8 Jan 2015

1 Fundamental Flaw in Parenting Since Centuries Which Needs Fixing

One Sunday morning, a friend invited me to his house for a cup of tea after we completed our jog. I like the positive vibes his house gives out and am particularly fond of his daughter. I asked if she was awake and he said “yes”. So I went over. I occasionally glanced at what she was doing while sipping tea and chatting with my friend. I don’t intrude in children’s private spaces unless invited. The sofa we sat on had wide arm rests, but I was visibly discomforted by keeping my arm on it while holding the cup of tea. His daughter noticed, placed coasters on both arm rests and said to us, “Now keep your cups here while you talk.” It was amazing how comfortable things became after that simple step. We sipped tea, placed our cups on the coasters and continued talking. Oh, did I mention that she was 2 years old then?

There are more incidents like this. Kamini Lakhani, who works with children on autism spectrum, informs me that some of the most profound insights on life which she has gained have come from 9 year olds on the spectrum. And it’s unbelievable how much they know. One of her students is a whiz when it comes to airplane models. The other - a splendid painter - knows when she is stressed without even seeing her.

I am reminded of Groucho Marx’s quote: “Why a four-year-old child could understand this report. Run out and find me a four-year-old child. I can't make head nor tail of it.” Do you know who invented the concept of SMSes, way back in the early 90s? No, it wasn’t Nokia. It was Finnish teens - boys who were too scared to ask girls out on a date and girls who wanted to keep their BFFs updated real time about what was happening on the date.

groucho marx 4 year old

Since the event at the friend’s house, I’ve started asking more children for solutions to problems. As said before, I don’t treat them like children unless they are less than 1 1/2 years old. “Baccha hi toh hai" (s/he’s just a child) is no longer part of my lingo, and it is painful to see parents dismiss their children’s intelligent suggestions saying “Beta, abhi tum bacche ho” (you’re just a child now).

As parents, it is your responsibility to get your child involved with you as soon as possible. There is no ripe age to begin. The 1st 5 years are their most crucial ones. In fact, I have observed that children who are involved in their fathers’ and mothers’ interests from a very young age often turn out more confident than their peers and excel at something (to hell with research). Steve Jobs’ adopted father imbibed the importance of beauty in him from a very early age. See how the world benefited? You’re probably reading this article on a gorgeous iPhone right now. What if Paul Jobs had said “Steve, tum abhi bacche ho, tum nahi samjhoge” (Steve, you won’t understand because you are a child). I was delighted to see my friends Purvesh and Mital take their toddler to Comic Con dressed as Superman! That is the level of involvement I’m talking about.

awesome parenting tips
Shivansh (Superman), Mital (Lara) and Purvesh (Captain America) at Comic Con

It has become awfully easy to ignore our children today. You want your child to stop disturbing you with endless questions? Simply buy her an iPhone or an iPad, install WiFi and banish her to her room. As Nouman Ali says, your child will use these gadgets to find a new set of parents online. Do you want to be a good parent? Then introduce your child to something good which has her hooked from a young age. And be with her, guide her, track her progress. Give her the “teachings” you want to impart constructively. Take care of her diet. More healthy food for the brain and body and less money for junk. And instead of spending time Facebooking about how nasty men are, imbibe values in your child to become a better human (yes, cranky moms, this is aimed directly at you).

It has always been a mistake on our part to be dismissive of children’s opinions instead of being inclusive. If you want your child to make you proud, listen to her. Value her opinions and suggestions. You never know where the next Oprah Winfrey is lurking, unable to show herself because no one will listen to her. Nor do you know which suggestion of her’s will solve a major problem in your life. And for God’s sake, stop counting your sacrifices. Unless Lord Indra begged you to give birth, it is your duty to endure for the child. It is your responsibility to make your child a better human rather than a better slave to the world’s status quo.

I hope we really understand what children need and deserve. They don't crave for fancy phones or junk food. They want to be heard, respected and most importantly, loved! Your thoughts on this? You don’t have to be a parent to have an opinion, you know.

