Shopping 2.0 – its about reverse mentoring by kids

Kids are likely to have their favorite heroes or heroines from the time they start hearing bedtime stories. With age and exposure to television, cartoon/animated characters come to the fore, depending upon the field of interest. Exposure to big banner movies is likely to add to the list of ever growing characters that can be imitated and aped by the little ones.

My 9-year old is no different, besides having a host of favorites cultivated through the TV-shows caught over the years, he also has a tendency to pick up seasonal fascinations, usually coinciding with the release of a movie.

This holiday season it is Star Wars. What this really means is that he had to see all the earlier sequels (and mind you there are quite a few!) in order to be up-to-date for the big day the movie was released. Watching sequels meant that a favorite character was also identified and role play and play acting began at home.

Luke Skywalker was the chosen one for him and I had to fill in as Darth Vader. A simulated fight sequel without the use of lightsabers and a mask for me would not have had the same effect.  My feeble attempts at making the props at home using rolled up calendars with colored paper just didn’t feel like Star Wars and the look of frustration and disappointment of not having to play proxy Star Wars was telling on his face. Thinking I knew it all, I went ahead and picked up a lightsaber and a Darth Vader mask which I believed would serve the purpose from the local market.

This proved to be my folly. His enthusiasm was damped on seeing my purchases as it came nowhere close to what he had imagined or desired.

Even though this fascination is likely to change with a new Spider Man or an Avengers release, I gave in to redeem my mistake and we trekked back down to the local market to return the purchase and to try and source better props. It was an exercise in futility as the quality and the choice available at the local shops was poor.

“Let’s buy it online,” was my son’s suggestion, who is super well-inducted into the online shopping space thanks to my wife’s nimble fingers.

I dutifully logged in once we reached home and Flipkart came to the rescue. It was, frankly, a relief to see the choices they had in different price bands and quality was very good. Having worked out the maths, which included a couple of months’ advance pocket money to fulfill the purchase, the order was placed on Flipkart. A participative exercised dominated by my son, who browsed and searched various options, studying each photo with the intensity of an x-ray technician, before zeroing in on his choice. A memorable experience indeed!

This wasn’t the first time I had ordered his favorite toys or animated characters online. Earlier, when he was younger, I would usually pick up the pulse and fascination for a character and surprise him on big occasions. However, now that he is growing up and shopping has evolved to a few clicks,involving him in the purchase decision, evaluating the various options, discussing budgets and need assessment only augers well for both the parties involved.

Kids are adept at adapting to the dynamic nature of technology and since online shopping is a reality and is here to stay, we can only imagine their increasing role in shopping. This fact has been wonderfully captured in Flipkart’s All India Baccha Party video which is a testimony to GenZ. https://youtu.be/WXW0WWeJ4kQ

 

#DellPCLiteracyDays – Early Adoption Of PC’s Has Advantages For GenZ

PCs are an integral part of growing up today and as parents,the sooner we start exposing our children to them (tablets/laptops) the better it will auger for the young impressionable minds.
An interactive panel discussion curated by Dell established that PC is a foundation device for creation and learning for individuals in its first parenting community outreach event#DELLPC Literacy Days campaign. The technology awareness initiative had a good mix of experts from the fields of both, technology and education offering practical and subjective perspective on the matter, based on their experience.
Children of today are technology natives and the proliferation of technology across all walks of life, be it personal or professional only means that they will be better equipped and will keep pace in the rapidly changing and competitive global environment.
In developed countries, the use of PCs as an accepted part of teaching in schools is well established. In developing countries, the use of PCs and other such devices may not be that wide spread. Some of the newer schools today are exposing kindergarten children to PCs and only using the new age devices to impart knowledge and education but we are still very far from digital devices being uniformly adopted by schools across the length and breadth of the country. For that to happen, the entire eco-system needs to change in the country and a grounds-up approach is required, where governments, parents, manufacturers, and teachers all work cohesively for faster incorporation of technology and devices in education. This does not mean that text books are unlikely to be made obsolete, but instead the two are likely to work hand in hand; with PCs offering a much greater research universe and acting as information aggregators.
While school-led technology- and device- based learning is likely to be a longer process involving numerous stakeholders, home-based interactions are sure to have a more immediate result. However, the parents must ensure the exposure is age-appropriate under supervision. a device can certainly not take the place of a friend or baby sitter.
Some Do’s:
1. Set up time and schedule the use of PC’s for homework or recreation and ensure cadence is maintained.
2. For slightly older kids discuss the road map of a particular project and nudge them gently to explore the journey themselves.
3. Ensure firewalls and site blockers are in place to prevent children reaching unwarranted content / sites inadvertently
4. Some of us may be technology nomads; hence investing some time in mastering or at least being comfortable with the use of PC will be highly beneficial.
Some Don’ts
1. I believe that books are not out-dated and there are numerous joys which come with them, so don’t throw them out of the window just yet.
2. Allowing the child a game on the tablet or PC can give us parents the much desired break at times but as far as possible don’t encourage it outside the agreed time and schedule of using devices
3. There is no substitute of outdoor physical activity so don’t let that fall of the radar

