Tips on How to Teach Manners to Your Child

Good manners

No matter how young your child is, basic manners are something that he/she should conform to – there shouldn’t be any exception to this rule. You can’t expect your child to be perfect and well-behaved all the time; let us face it as parents we are not perfect always as well! Having said that, it is imperative, as parents to set an example for them and be their role models. So be very careful how you behave in front of your child. Now, there are etiquette classes and schools to teach your child the proper mannerisms, but it all starts at home! Saying ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ are common courtesy which a child should pick up as early as possible.

Inculcating these manners at an early stage will help in the long run, as good manners will become a habit for them and not just a trick that they pull out of their sleeves when needed. Good manners are also important when it comes to making friends and having a social life – for you and the child as well. Nobody likes to be around an ill-tempered, rude child! At school your child might have problems making friends and this could become a recurring trend in his/her adult life as well!

So, remember when you teaching them manners, you are actually preparing them for the long journey of life! Here are 10 manners that a child should learn:

1)When your child asks for something he/she should say ‘please’. For example: “Can I please have a slice of cake mom?”

2)When your child gets something from anyone he/she should say ‘thanks’.

3)If you are in the middle of a conversation, your child should learn not to interrupt unless it is an emergency. For this you need to explain it to your child that if many people talk at the same time no one can be understood so he/she should be patient.

4)Greeting visitors or guests is also part of them learning good manners. Saying ‘hello’, ‘hi’, ‘namaste’ whenever they meet someone is a must!

5)While it is not imperative for them to know which spoon to use for what purpose, but basic table manners are something that they should learn. Encourage them to finish their veggies and to not play with their food. If they don’t want to eat anymore, they should ask politely if they are done instead of throwing food around.

6)If they do something wrong or break something, teach them to say ‘sorry’. Make sure you don’t make them feel too guilty. If they apologise sincerely give them a slight punishment so that they know there are consequences, but don’t be too harsh on them. Otherwise next time they might not say anything out of fear or they will grow up to become defensive.

7) When they need to talk to someone or need to get someone’s attention teach them to say ‘excuse me’.

8) Teach your child not to comment on how people look or their physical attributes – this is something most children pick up from adults. So, be very careful what you say in front of them. Instead teach them to be appreciative and compliment people.

9) Whenever they visit their friends or relatives, they should thank them for their hospitality.

10)Before entering any room, they should knock on the door. And as parents you should extend the same courtesy to your children.

Use these phrases yourself so they know it is the polite way to talk. Give them incentives at the end of a fortnight or a month for behaving well. And then, there is always Santa Claus to remind a child to be nice and not naughty!

Good Behaviour Helps them Stand Apart

This blog is the tenth of a 12-part series on ‘Parenting is a Journey’. Ignatius Fernandez also blogs at

On Sundays, young parents walk into Church with children in tow. Moments after they find seats, the lady opens her bag. Toys, books, crayons, goodies, drinks and other pacifiers come out of her bag. She is fully equipped to cope with the demands of her children. Even as she tries to keep the children quiet, her spouse looks on anxiously, ready to carry the naughtier child out of Church. What chance do they have of prayerfully celebrating Service? In malls, we see helpless parents trying to reason with their children, who scream for something they fancy.

If children are not taught to behave well at home, they will behave badly in public places also. Lack of discipline and overindulgence make children believe that they have the upper hand; and we become defensive.

Good behaviour is born of consideration for others – respect for them, their belongings, feelings and time. When children are insensitive to the needs of others, they will be rebuffed in some way, at sometime in their lives; sadly, we too will suffer with them. Isn’t that compelling reason for us to set them on the right path?

Let us look at a few situations and practices:

1) When watching Cricket on TV, we have the revolting sight of players picking their noses, biting their nails and spitting repeatedly. Embarrassed parents of those celebrated sons, squirm as they realise that their boys are watched by millions. How they wish they had checked those loathsome habits when their sons were small! Do we count ourselves among such unhappy parents? Unless such quirks are stopped, even as they start, exorcising children of those demons, as they grow older, becomes difficult.

