Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The winds of change ...

... have been blowing through the Sukhwani household for some time now. And bringing about changes in ways more than one. Changing a largely self centred toddler/pre-schooler into a child who thinks about others, feels for them and at times even puts himself in their shoes and empathises. Changing a shy child who shut himself off just watching from a distance as relatives and friends tried to talk to him, grew violent if someone pushed too hard, into a child who's learnt pleasant talk and a pretty cute one at that :), someone who doesn't hesitate to wave hello to a boy accross the road whom he has been seeing board his school bus at the same time as himself in the morning or to an elderly gentleman whom he sees in the park in the evening and who is becoming increasingly competent at striking a conversation himself.

It makes me wonder as to how these amazing changes take place. There must be a variety of reasons I can attribute these changes to. I remember noticing some of them and date them to as much as 9-10 months back. I remember talking to Ashwini about it when on a pretty crowded Dandiya night, he had asked me to accompany him to watch some of the older kids play. He had joined in, albeit for a few minutes, after a long time of watching and it was a big leap for him to take because not very long back he had preferred sitting in the car alone in the parking lot in front of the small lawn in which we practised for the same dandiya night because the crowd intimidated him. Even after coming back to India, he had been shy at most occasions and preferred to stay by the people he was close to. At the park in the evening, he called out to me or Jiya to play with him when other children played among themselves. He reasoned to me and to himself in the process that shouting, being somewhat rough with each other, negotiating their turns for batting/bowling/swinging all of which is a part and parcel of playing among a coterie of friends, made them bad children and so he didn't want to play with them. Now I see him as a part of the same coterie, still not as steady, not as sure of the small to-be-made decisions he is faced with everyday. I see it on his face when someone asks him for a ride on his bicycle and he contemplates because this one is a good friend but yesterday he has had an unpleasant experience with another child who refused to return it to him even after a good amount of time, the uncertainty in his voice when he too wants to bat and makes an attempt to fight for what he wants to do. I see him slowly getting there as he tries to make sense of the dynamics driving various relationships. He makes quite a few assumptions like he'll be called a silly boy just because he is new wanting to join an already formed group of friends or he'll be left out and not played with because he decides to not share his cycle. His actions thus look like the wobbly first steps of a baby as he walks the fine line between being accepted and being rejected. I see the effects of peer acceptance and peer influence shaping his personality.

As a parent, it makes me sit up and take note. I myself wonder about what my reaction should be, what should I tell him to do and how, which battles should I let him brave himself and which are the ones I should get into myself. I walk the fine line with him where I want my child to be accepted and liked by his peers and at the same time not be walked over. To be honest, I wonder when other mothers remark that he is very sweet to be so forthcoming about sharing his things whether he is being a tad too sweet. For though I wouldn't dwell upon it too much here but I do see the society including the children becoming a bit too intolerant and self centered at least to my comfort. So even though morals and ethics ask me to tell him to be loving and sharing, practicality asks me to also make him skilled to fight his battles when the need be. And so at times, I do tell him in a humored way, making it sound funny, to threaten the child who teases him and doesn't stop even after Vansh asking him to do so, that he's going to complain to his mom. At this point it has been working. I do walk up to the boy who rides his bicycle as if its his own totally ignoring the fact that its actually another child's who's been sweet enough to share it with him and ask him in sweet but firm tone to let him have it back. Children today have become mighty good with their arguments, I must say and so I don't expect them to always listen to a 4 year old and so I intervene.

Peer influence also means that we have to deal with rough behavior, unpleasant sounding words and tones which he clearly picks up from children at school/summer camp. While his teachers are all praises about him being a good and polite child at school, at home he does try out whatever he observes/hears other kids do. We are still at a very very primitive stage in dealing with this behavior because its just now that we have realised the reason behind it. Earlier we addressed the behavior as his own but now we realise the focus would have to shift a bit to make him understand and realise where its coming from and its effects. I would so appreciate help from readers/parents who have experienced this on ways to deal with it.

I see that this post has already become a long one. And so I'll sign off here - the thinking about others and feeling for them part I'll leave for part 2 of the same post :)

8 comments:

Preethi said...

