – it is your child who will decide whom she wants to invite. Your role will be limited to controlling the number of people invited so as to keep the sleepover manageable. Decide before-hand whether you want to invite only one other child or whether you are brave enough to handle a whole menagerie of kids!

What to feed them: Generally, starting the sleepover after dinner time makes better sense since it cuts down on the effort involved in serving dinner and catering to differing needs and preferences. But don’t think that this means you don’t have to arrange for food – far from it! An essential part of sleepovers is the fun food (read junk food) that the kids will look forward to. Staying up most of the night will make them ravenously hungry, especially post-midnight when you, the parent, are just settling into bed. So arrange for all the fuel (popcorn, chips, chocolates, etc.) before-hand. And you will also need to plan for breakfast – keep this simple, but be ready with both Western (bread and cereal) and Indian (idly/dosa) options for varying palates.

What to do: Generally children of this age can be trusted to organise their own entertainment. But here are a few suggestions for fun things to do at a sleepover:

• Board games

• Lateral thinking games

• Singing songs and Karaoke

• Telling scary stories after midnight with lights out

• Playing Hide and Seek in the dark

• Video games

• Makeovers and playing at dressing up

• Watching good, wholesome movies – TV is a bad idea since you will not be able to control what they are watching; it is advisable for you to rent an appropriate movie to watch

Ideas for outdoor playdates

• Paddle pool / swimming pool

• Gardening

• Beach

• At a hobby centre – art and craft

• Play areas in malls / game arcades for older kids

• Parks (do keep in mind that if you go to a park with swings and slides, the children may prefer to play independently on these equipment than with one another)

• In open spaces, where you can organise team sports or games like cricket, football, etc.

Ideas for indoor playdates

If your playdate is at home, your list of probable activities can be much longer – have the children play a variety of games, tell stories, read books, sing songs, catch bubbles, draw and colour… you can also play popular indoor games like Blind Man’s Bluff (after moving the furniture to the side), Hide and Seek, Dumb Charades, Antakshari, etc. Allow some time for unstructured play as well, to encourage children to play independently and decide for themselves what they want to do– this will give free rein to their imagination. Even playing with Barbie dolls, kitchen sets and cars can be beneficial, allowing them to indulge in story-telling and role play.

Re-published with permission from the blog of ParentEdge, a bi-monthly parenting magazine that aims to expose parents to global trends in learning and partner with them in the intellectual enrichment of their children.

Keeping children motivated

Initial enthusiasm in after school activities tends to wane after the first excitement is over. This is but natural. The trick is to keep up the hard work even after this. How do you keep your child motivated? This is of particular importance when the child goes in for educational after school programs.

Elementary school pupils running outside

Make the career-academics connection early on

 Let your child understand how important studies are. Let him know that an excellent career is wholly dependent on wholesome learning. To develop his interest in studies, plan family activities that are connected with his studies. Emphasize the real-world connection to academics whenever possible.

Set goals:

Let your child know, through example, that hard work will be rewarded. If your child believes that achievement is a natural by-product of effort, he is more likely to put in hard work. Such children are also less likely to drop out of programs and college at a later stage.

Reward success:

When a child achieves something, it is necessary to praise his hard work. Positive reinforcements enhance confidence and increase self-esteem. Conversely, beware of criticism. It can ruin the frail ego of children and play havoc with their minds.