2) Personal hygiene is another area of concern. Adults who wear clothes that stink, (oblivious of others) who care little about oral hygiene, who do not bathe daily, who use bathrooms badly (although they insist on using clean bathrooms), and who leave a trail of debris from uncouth behaviour, were once children who were given hygiene-concessions by parents. When such young people find partners, their behaviour could lead to quarrels and even separation. We may dismiss indifference to personal hygiene as a minor aberration. Why not tell that to someone who has to share the same bed with the offender?

3) Let us consider table manners. It is rather embarrassing to watch some children eat. The noisy chewing of food, scattering of food on the table, stuffing mouths, gulping drinks and ravenously eating favourite dishes, are all omens of untrained table behaviour. Ask a child to pass a fork; he passes it, prongs pointing. Our children should learn table manners to save them, and us, some blushes.

4) We tend to take appointments casually; seldom being on time. Children copy us. Soon, their sense of punctuality gets warped. As a result, they value their time less, and take for granted the time of others.

5) Disregard for others is seen in yet another form—snatching things from others. Snatch a toy, a book, a chocolate. We let such incidents pass. The child is emboldened, and in his adult-life will try to grab somebody’s wife, or steal a much-coveted, high-priced thing.

6) When children leave their rooms, they do not switch off lights, fans and air conditioners. They scribble on walls and write on their palms. After using the wash basin, they do not fully shut the tap. On holidays they waste time, doing little or nothing productive. How accountable will our children be, of the resources God gives them?

7) This indifference is also seen in the way they dispose of rubbish. Throw it out of windows or running vehicles or deposit it near the neighbour’s place. Surely, their civic sense is dented.

8) Seldom do we see young people tastefully and neatly dressed, carrying themselves with dignity. Instead, we see them in loud T-shirts and tight jeans, sporting a casual style. We let our children drift into such dressing habits, little realising that the Corporate world, which is thankfully returning to formal wear, will frown on poorly dressed entrants. Unkempt hair, unshaven faces, poorly matched clothes and shoes that do not shine, do not reflect good grooming. Our girls should know that showing more skin is not more beauty. Yet, we tolerate the supposedly popular tastes of our children in the illusion of giving them freedom to choose. Freedom is not license. The sooner we realise that, the better for us and our children.

Some of us argue that good behaviour ought to be taught at school, where we pay hefty fees. We need to look at that case again. Teachers, despite their good intentions, cannot bestow on my child the time that I can. Her time is divided among many. So is her interest. I can focus on my child. At best, the teacher can augment inputs given at home. So, the responsibility rests with me. The buck stops with me.

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.

10 Useful Tips for Cooking with Your Child

bril blog cooking with kids

Cooking is thought to be an adult’s job. But, nowadays children seem to have extraordinary culinary skills. The plethora of reality shows can vouch for that! You will be surprised at what these tiny hands can whip up! And if you are trying to get your child to eat healthy, then there is no better way than to introduce them to the kitchen. You can get the entire family together to cook. Invite some friends over and let them taste the amazing dish that your little one makes. It is also a great way to teach them to feed themselves in case you are not around or are not feeling too well. Some children are born with a gift while some just love to experiment – either ways having your little one in the kitchen can be a great fun activity and who knows you might just discover India’s next most famous chef!

Here are some tips that can make cooking fun for you and your child:

1) The first factor to consider is safety. Ensure that all your kitchen appliances like knives, peelers, graters etc. are child-friendly. These do the job and are completely harmless.

2) Second, make sure you enter the kitchen with lots of patience. Children will take time to understand and to prepare something. For a child the end result isn’t as important as the whole process – so make sure you make it fun and educational for them without losing patience.

3) Pick a recipe that is easy to make and preferably is a dessert – kids love brownies, cookies, cakes etc. and a yummy tasting batter/dough would keep them going!

4) When it comes to using the oven or the stove, then make sure you take over at this point.

5) Take this opportunity to teach your child about hygiene – ask them to wash their hands before and after cooking. Also teach them to wash the vegetables thoroughly.

6) Expect the kitchen to get messy! Don’t yell at your kids and make cleaning afterwards a fun activity too! Use plastic sheets or newspapers everywhere to minimise the mess – this way you can just toss them in the trash can once your child finishes cooking.

7) Dress them up! Aprons and chef hats are not only practical, but they will look adorable too!

8) While cooking you can teach them about the nutritional values of foods, the various techniques of cooking, which food comes from which region, which dish is a specialty of which area and other such useful information. Cooking can be educational too!

