hikikomori

There are many lost kids out there. They are either dragging their feet in college for years after they are supposed to have finished, or have graduated but are disinclined to apply for jobs. Some of them take up jobs that are far below their ability and qualification. They use the paltry pay as pocket money and continue to stay in their parents’ home, neither asking for nor contributing anything.

What bothers parents most is the stonewalling, the refusal to engage in a conversation about it. The worst cases are where the kid stays holed up in his room with a laptop, does not come out even for meals, and raids the fridge at night.

There is no word in English – nor is there one in the DSM-5 ­– for this. However, the Japanese have a word for it: hikikomori, which roughly translates to acute social withdrawal. Hikikomori are adolescents or adults who have withdrawn totally from society, not leaving their room for weeks or months on end.

This phenomenon has been studied most in Japan because the country’s demography, culture and current job situation have apparently turned many youngsters ­– and adults – into hikikomori.

Who are these reclusive youngsters who quit mainstream life? This is a generalisation based on kids I have seen in clinical practice. A hikikomori in India is most likely to:

  • belong to a middle- or upper-middle-class family
  • be described as ‘sensitive’ and more inclined towards the arts, though he might hold a degree in science, business or law
  • have been sent to the ‘best’ educational institutions, hence expected to ‘succeed’ spectacularly by everyone, including extended family, a daunting situation that he is not up to facing
  • have done extremely well in school but poorly in college
  • have a recent history of failure, either academic or in a romantic relationship
  • not want to attend family events because he’ll have to explain why he is doing nothing
  • muse about whether all the slogging through school and college was worth it because life is pointless
  • tell you he’s reading philosophy and it makes more sense than the boring lectures in college
  • say that he sleeps during the day and sits up all night because it is peaceful

All these young people unhappily searching for meaning and direction, looking for peace, trying to hide from nosey relatives to protect their parents’ honour . . . It’s sad. Why is this happening to our kids?

One reason could be that they never got a chance to find out what they wanted from life because parents had set the course for them. To give parents their due, most see education as a means to a career and a steady income, not necessarily an exciting job. After all, they are funding it. The tussle over choice is now a common Hindi movie trope, and Indian parents are hopefully re-thinking Education.

Anyway, right now we have to do something about these apathetic kids. Without motivation there’s no impetus to go anywhere, get a job, do anything. So they stay in their rooms, numb, lost in their own world.

The apathy you see in hikikomori is not different from the apathy of a patient with a lesion in the prefrontal cortex, because that is the part of the brain that buzzes with ideas and energy to explore new possibilities.

One part of the prefrontal cortex gets you energised to make a plan; another sets the tasks for carrying out the plan; another executes it; another part monitors the execution; another part moderates your emotions. The foremost rounded part of the brain, the frontal pole, coordinates all of this, plus input from some other parts of the brain. So there can’t be any progress without energisation, the starting point for action. This is apathy, and it manifests as withdrawal. That is what neuroscience tells us.

Psychology says there is a deficit of Theory of Mind, i.e. difficulty understanding others’ intentions, and how their own behaviour impacts others. This is the same kind of deficit one sees in people with autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia! So, the tendency to withdraw rather than confront might be a stable trait, that is, hardwired in the personality. Anyone trying to help a hikikomori re-integrate into the mainstream would have to consider this limitation.

There is no established way of dealing with hikikomori as yet. We probably have to connect with them, find out what energises them, light a spark and hope the other steps in the prefrontal cortex follow. We have to be supportive until they are ready to test the waters. This is not easy and it takes time. It might not even succeed. Meanwhile, we need to reset our priorities vis-à-vis raising children before we start giving these unhappy people labels or creating a new category in the DSM-6.

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blogging on wordpress x 5 years

I thought I would write about parents and children, and people would read what I wrote, and I would thus contribute in a small measure to making India a better place for children. I would write about  common mental illnesses, so lay people could recognise the symptoms and seek treatment early.

Naïve? Sure, yes.

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A young patient started this blog for me five years ago, in March 2012. It was meant primarily for writing about child-raising and mental health. But I was scared to write. I busied myself putting up photographs and other less-threatening things on it. It was nearly one year later that I dared to take the plunge. A very simple topic: Being parents. Something I had experience with. After that it got easier.

I had written a series of articles on mental illness for a local newspaper a couple of years before. Someone suggested I list their links on this blog. So I did. Someone else suggested I write a short gist for each article as well. I did that too.

As many people are afraid to take psychiatric medicines, I wrote a series of short blog posts about psychiatric medicines and sometimes referred patients to them.