Simple ways to boost handwriting skills in children 

There was the Stone Age and then the Bronze Age… and it wouldn’t be wrong to call ours the tablet age! Writing, in the very near future, is likely to become a lost skill. This is particularly true for the ubiquitous corporate executive whose day starts and ends with smart appliances. Additionally, technological developments such as screen readers and speech recognition have already started reducing the need for writing as we know it.

This trend is now moving to schools and educational institutions in a big way. With an increasing number of educational institutes adopting technology during the children’s formative years, it is likely that tablets and computers may make the traditional pencil an antique and a collector’s item.

Honing the basic writing skill in children is as essential today as it was in our childhood. Some of the obvious negatives of an unformed hand are peer pressure, low grades in assignments and a general impact on confidence and personality.

Usually, the first exposure to writing for children begins with the use of crayons at home and is followed by pre-school, where elementary education of numbers and alphabets is imparted. Parents can do a lot to bolster the efforts of the school in helping children form a clear handwriting.

Take a look at some of these suggestions:

Posture and grip
Correct posture and a hard surface are equally important to ensure flow, consistency and neatness in writing. Discourage the use of cushions as support or the habit of writing on beds and other soft surfaces. Inculcate the need to sit on a proper chair and table to write on. Gripping the pencil or crayon correctly becomes the next step towards learning the art of writing.

Stationery
Getting the stationery right is critical. With fancy and expensive choices in leaded pencils, it is easy to get swayed. The right size in terms of length and thickness is important as children need to grip the pencil correctly. It shouldn’t be too long as that may put them at the risk of poking themselves.

Use of dots to begin the journey
Dotted alphabets, shapes and numbers are very effective in introducing children to the basic flow of writing alphabets and numbers correctly. Start the learning journey with dotting alphabets, shapes and numbers on a piece of paper or notebook and encouraging children to connect the dots. Published books too, are available to make your task easy.

Practice makes perfect
Important to supplement the effort made in teaching our young ones to write through the use of stencilled practice books. Encouraging them to write out a page each day will not only keep them engaged but also ensure that learning and practice of writing goes hand in hand.

Enrol in arts
Sketching and drawing is intrinsically tied with writing skills. Focus on posture, grip and the right motion of the hands in art also impacts handwriting. It is a good way to strengthen the writing ability in young ones.

This article was first published on www.parentcircle.com

Survival kit for single dads

My experiences in raising my son single handedly are limited to the periods when my wife is travelling for work. It is then that one (read a father) recognizes the true value of the effort put in by mothers in raising children.
So, apart from missing the bus on day one and forgetting the lunch coupons and water bottles on another, it was not a complete disaster. My son did give me an 8/10 for looking after him whilst mom was traveling. I will only strive harder to get to the coveted 10/10.

Going by my experiences here is my survival kits for single dads:

1. Get your basics in place: Be organised and pre-prepared about food, medicines, essential clothing, toys, books… This will ensure you have ready access to what you need at a minute’s notice, especially if the need of the hour is to distract a tired and fussy child at the end of the day.

2. List of emergency numbers: Have all the important numbers, such as that of a doctor, grandparents, babysitters, other parents, and teachers, posted on the fridge, in your mobile phone, on your office table… wherever they are likely to be just a glance away. You would need them to coordinate pick-up and drop-off, homework, play dates… and save a lot of time this way.

3. Discuss the schedule with your child: Just as it is important to plan your day, it is important to help your child plan his/her day. Once you discuss and mutually express expectations about time to study, play, watch TV and go to bed, it is easy to close key deliverables for the day. You do need to adhere to the schedule and help the child adhere to his. This way you are also setting a great example for the future.