9) Give room for creativity – let them add their own touch to the dish. Don’t discourage them!

10) Fun is the key ingredient here – play some music, have a flour fight, sing some cooking songs (or just make up your own!) and relax! Let it be a memory that you and your child will cherish even after many years.

Happy cooking!

The Gandhian Approach – The Non Violent Way to Discipline your Child!

Aparna Samuel Balasundaram is a USA- Licensed Psychotherapist and Parent and Child Expert with 10 years of experience in the USA. She is the Founder of Life Skills Experts and the Life Skills 360¡ System that enables parents and teachers to raise happy, confident and successful children. for more information.


Am sure that as each of us look back into our childhood we can share a story or two of how we were punished by our parents or teachers…many of us remember that chalk piece that came flying at us, the duster that was thrown, the knuckle and the scale method, the slap on the face and the list goes on! When I work with parents many say that while they were not emotionally traumatised by these experiences, they would NOT like the same treatment meted out to their children. Yet, many of them fall into the same trap that their teachers or parents fell into! The  intentions may be good but since we don’t know better we fall back on old patterns. Many parents have confessed that when they hit their child they feel guilty and often try to make up by indulging their child with expensive toys, candies or gadgets and this only leaves the child feeling more confused.

Parents, help is on its way! Here are three tried and tested methods of disciplining your child, without you needing to scream, hit or getting your blood pressure up! I like to call it the ‘Gandhian Approach!’

Let them face the ‘Natural Consequences’ -These are the times when you let your child see what will happen if he does not behave (as long as it does not place him in any danger). For example, if your toddler keeps throwing her toys on purpose, she will soon learn that these toys break; or when your teenager refuses to put his clothes in the basket for a wash, he will soon learn that he has run out of clean shirts to wear! When you use this method, don’t give in and rescue your child (by buying new toys for your toddler or picking up your teenagers clothes for wash). Your child will learn best when they face the natural consequence of their behaviour be it broken toys or dirty clothes!

Time-Out- This is a technique that works well when a specific rule has been broken. It works best for children from 3 to 6 years of age. In this technique you send your child to a corner or any other quiet place, as a ‘Time Out’ to give your child time to think about their behaviour, what they have done wrong and what they can change. A rule of thumb is 1 minute of time-out for every year of your child’s age (for example, a 4-year-old would get a 4-minute time-out). Once your child is ready to apologize or  talk let them out of time out [even if it is before 4 minutes].When the time is up, do not lecture or ask for apologies. Talk to your child and discuss the behaviour and set a plan for how this should not happen again. At times like these, I especially encourage parents to remind their children that they love them, and that it is their behaviour and not them, that is the problem.

Withholding Privileges- This technique works best for older children and your teenagers. In this technique your child learns that they ‘earn’ a privilege when they are responsible about what is  expected of them, be it finishing their homework, studying for an exam or keeping their room clean. A privilege that is valued by the child, such as watching television, ‘face booking’ or  playing video games, should be removed for an agreed upon time [for example the weekend or a week], if the child does not keep their end of the bargain!

So, go ahead parents try these techniques, be patient and do not give into the temptation of falling back into old patterns! You will see the stress and decibel levels reduce at your homes! Happy Parenting!

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.

Top 5 Books Your 8-10 Year Old Should Read

A young boy lying on his bed, reading a book

The Faraway Tree stories by Enid Blyton, Black Beauty, The Wizard of Oz, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and other such popular books are a must in your child’s book shelf. And we are sure all these classics are part of their collection.

Here is a list of 5 books that you can gift to your young reader and add to their collection:

1) Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White:

Listed as one of the best-selling children’s paperback in 2000 by Publishers Weekly, this novel is a great read for children as well as adults. This story is based on a spider named Charlotte who is trying to save a pig (named Wilbur) from being slaughtered. She even weaves the words “some pig” on her web to do so attracting a lot of attention! This moving story about their friendship with great illustrations makes this book a must have!

2) Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel

This is a warm, funny and fuzzy story about friendship between a frog and a toad. You will laugh at their silly antics, applaud their feats and will marvel at the relationship that both share – a friendship that is genuine and affectionate. With a simple storytelling quality and a touch of humour, this book has a fresh appeal to it.