Over time, I started liking my blog. It became a place I could visit, a place where I could express myself. Here, I was obliged to clarify things in my mind before I wrote, unlike a diary where I might allow sloppy thinking, half-baked ideas and excessive emotion.

I try to be precise as it is very easy to be misunderstood, which takes away from the spontaneity and raw quality of writing that bloggers appreciate. Sharing unexamined thoughts is just not me. Frankly, everyone – from ordinary people like me to important people like the president of the United States – shouldn’t be putting unprocessed thoughts on public display. People might act on them, like Adam Purinton of Kansas who shouted “Go back to your country” as he shot two men.

Though I think I’m aware of things happening around the world, I’m hesitant to comment on them here, especially after I came to know that ‘fake news’ exists and is not just something Trump rants about. A lot of stuff floats around like space junk in my head, but can’t be neutralised because of missing bits of information. Random example: Colombia – Juan Manuel Santos – Nobel peace prize – FARC – José  Luis Mendieta – forgiveness/punishment … After some time I just let it go.

I didn’t write for nearly two years as I didn’t feel the need to. In November 2016 I wrote ‘Change’ because I needed to sort out my thoughts about this phase of my life. Writing helped.

Of late, I’ve been in a nostalgic mood. Things are too quiet around the house with the kids having flown the nest. That’s why I’ve been writing almost exclusively about the time I lived on different ships over a six-year period. Those days now seem like a wonderful lifetime lived centuries ago. I’ve been sharing the links to these posts with everyone: cousins, my high school whatsapp group, and friends made over the years in different places.

The upshot of all this is that I’ve connected again with some nice people I had lost touch with, because they’ve called up or messaged to tell me how much they enjoyed the posts. Then, there’s my 13-year-old niece who said, “Aunty, I didn’t know all this had happened to you!” It was a revelation to her that I had been living for a long time doing other things, before she met me thirteen years ago!

This month I complete five years of blogging, irregular though it has been. I really need to thank wordpress for giving me this space. Blogging has given me a lot of relief, and pleasure too. There are so many bloggers whose posts I’ve enjoyed reading too.

My technophobia is starting to feel like ingratitude. I guess it’s time I re-examined my attitude towards technology. Ah, I can almost hear my children’s sighs of relief!

after ten years

Ten years have passed.

This is what I had said to Geetha Rao, a reporter with The Times of India, in Jan 2007.

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What has changed since?

The ridiculous term, eve-teasing, seems to have thankfully become an anachronism. You don’t hear people use it anymore. Indians now call it sexual harassment just as the rest of the world does.

img_5469Girls no longer seem to take the blame for ‘attracting attention.’ You hear of girls and their parents filing complaints at police stations without worrying about what their relatives and neighbours will think. It’s just an impression. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the press reports only on people who file cases. Perhaps the percentage of girls taking action has only increased a little, and maybe many still don’t file. Police records may not reflect reality.img_5470img_5470

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More parents seem to be conscious about giving sons and daughters equal opportunities, and fewer parents seem to be staying within the gender roles assigned to them by tradition, at least in Bangalore. I won’t go into the topic of honour-killings, etc. taking place all over the country.

It seems that movies glorifying guys who stalk unwilling girls and ‘win’ them in the end aren’t being made anymore. If I am right, this is major progress, considering two-three generations of boys grew up thinking stalking was a normal courtship ritual.

In this article in 2007 I mentioned “teaching little boys about gender equality.”

In the Times of India, Bangalore dated 9th Jan 2011, I said “each child has to be raised right” with reference to another case of sexual harassment.

I’ve subsequently realised that’s easier said than done. There are so many external influences that shape a child’s character. Parents have to be alert to small changes in a child’s behaviour all the time, without making the child feel watched and controlled. They have to nip potentially dangerous behaviours in the bud by taking away the source of the behaviour, for example access to adult sites on the internet that a child might have stumbled upon. Parents do come for consultation regarding such situations. And then too, there is no guarantee that the child can be straightened out if the habit has become deeply entrenched, or personality development has been severely impacted, for example a teenaged boy who was  sexually abused in childhood.

Bringing about change in society seems a mammoth task to me as my work deals only with individuals, and my sphere of influence is limited. A sizeable proportion of the citizenry seems to believe that women shouldn’t expect to be safe if they want freedom to go out at night. However, public discourse on the topic of sexual harassment is now more open and some citizens are looking for ways to draw the attention of the government and the police to this issue. We might still get there.

about this blog: 2016

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View from Uttaribetta near Bangalore

One often sees this scene in movies: someone standing on top of a mountain shouting out his ecstasy, rage or a Big Question. It’s obvious he just needs to get it out of his system. For me, this blog has been that mountain. I yelled out in my head a lot of things that I wrote here. Sometimes I found I had typed it all in caps lock and had to re-type it.