4. Recap the day: Make time to have a ‘How was your day?’ chat with your child. Let her share her little ups and downs; comfort her, laugh with her and where required, give advice. Share a few highlights of your day. Just bond. This is also a good way to keep tabs on incidents of bullying, etc. that may take place on the playground or in the school.

5. Encourage your child to be independent: Give him the confidence to do small things independently, be it just buying a chocolate from the corner store or describing his symptoms to the doctor. It lets a child become self-reliant and confident as he grows and faces various curved balls thrown by life.

This article was first published on http://www.parentcircle.com

Spare the rod and spoil the child

Fundamentally, for me, hitting children is a strict no-no. However, there is a school of thought which believes that sparing the “rod” in the initial years will lead to spoiling the child. I am not proposing that believers in using the “rod” only follow this approach to discipline the child but am saying that there is an inclination to use the “rod” more frequently, depending upon the situation at hand.

Not taking a professional qualified view on this approach, but the fact that one is inclined to use force to discipline the child could result in the following situations:
1. The child becoming timid and scared on account of the fear of the severe reprimand he or she is likely to receive in case they do a serious enough offence.
2. Conversely, the worst can happen, i.e. they can become obtuse and indifferent to the beating that they get there by becoming a possible rebel.

In my opinion both the scenarios described above are not desirable at all. Infact, a more mature and effective approach would be to counsel the child on the mistake that he or she has done and how they should learn from this, recognize the consequences of their actions and hopefully not repeat it. I feel that frequent, unrequited use of the “rod” is akin to disrespecting the child – their personality and individuality. It is also a shortcut that people in authority choose to take to get their point across or job done.

However, I feel the conversational approach is better in the long-term for all the relationships involved. Depending upon the seriousness of the situation, at times a raised voice along with stern looks can be equally effective in sending home the message. Yes, sometimes some cooling off time could also be required (for both parties involved) wherein the child should introspect and recognize the results of their action and learn from them and the adult and the authority figure should control/compose themselves.

Net-net using the “rod” is not going to be any more effective than a counseling approach, rather by not using this approach, you are more likely to ensure that your child will grow into a confident self-assured individual.

Prescribed uniform for school or not?

Some primary schools across many countries and cultures do not have a defined uniform for the kids to wear to school. While this may be cool for the kids as they get to do a possible fashion parade every day of the week, it can be a little harrowing for the parents on account of :

• Money spent in buying the latest in clothes for the kids
• Debate each night with the child to reach an agreement on the clothes for the next day
• Ensuring the agreed upon clothes are ready for wear
• Appropriate footwear to go with the clothes
• Handling demand for brands or styles on account of peer pressure or advertising

As opposed to the above, having defined school uniforms can work wonders for the parents:
• Easy on the pocket as on can buy 2-3 pairs of the uniform to last the term as against buying
different clothes for each day of the week.
• Uniform acts as a neutralizer as all the children are wearing the same attire including shoes and
accessories, thereby ensuring that there is no difference whether actual or perceived which can come
up on account of different demographic backgrounds
• And last but not the least a little bit of planning with the uniform sets can ensure that there is
no last minute scrambling to get the clothes ready in time and no lengthy and emotional debates the night
preceding

My vote goes to the uniform any day!

I hate girls!

Not me – never I hope.

These are my son’s current sentiment vis-à-vis the fairer sex. This misplaced sense of “not liking” is reciprocated by the fairer sex towards the boys as well.

Obviously, an age related syndrome, where girls are not in his favourable consideration set, at-least for the time being. This situation is particularly applicable for the environment at school and not necessary for some close friends who happen to be girls, with whom he is familiar and comfortable.

So I was amused when I heard his declaration and claimed excuse for not wanting to go to school. He happens to be currently sharing his seat/desk with a girl.

Here is when I had to step in and remind him that his mother, grandmother and siblings (his and mine) were all girls and that they cannot be wished away. I also counselled him and probed him for the reason for the irritation and ways to work around them.

Net-net, the realization that “girls” are very much a part and parcel of the circle of life and that they are fun to be with.

I am of the hopeful that the current sentiment would undergo a 180o change when he hits the teens years.

Teasing and impact on kids

Teasing or being teased, once in a while, is part of the social fabric and life.