3) The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

This is an enchanting story about a sour, rude girl named Mary Lennox. The story reveals her journey from India (where she is born to British parents) to England after the demise of her parents. This is where she finds a secret garden which brings about miracles in her and her friends’ lives! A wonderful and magical story that would fascinate every child!

4) Matilda by Roald Dahl

A renowned author, Roald Dahl has written many books for children and Matilda is one of his best creations. This story is about an extremely intelligent five year old girl who develops telekinetic powers and how she uses them to save her and her loved ones from bullies. A humorous and touching story, Matilda is a girl your child will fall in love with!

5) Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin

With great illustrations comes wrapped in this novel, a greater story! Simple to read the ‘Diary of a Worm’ has cute and vibrant pictures making it really appealing to children. The story revolves around a small worm in a big world – this worm goes to school, has parents and friends like all of us but unlike us he doesn’t have legs and he doesn’t take a bath! Funny and educational, this book is an absolute delight. And it may even teach your children to maintain a diary of their own, encouraging them to start writing!

Stock up your child’s bookshelf and let them enter a different world where anything is possible!

Top 5 Books You Should Read to Your 4 – 7 Year Old


One of the greatest gifts you can give your child is the gift of reading. Toddlers start to learn how to differentiate between letters and how each letter sounds – this is possible only when you constantly read to them. And by the time they turn 6 or 7, your children will be reading on their own!

For this you need to introduce to them books that are fun with simple and easy to understand story lines.

Read slowly to them so they understand each word clearly. Use different tones of voices and expressions – not only will this be fun for them, but it will also help them understand the meaning of words easily.

Here is a list of great books that can help your toddler:

1) Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

This book is about a brave little girl and her adventurous trip to the hospital. She isn’t afraid of mice or lions and she definitely wasn’t going to get disturbed by a little appendix! The author cleverly tells this story in a rhyme format making it entertaining and appealing to children.

2) Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss is the best author for children’s stories and this is one of his best-selling books! Written for beginners, the text and storyline is simple and fun for a toddler to read. And the unique thing about this book is that it consists of only fifty different words! The story is about a grumpy man who refuses to eat green eggs and hams and it is presented in a rhyme format making it fun to read!

3) The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper

This story is about a blue little engine that takes on a task of pulling a train over a high mountain while other larger engines refuse to do so. All the while the engine chants the famous phrase, “I think I can”. Not only the beautiful illustrations and sweet story line fascinate your child, but it will also teach them the value of perseverance at such an early age. A great read, this book is a must have in your toddler’s book shelf.

4) What Do People Do All Day? by Richard Scarry

Beautiful illustrations with big, bold colours – this book tells what people do all day; how they build houses, grow food and sail ships. The story shows the lives of busy people and with the help of drawings it also shows how they go about doing these jobs. Simple story with a beautiful backdrop, this story with its amazing sense of humour will definitely catch your child’s attention!

5) The Mitten by Jan Brett

From the author of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, comes the sweet story of a boy who loses his mitten in the snow which then becomes a refuge for many animals. The detailed artwork and the drawings of the animals will be an absolute delight for your child. It makes for a great bedtime story!

If these books are not in your child’s library yet, then make sure you pick them up today. Happy reading!

Aligned Parenting

blog 3rd week

Namrataa is a certified Life Coach and Founder of Life Beyond Motherhood. She specialises in coaching mothers on finding their life balance. She can be reached at

She also blogs at

Gone are the days when one would say, ‘there is no school which teaches parenting’ because there are such schools that are functional and in demand now. However, not all of us might be inclined to learn about parenting and we might want to discover things along the way. Well, to each their own. Parenting is a unique journey which each of us must traverse for ourselves. Then, of course, there is the child – a result of the parenting that is doled out. If the child is a result of the parenting received, I often wonder how a child processes information that he / she receives which might sometimes be contradictory. For instance, one parent likes to binge on junk food while the other is on a health trip or one parent believes academics are the way to success in life while the other might think academics are really quite irrelevant in the long run. So what does the child believe? Research has proven that when presented with two scenarios, human beings are more likely to pick the one which presents an easier path. The easier path that gets chosen, may not necessarily be the best path for the child. Does one parent work on undoing the path that he / she does not want the child to follow? It can all become quite a mesh and at the end of it all, can leave the child unsure about his / her choices in life and have a lasting impact on his / her self-confidence.