I could write the same things in a diary but that would be just between me and myself. I need to express niggling thoughts as if I’m sharing them with other human beings. Transferring them from my head onto a blog, or setting them free in cyberspace, gives a sense of resolution as they are now out of my system.

When I look at what I wrote under ‘About this blog’ in 2012 I find that much of it is not true of today.

About parenting: The kids have grown up and flown the nest. Right now, I only hope they have come to Earth with decent natal charts to see them through this lifetime.

About teaching children to respect others’ religious beliefs: In the present milieu I would find it hard to advocate blanket acceptance of everybody’s religious beliefs as worthy of respect. The problems caused by differing religious beliefs among people are in the news every day. I would probably not talk about comparative religion at all, but just say that people ultimately get their just desserts.

About mental health: The brain is an organ, the mind a process. I broadly accept that everything that can go wrong with the mind has a biological basis, because nerve cells that mediate mental processes communicate via chemicals. Nevertheless, I am now reluctant to use the term ‘mental illness’ too freely.

About history: My interest is only in subaltern history, the story of the common people, rather than that of kingdoms, conquests and colonisations.

About nature: The only thing that hasn’t changed is my pleasure in taking photographs and sharing the nice ones here. It’s still only about capturing a moment on my phone, “nothing hi-tech, just point and shoot” as I’ve said before.

So, what will I be writing about? Whatever wells up and needs to be expressed. With one rule: try not to complain about things too much.

‘A Little Book for the Hindu Child’ is now available on Amazon

    When my son was about five years old, an older child in the school van asked him if he was Muslim or Hindu. He didn’t know. So he told her, “I’m a Gemini”! When he got home he anxiously asked me if his reply was right. I nodded and smiled, all the while wondering how to explain religion to a five-year-old.

He had a lot of questions.

What is a Hindu? What is the difference between Hindus and other people? How many Gods are there? Why are there beggars with no food to eat and no place to live – why does God let it happen? Where did Ajja go when he died? Why do I have to be good? And so forth.

I thought back to my own childhood. When I was four I lived with my grandmother and her mother for about a year. That’s when I think I imbibed something about Hinduism. I say ‘imbibed’ because not much was spoken; it was just lived. There are only two things I remember being mentioned. One was karma, or ‘you reap what you sow’, and the other was that there’s only one God whom people call by different names. I realize that these two beliefs have endured, and I still believe them to be true. So, when I decided to write down what I meant to tell my son about Hinduism, I started with these two concepts. That’s what ‘A Little Book for the Hindu Child’, published in 2005, is mostly about.

‘A Little Book for the Hindu Child’ has been available only in Bangalore all these years. Earlier this month Raj, whom I’ve known for several years now, converted it into an e-book and made it available on Amazon. I hope his efforts bear fruit, and people everywhere read this book and find it useful to understand the basics of Hinduism.

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Kids and the internet

Americans once sprayed killer fungi from helicopters over opium poppy fields in Helmand in Afghanistan. This is what Nushin Arbabzadah says in her book Afghan Rumor Bazaar.

They wanted to destroy poppy crops because American kids were falling prey to opium addiction.  This was their way of dealing with the source of the problem as they saw it! Afghan families who depended solely on poppy for their livelihood were affected by the spraying, but that’s another story.

If we were to metaphorically spray killer fungi on the rot on the internet, who would pay the price? Who creates the rot? Who controls what ends up on the internet? Who invents games like ‘rape games’ and puts them up on the net?

Disgusting as they are, there is obviously a market for these games. They are out there because they are a source of income to someone.  They exist because some people consider them recreational. As a free society I suppose we cannot interfere with the maker’s creative freedom and his constitutional right to earn a living.  Words like ‘creative’ and ‘freedom’ do not have boundaries that everybody can agree upon and are, therefore, grey areas for lawmakers. There is no provision for metaphoric killer fungi to destroy metaphoric poppy fields of people who depend on them for a living.

Most youngsters apparently do outgrow these ‘games’, and playing them doesn’t leave lasting effects. This may hold true for those kids that get into college, graduate, find jobs and establish careers and lives. These are sharp kids whose brains probably tire of such mindless games. At some point they may stop to ask themselves, ‘What am I doing?’ The same goes for children who have grown up learning to respect themselves and others, children with a conscience.