1 Jan 2015

10 New Year Resolutions That Will (Hopefully) Make Me A Better Person

I don’t remember the last time I made a New Year’s Resolution (let alone stick to it). But I read this amazing article by Jeff Haden and thought “Why not make these my New Year’s Resolutions?” MS Dhoni's retirement from test matches has left me with a certain hollowness. I want to be more like him - a composed, intelligent, humble and genuine human being driven by a larger purpose in life. These 10 resolutions should be a good place to start.

  1. No waiting until I am convinced I will succeed
    People close to me know that I have been wanting to embark on a project since 2011. Fear (and sheer laziness) have helped me make excuses for 3 years (4 now, since it’s 2015 already). This year, the project will see the light of day. And I will do whatever I’m capable of to make it succeed. If I don’t find time, I will make it.

  2. No being distracted by notifications
    In 2015, schedules will be adhered to… diligently. No more peeking into Facebook or glancing through emails or Whatsapp during those times. As I write this article, the SelfControl app has already been put to work, blocking my access to Facebook, Twitter and Quora. You will see me less on Facebook and taking more time to respond to emails and Whatsapp messages. There, you have been informed.

  3. No blaming others - for anything
    There is a amazing quote on social media - “You cannot build your house on someone else’s property.” This means that people must not rely on others’ platforms to succeed in their online strategies. I think the same holds true for life. This year, whatever happens, I will refrain from saying “I didn’t get what I wanted because of [name].” If I want something, I will do what it takes to get it. The onus is on me, not anyone else. No more blame games. But no attempts to sabotage someone’s spotlight either. Credit will be given wherever it’s due.
    new year resolution 2015
    image Courtesy: Mark Teasdale/Flickr

  4. No checking of my phone while talking to someone
    I’ll try something even harder. I won’t pull my phone out when I am with someone. Even if I do, it will lie silently in a corner, so that I can give the person in front of me the respect s/he deserves. I will bring conversations back to being with people in front of me rather than being with those who are not.

  5. No multitasking
    I suck at multitasking. And it looks like people around are getting even better at it. However, their boats barely move forward. Maybe because we are paddling to move forward, to the left, towards Northeast and Southwest at the same time (I didn’t say NorthWest because you would start talking about Kim Kardashian’s baby). Research shows that multitasking reduces our productivity by up to 50%. So I’ll follow Steve Jobs’ saying “Being busy doesn’t count. What counts is what you are doing to stay busy.” Goodbye multitasking. Hello productivity.

  6. No interrupting
    I've got into the stinkingly bad habit of interrupting people while they speak. I was proud of being an astute listener, but my ego is getting the better of me. In 2015, I will genuinely listen to people without thinking about responding. Once the person finishes her statement, I’ll take a few seconds to frame what I want to say (or ask). And if the person starts speaking in the interim, I’ll start listening again. And if we are talking and I interrupt you, please point it out.

  7. No whining
    I’m responsible for my future. Even if I want to wallow in self-pity, I’ll take a leaf out of Jennifer Anniston’s book. The “Why Me” syndrome and brooding will last 1 evening. The next morning, the focus will return to fixing things.

  8. No relinquishing control to the past
    What’s gone is gone. Nothing can be done about it. I have committed some blunders. Maybe they will come back to haunt me, maybe they won’t. But they won’t decide where I go from here. Each new day is an opportunity to start afresh. I will treat it as one.

  9. No wasting time on people and things that don't matter
    Less time watching TV, reading Times of India (ToI-let paper) and other mainstream papers, browsing Facebook and meeting people who believe that the universe is conspiring against them (this includes AAP supporters). More time helping people and sharpening 3 skills which I believe will pay off in the future - communication, music and ‘getting things f**king done’.

  10. No talking behind another person's back
    “If it’s not your place to talk to someone about what they’ve done, it’s definitely not your place to talk about them.” I’ve been part of bitchy gossip; hell, I’ve even initiated some of them! This year, the only things that I will say about people behind their backs is how awesome they are. If I have to say something unpleasant, it either will be on the person’s face or won’t come out at all. 
So there they are. My New Year’s Resolutions for 2015. I’m going to periodically track how I’m doing on each of them.

Your turn. What are your resolutions? I would love to hear from you.
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