So what does one do? The answer is similar to what organizations resort to when they want to cascade a certain culture – ‘Alignment’. Well, it might sound unrealistic, but think of it this way. Culture Alignment, in an organization, is meant to get employees to align their own objectives with the organization’s objectives. Similarly, parenting needs alignment too. Communication is key to any kind of alignment. If parents end up arguing about how they do things differently, the child is at a loss. If, on the other hand, parents are able to discuss about how to handle a particular situation and how to provide the child with consistent messaging, the child would be clear about what is acceptable and what is not.

There are certainly divergent views that exist. More often than not, I would say. In such cases, agreeing on dividing up roles and responsibilities helps, with the agreement that messaging would remain consistent. It is like being a leader in an organization. At any point in time, one needs to uphold the organization’s interest. One cannot promote one’s own beliefs over an organization’s culture. The organization in this case, is the child.

Making time to reconnect as a couple is important, especially after having a child. Making time to discuss parenting is equally important too. There is, after all, a human being each of us parents are responsible for; someone who will soon grow up and mirror everything that he / she believes the parents stand for. Are we aligned on what we stand for, together?

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.

5 Outdoor Activities to do with Your Children


outdoor pic

Weekend is here and here is your chance to spend some quality time with your children. Get your official work and your childrens’ homework out of the way get set for a weekend worth remembering!

Outdoor activities can be a great way to bond with your children. Keep lethargy away from them with these great outdoor activity ideas:

Go on a picnic

Picnics have become rare nowadays. Earlier, it was one of the best things to do with your family and friends. People get together, eat good food, play some sports, have a gala time and go back home tired yet extremely happy.

Pack a picnic basket with yummy goodies like cakes, chocolates (let your kids indulge once in a while) etc. But don’t forget the carrot and apples! Go some place where there is a huge open field, trees and maybe even a lake. Play games like frisbee, cricket, football or catch with your family. Invite your friends and your children’s friends as well. The more the merrier!

Host a sports tournament

Gather all your neighbourhood kids and organise a sports tournament in your campus or  nearby park. It can be cricket, football, basketball or any other sport. Encourage the adults to join in as well. It is a great way for adults to teach their children about healthy competition and sportsmanship.

You can even invite other neighbourhoods to join in the competition. This way you and your children will make new friends. Have snacks and beverages organised (the whole locality can pool in) – you can buy food or have a potluck arrangement. Channeling your children’s energy into the right direction will help them stay out of trouble!

Have a treasure hunt

Another fun outdoor activity you can organise for your children is treasure hunt. Plant clues all over your house and neighbourhood (make sure you supervise them). You can even place goodies after they discover each place – it could be something small like chocolate or a small toy.

Let the final prize be worth their effort. It could be a coupon to their favourite toy store, or a promise of a new bike, tickets to the new animated movie etc. If you planning to take your family on a trip, then treasure hunt could be a great way for them to find out this news!

Plant some trees

Get some saplings and start planting trees with your child. It is a great way to get your child closer to mother nature. This is one time when you won’t mind your child getting all muddy and dirty – and they will love it as well!

And watching the tree grow will give them a sense of accomplishment and pride. At the same time you are doing something for the environment!

Go to a resort

Plan a day of fun with your entire family and take off to a great resort. Most resorts have arrangements for indoor and outdoor games including pool, badminton, table tennis, cricket etc. Pools are always the highlight of every resort – and kids love playing in water! Play water polo or have swimming competitions.

Campfires are also a great way to spend some quality time with your children. Tell stories to each other and make them animated!

Nothing is as rejuvenating as fun weekends with your children!

Why Having Choices Should be a Choice for Children

Bril blog Jul 30thBroccoli or beans? Snow White or Bambi? Dance class or art class? Let your child decide. Giving children the freedom to make small choices today is probably the best way to prepare them for the world tomorrow.

In our society, this is a phenomenon that is rarely exercised. As children, we were told by our parents what to do and what not to do. They in turn followed their parents’ instructions. But times have changed! And with the changing times our parenting techniques should change as well.