But, what about the not-so-bright and the unemployed with time on their hands? Worse still, what about delinquents and perverts who get hooked on these games?

So, if the onus is on parents alone, how do we shield our kids? By blocking sites? Ha! Whom are we kidding? Children are capable of finding ways around these tricks, everybody knows that.  What else, then?

“It depends entirely on the kid”, said my 19-year-old niece emphatically when I asked her. “My friends have nice parents who trust them so much – I have been to their houses and met them – but these kids do dreadful things I can’t even tell you about. And they don’t feel bad at all. When I ask them how they can do this, they say, ‘It’s okay – who’s going to tell them?’ I also have friends with rotten parents, but they are so decent, it’s unbelievable!” A 21-year-old boy told me “I think I didn’t do a lot of things when I was in college because I didn’t want to betray my parents’ trust in me.” A 15-year-old said with utter sincerity, “I love my dad and mom – I will never do anything to make them ashamed of me.”

To sum up in the words of the same 21-year-old quoted earlier: “There are too many variables: parent-variables and kid-variables. All sorts of permutations are possible, so you can’t predict which way a kid will go. Also, some kids have an inborn sense of what is right, and parents don’t have to invest much effort in them. Then, there are kids who are trouble, no matter how good the parents.”

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2008/oct/20/drugstrade-drugspolicy-afghanistan

Once upon a time in Goa

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This is a bronze bust of my great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather. It is enshrined in our family temple in Goa. He was one of the five men who saved the sacred idols of the deities from Portuguese invaders in the 16th century.

This is our temple, the Ramnathi temple, in Ponda, Goa. It was originally in Loutolim, but was destroyed by the Portuguese. A new temple was consecrated to the deity in Ponda, 11 km away across the Zuari river.

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This is what my ancestors who lived in Goa at the time of the Goa Inquisition in the 16th century were up against.  The Goa Inquisition by A.K.Priolkar is a well-researched book that chronicles details of that time.

To begin with, the Portuguese had a 41-point code for Goans, some of which were:

  • No worshipping their own deities
  • Ban on wedding-related activities like distribution of betel leaves and flowers, serving a wedding meal
  • Restriction on wearing Indian garments
  • No observing religious fasts, performing obsequies
  • No growing tulsi in their backyards
  • No building or maintaining temples; violation was dealt with by demolition of the temple and confiscation of its wealth for pious (?) work by the Portuguese.

Those who flouted these and other random rules – something that was bound to happen, because all the things on the Portuguese’s list of bans were a normal part of life for Goans – fell afoul of the Goa Inquisition. They would be tortured in the presence of their families by being beaten up, having their eyelashes yanked out, or bones broken. . .

By 1570 they had a law that said people who did as they were told didn’t have to pay taxes for 15 years, as long as they used their brand new Portuguese names and erased all memories of who they used to be!

The moral of the story of the persecution of my forefathers in Goa by the Portuguese, as I gathered in bits and pieces over the years, was this: “Everybody has his own idea of God and that’s okay, because nobody’s seen God. What the Portuguese people did was wrong. They were ignorant. Our forefathers left our homeland because it was important for them to be independent, not live like slaves”. In other words, accept that every religion is okay and don’t impose your beliefs on others. But hold on to your convictions, because they make you who you are. An independent person.

If every child learns this there will be less distrust and hatred among people in the future. Since a large number of wars have been fought over religion, there may be fewer wars too. And perhaps people wouldn’t feel it their duty to torture those who worship god by a different name.

In theory, it would be best if people could be ‘good’ without theism. In organized religions, rules for good conduct are laid down on the premise that people will fall into sin without them. Does that mean a majority of people need a God to stay their course in that direction? The fact that thousands of places of worship exist in every country, maintained by thousands of religious heads, makes me think that’s likely; of course there are social, economic and political reasons for the existence of places of worship too, but I’ll ignore that for the moment.

Obviously then, theism will not go away. The only way forward would be to allow everyone their own brand of theism.

Just as I will not blindly accept someone else’s beliefs, I won’t foist mine on others by any means, blatant or subtle. Should I induce a person to adopt my religious beliefs, depriving him of the inner growth that comes with thinking things out, I would be stunting him. He would be the human equivalent of a Sequoia tree in its bonsai form. I can’t feel good about it, nor can I score brownie points with my god, if he’s a fair god.

I know that what my forefathers went through is exactly what indigenous populations everywhere went through when explorers decided that they owned not only the lands they ‘discovered’ or ‘conquered’, but the human beings who lived there as well. Any reader can look back at the history of his own land to know I’m right.