While the skew of teasing is more towards personal traits/ habits we may witness or experience it occasionally in our professional lives as well. While it does give us a laugh or two, too much of it can be a pain and detrimental to the confidence of the one being teased.

Maturity and the ability of handle it will vary from person to person and unsaid rules, such as not crossing the line and not hitting below the belt, will determine how the episode will end, whether it will be laughed off or take an ugly turn. There is a very thin line between teasing and bullying and at times people do not recognize that.

While as adults we are better places to tackle teasing, kids may not have the ability to understand it or laugh it off. Kids who are on the heavier side or wear specks may be subject to some amount of teasing by peers in class or seniors in the school bus. Similarly, kids with different personality traits, say the shy and reserved types, may become easy victims of teasing. Peer isolation may prevent such kids from reporting the matter to the teachers or at home which can have severs repercussions over a period of time.

What is important in such situations is to recognize symptoms or changes in the child’s behavior. Disinterest to go to school or the child suddenly becoming reserved may be clear indicators that something is wrong. Keeping the communication channels open and coaxing the child to share everything with you is extremely crucial.

Post identification of the problem come the critical matter of equipping the child to deal with the situation. As a first step, ensuring that they don’t take the verbal jibes personally or seriously will go a long way in them being able to ignore it. Second, the need for them to not get cowed down and have the presence of mind to give it back without getting into a fight. Third, in a worst case scenario reporting to the school authorities and lastly picking up the phone on the parents to settle the matter once and for all.

The discretion of leveraging  steps three and four would rest on us, the parents, typically, in extreme cases otherwise we may handicap the child if we pitch in to fight every battle in his life including the smallest one.

And lastly most importantly have the ability to laugh at yourself… and give your kids this very important ability too

Education channels versus Cartoons

Without a doubt I believe education channels wins hands down.

The content and knowledge presented in an interesting and absorbing manner is a treat not only for the children but for the parents as well. In fact it may just act as a refresher for the parents.

Da Vinci Learning (#client) recently held an introductory session for parents and kids where in some interesting experiments were demonstrated live. The atmosphere was abuzz with excitement as bursting volcanoes, recreating a comet, understanding polymers and playing with bubbles enthralled not just the kids, but also their parents. The simple yet effective experiments  were conducted with eager participation of the little ones. This not only ensured that they understood the science behind experience, but also created fond memories for the children and curiosity about the channel.

While there is no question of the benefits and the positive impact of such education channels like Da Vinci Learning there is a possible flip side for the parents.

From a parent’s perspective such channels may not always be the preferred choice of the child as they flip through the TV menu, as unlike cartoons, education channel viewing would require an investment of the parent’s time as well. This primarily on account of the questions which may come up while viewing the content particularly from young kids. Therefore joint viewing could be an ask depending upon the programming.

So the bliss of putting the child in front of the TV and taking some me-time or catching up on some chores will not hold true with education channels. I would also like to add that all cartoons may not be necessarily bad – yes there are the odd favorites like Mickey Mouse and the Toon Club which are also effective in imparting knowledge to the younger kids. My vote squarely goes to the education channels.

 

When push comes to shove

Some kids will pick up mannerism or acts as they grow up – either from peers or from television. It is possible that such acts are done to attract attention or are in reaction to some thought or situation; they may even be an early symptom of a nutritional deficiency (so I have heard). 

While such acts may seem innocuous and harmless to begin with – they need to be addressed at the earliest possible – before they become a habit difficult to shake. Besides discussing this with the family doctor / pediatrician to rule out something serious, it is also important to talk to the child to find out the reasons for such behavior and to counsel the child. Ignoring such acts with the hope that they disappear may not work and with the passage of time such mannerism may become ingrained in the mind of the child thus be exhibited subconsciously

So if after repetitive counselling and requests fails and push comes to shove a stern authoritative approach may just do the trick. I am not propagating physical contact but a very serious parent to child conversation establishing boundaries and authorities may be required. Ramifications for not discontinuing the behaviors should also be spelled out to ensure there is no ambiguity.

If this approach is a change in tack from your usual problem solving mechanism, it may be a shock for the child and he may get the message. It may be upsetting for the parent as well, but with a heavy heart one must do what is required for the betterment of the child. Having adopted a particular approach it has to be sustained through such acts, i.e. there cannot be a softening once you decide that the last straw has broken the camel’s back.