We want our children to grow up to be responsible adults who make smart choices in life. We want them to know the difference between right and wrong. But, if they have always been dependent on us to make any choices in life, then how can we suddenly expect them to become independent?

External influences are plenty. The pressure of smoking, drinking, doing drugs and bunking classes all come with teen life. Without being groomed to make the right choices, when the time comes to make unsupervised decisions, children usually give in to peer pressure or end up making the wrong choices.

Did you know you can actually even avoid the angry outbursts of the ‘terror teen’ years…just by encouraging your children to learn smart decision taking early on in life! For example, let your toddler pour his/her own glass of juice. Don’t reprimand him/her for spilling the juice if they do. Gently suggest that maybe next time they could figure out a better way of doing the same task or ask for your help. Either ways a choice exists and knowing that he/she has a say makes a world of difference!

When you give your child choices, it is not a carte blanche to let your children do as they please. As a parent you should monitor those choices for them. This way, with your guidance, they will learn what is right or wrong for themselves.

You will soon see, that encouraging your children to decide for themselves, instills confidence and a sense of responsibility in children which stays with them forever. Let them make mistakes early on – let them make the wrong choices. When they make the choice they have to take the onus of the consequences as well. As adults they will be equipped enough to make the right choices tomorrow when it comes to important issues.

Children should know that when it comes to certain issues they have no choice. For example, ‘Don’t play with fire’, ‘Don’t talk to strangers’, ‘Eat your veggies’ or ‘Bed time is 8:00pm’ are things that children don’t have a say in. As a parent you definitely know better! Letting them choose what pyjamas they want to wear to bed when they stick to their bed time is permissible.

Having choices means having control – turn your frustrated or angry child to someone responsible and motivated. Tomorrow, when they are away from you, they won’t feel helpless and at a loss not knowing what decision to take or what choices to make.

How Technology Leaves its Mark on Children?

tech n kids

 I am still not sure if I would be lucky enough to drop in at ParentEdge premises soon and have a chance to gauge what the perception is on how technology leaves its mark on children – an issue which has been in my mind for long. So I thought – Why not pen down my thoughts on this topic and hope for readers to put forth their thoughts and opinions too? It’s easy to think of the good and bad effects of anything and see if the good outweighs the bad or not and accordingly decide to accept or shun it. Here it’s not so easy because no matter how much we discuss the impact of technology on kids today, we all know its presence in our lives is only getting stronger each day and we better know how to deal with it, handle it and use it, else we’ll be strongly controlled by it even before we come to know about it.

As a mother of two – a kindergartener and a junior school student, and somebody who has the fortune of sharing friendship with many mothers whose children are in the age range of 1-16, I can say technology has become a permanent and integral part of our life and is thus welcomed by our children too. When a parent is in continuous association with some form of technology or the other throughout the day, is it a surprise that the child too considers it an essential part of life, that there is nothing wrong with it? I had a sudden urge to focus on the different modes through which most of the children around, including mine, are exposed to technology. These are cell-phones, computer games and Internet mostly that come to my mind, besides PS3s and a few other things that, of course, aren’t within the reach of every child I see around.

How is cell-phone affecting a kindergartener?

I have seen how my almost-ten-year-old son gets glued to it and spends fiddling with it in the car during some week-end drives down to an eatery or a shop because playing games on it is far more thrilling than looking out of the window to catch different kinds of sights or even a chit-chat with us sitting inches away from him. A great opportunity of the rare father-son communication lost right away, but who is bothered anyway? That is enough to inspire my kindergartener who waits for an opportunity to grab it and keep tapping it for a continuously changing screen. She knows she has an equal right to it since it’s her father’s and sees it as a great time-pass tool – as if we have frequent or boring family talks over the weekdays!

What would she know about the behavioural issues cell-phones cause amongst very young children?! Did you know that cell-phone is fast becoming a “coming of age”-symbol for the preteens in my neighbourhood? A mother narrated to me the other day how her naïve eleven-year-old daughter is not allowed to be part of the group of girls her age because she doesn’t sport around a cell-phone during her evening walks! It doesn’t occur to the girls that evenings are for playing around and making the most of the free time and investing in their health through outdoor games and not strolling around with cell-phones! I’ve even caught my son poring over his friend’s PS3 during the time I thought he was playing around!