Neera, I think it is just the difference between growing up in the US and in India. We are visiting India now.. and I can see the stark difference between the kids here and there.. the kids here are more competitive and the term survival of the fittest makes a lot of sense in their everyday play! While Cheeky and his friends back in the US learn to share and take turns and be patient while waiting for their turn! Its just the culture and the very nature of how things work here.. I am sure Vansh will soon learn the ropes :)

Sumana said...

What a perfect timing to this post neera. I was just about thinking the same in my mind while coming down to work "As a parent, it makes me sit up and take note. I myself wonder about what my reaction should be, what should I tell him to do and how, which battles should I let him brave himself and which are the ones I should get into myself. "
I really have been thinking along these lines, where i might be wrong or where i might just be correct in getting the right advice. So when i read your sentence, i just felt you were reading my mind.

Sumana said...

Sure, what do you do when a neighbour bursts a ball and just lands it at your doorstep. The kids come down to our place to play with the toys our kids have. I am more then happy and encourage my kids to share with them. My girl being at her best sees her friends playing and comes to a time where they break her toys and she just feels sad and does not raise a voice. But the little fella tries to get wild and goes about nagging the others. I am tied sometimes how much to push the elder one and to avoid the younger one from over reacting. It is a challenge.

Monika,Ansh said...

Aww what a lovely update Neera

noon said...

Hi Neera - I think Preethi is right. That's what I was thinking. In some ways children in India grow up to be more hardy because I feel they deal with a lot more competition even for little things like the swing in a park or a see-saw. Here they are given so many choices and so much space - somehow the battles are fewer. But here too it happens. The other day KB and KG were sitting on a see-saw and playing. Suddenly KB noticed another Indian boy at the park come and take his sand toy- dump truck. KB who usually shares stuff suddenly got down and said he wanted to play with the dump truck. That boy took it and ran...I felt him or his mother should have asked...so I told KB he could go and politely ask the boy if he could take the truck back. But the poor boy wanted to play with it but KB kept insisting he wanted it. I didn't want to walk over there and butt into this fight. I was not sure what to do. Finally I pulled KB aside and told him to just share for sometime. Meanwhile his mom insisted he give it back and they left the park. After some time they came back. By this time I had cajoled KB into sharing it - so KB himself went and gave it to that boy. I too thought to myself how much should I have interfered in all this...but I could not sit there and not do anything about it...
I understand what you feel...

PG said...

A good read! Yes, I am also worried in this regard many a times as Rishab is always much too ready to share and always ready to give up whatever he wantd to do if he sees other kids wanting to do the same while playing. I hope he will learn one day that sharing also means not just giving but also accepting and that you don't need to feel bad if you don't feel like sharing it, as only then will he learn from the consequences. I want him to pick up these small battles of life. And I feel t this age we sometimes do need to intervene, as the civilised world doesn't really accept all the rules of nature.

Neera said...

Preethi: You are right about the cultural difference being the main thing. I am now at a point where even I have found my balance and realised that teaching him to wait for his turn just doesn't work here because that ways the turn never comes.
Now my main concern is to not let him be influenced so much that he starts using the rude words, the harsh tone that he picks up from some children with everyone.

Sumana: Its the same everywhere, hanh?! :) That's sad about the kids breaking ur kids' toys. I would put away the kids' favorites, I think telling them that they would feel bad if they break accidentally by someone else. Also if its an accident, one can't do much except asking the child to be careful. if its rough play, I would use a firm tone and try to ensure it doesn't happen again. The younger one in my experience would outgrow the wild stage :)
Have u tried putting the toys away after some time and then giving the kids crayons, papaer, scissors, glue etc for free craft?

Monika, Ansh: thanks :)

noon: I think u handled it really well noonoo and taught KB a valuable lesson as well in sharing as well as asking back politely for something that's his. At this stage we have to intervene and at least let them know what we think is correct and why.

PG: Excatly! Which is why the intervention becomes necessary.

Nagesh.MVS said...

Lovely post.I was just about thinking the same in my mind while coming down to work "As a parent, it makes me sit up and take note.
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