The same boy, years ago, had once wisely told him his mom had said he should spend time on such things than have an afternoon nap (that was supposed to be a way of preparing the boy for adjusting to long hours in school when he was about to move up from short hours at kindergarten to junior school!) What I feel is children don’t really need cell-phones. Computer games is again another mode of entertainment that snatches away the evenings from the growing children. They definitely do make them more tech-savvy and smart and alert, but surreptitiously adds issues like child obesity and disturbed sleep patterns and often hyperactivity too to a teen’s and a preteen’s life.

My next-door-neighbour’s ex-tenant took quite some time to track down her four-year-old son’s short attention span in school to his long hours with computer games. And now I come to my favourite – the Internet. I see how Mindspark, an online Mathematics program my son works with on Internet that he has been introduced to in school, excites him and goads him to complete problems at his fastest pace to help him win stickers he could brag about in school. I also see how he can do research on school topics when he sits down on Internet, but I also wonder how long I’ll have to keep my watchful eyes on him lest something inappropriate pops up on the screen and draws an unsuspecting but curious boy into a world for which he is still not prepared. I also see how he is negotiating with me on doing fewer written problems (needed for a strong base) for more Mindspark time that involves just a click and pressing buttons. But I also think of how I had copied verbatim his hand-written notes on some Creative Writing topics on my laptop and then to thrill him had uploaded them on a blog area I had created for him and which I operate and he only gets to see once in a blue moon. His eyes glazed when his mentor at Magic Puddles, seeing it, had praised him, saying how well he had written about his summer camp experience there, but emphasizing that he kept writing in his notebook which I could keep copying. It gave my son a confidence and a much-needed push to be in the habit of writing on such topics.

Without Internet, would an eight-year-old’s writings ever catch anybody’s attention? (He had begun writing on such topics when he was eight which I later typed and uploaded). Thanks to computers again, my almost-four-year-old daughter, is picking up phonetics, though slowly, much before her brother had begun with it all in school, all because of educational programs shown on the computer in school now and then. So I come to accept that everything is not bad about technology just as everything is not good about it, either. But I do have a vague fear that technology is intoxicating us all.

Children are too powerless before it to realize its huge effect on them, too young to know how much of it is just right for them and that it can begin to control their life, excite them, and even distract them from their highest priority – studies – with new things happening in the field all the time. Being bitten by the technology bug is like catching a contagious disease. One boy in the neighbourhood gets addicted to it and it spreads like wildfire.

With many parents today working for long hours and returning home stressed out and tired, how much of policing can they do on their children?Let us keep a check on how much we are exposing the young, tender, impressionable minds to technology, at what frequency, how long, when and in whose presence (under a guardian’s watchful eyes) and most importantly, checking and controlling what exactly they get to see and experience through technology. Leaving them to research on a project topic on Internet while one goes for shopping may not be a good idea, as my neighbour feels. Let us explain to them they’ll be given more freedom in this matter as they grow and gain more maturity.

My son came home recently after a bout of cricket with his friends, a few of them older than him, asking if I could open a few Facebook accounts for him (he doesn’t have one till now), mentioning one of them has fifteen! Surprised, I asked him, “Why?” He replied, “To make friends!” When I said he is lucky to be in an apartment complex teeming with boys, many of whom are already his friends, he said, “But Facebook friends I want!” What he couldn’t or didn’t articulate was that he just wanted to be like one of those senior boys, moving around with an air of importance, and bragging about the number of Facebook accounts he has. He thought he could “grow up” in a jiffy the easy way! Technology, if used wisely (rationing of “tech” hours for right contents in the presence of a watchful guardian), will make the children smarter and well-informed. It’s like medicine – an overdose or the wrong prescription will do harm instead of good. It is also very addictive – even I feel so as an adult, as I try to discipline myself with limited number of “tech” hours with my computer.

Let us be wary to keep alive and strong our age-old Indian culture of working hard as students to be able to have a decent, stable future (that Obama is exhorting American students to do for a firm base in Science and Mathematics), not letting our children succumb to excess of technology and automatically pay less attention to academics and core subjects, while encouraging them to maximize the gains from it with the help of teachers and parents and knowledgeable adults. Technology will definitely leave its mark on our children – let’s hope it’s a positive one, on the whole.

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.