Shouldn’t we try to change the status quo? How? By teaching kids to be tolerant, and never telling them, “Our God is the only true god, other religions have it wrong.” By telling them instead, that religions are different paths that lead to the same god. Or, if we are mature and secure enough, telling them that religion isn’t about god at all, it’s just a way of life.

Others’ thoughts on the topic:

http://arunshanbhag.com/2005/03/29/ramnathi-devasthan/

http://slbhyrappa.com/downloads/SLB%20on%20Concersion%20%20English%20Part%201.pdf

Self-esteem

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In earlier times children began working with their parents when they were quite young. Their contribution was necessary, as every member had to work to take care of the family’s day to day needs. Also, it was a time for parents to impart skills to their children, like farming and handling livestock, grinding grain to flour, sewing, etc. Everything had to be done manually, so every pair of hands counted. Children saw their parents work hard and respected that. Often it was a three- or four- generation household. Watching their parents tend to grandparents and great-grandparents, children pitched in as well.  Helping their parents, though done as a matter of course, instilled a sense of belonging, of being needed, of having a clear role in the family. This gave them the self- esteem that is much talked about today as something to be consciously achieved.

The biggest difference between then and now is that childhood is prolonged, at least up to the age of eighteen. Children are financially dependent on their parents and live with them, but don’t contribute significantly, especially in affluent middle class families. They don’t need to, because there are maids to see to everything. The question of helping parents at work doesn’t arise unless there is a family-run business. In many homes, both parents go out to offices to work at their jobs. Children don’t see their parents work and don’t know what they actually do in their offices. Bonding is over meals, outings and vacations, which is why many little children believe money just comes out of ATMS.

So, bonding between parents and children in affluent middle class families does not happen over interdependence and shared work anymore. Children know they are valued because their parents show their love in many ways, but the self-esteem this brings is different than the one that comes from the satisfaction of being an important contributing member of the family. Even now, in lower income families, especially first generation city-dwellers, youngsters attend to housework, go to college, get jobs and proudly take care of the family’s needs thereafter. Confidence and a strong sense of self-worth are written on their faces.

Parents often give children responsibilities like making their own beds, watering plants, setting the table for dinner, etc. but clearly these jobs don’t convey “Mom needs me”; they only convey “Mom wants me to learn to be responsible” at best, and “Mom likes to control me” at worst. Consequently the only ‘work’ that is expected of a child from a middle class family is that he does well at school. This is fine if the child likes school work and is good at it. Or else, this can be a source of friction between parent and child, usually when he gets into his teens. School curricula are ‘one-size-fits-all’ and children who have a different type of intelligence (Howard Gardner first suggested that there are 7 types of intelligence) may not do well academically. Then what? The child is bound to feel awful about letting his parents down in the only area he is expected not to. He is ashamed, and angry with his parents for not being able to understand what he is going through. He can’t find a way to counter their baffled “but it can’t be so hard – other kids are doing fine”, and even more difficult to respond to the imploring “You have everything – your own room to study undisturbed, extra tuition, the car to take you to school and back so you don’t have to get tired travelling by bus . . . all we want you to do is study well and get good marks. . .”

It’s things like this that damage a child’s self esteem. When he reaches adolescence he simply gives up trying, and covers up with bravado or a blasé attitude. He projects an air of confidence, even arrogance, and acts ‘cool’. Parents often seek professional help at this point, when communication between child and parents has completely broken down.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Therapy can never be as good as having got it right in the first place.

Keeping children busy

 Where go the Boats?

Dark brown is the river,

Golden is the sand.

It flows along for ever,

With trees on either hand.

Green leaves a-floating,

Castles of the foam,

Boats of mine a-boating –

Where will all come home?

On goes the river

And out past the mill,

Away down the valley,

Away down the hill.

Away down the river,

A hundred miles or more,

Other little children

shall bring my boats ashore.

By R.L. Stevenson

This was childhood in the mid 1800s. In Edinburgh, yes, but this part of it does seem pretty universal for that time. Even two generations later it hadn’t changed all that much. Later, when I was a child, it was more of floating paper boats in rainwater flowing along the edge of the sidewalk, wondering how far they would go.

One of the things I remember about growing up is spending whole afternoons dreaming while adults took their siestas. Mostly nothing tangible came out of these lazy afternoons. Not immediately at least. But it was nice. And not boring at all. My head was an interesting enough place and I can remember a few of my preoccupations between Grade 1 and Grade 4: thinking up new places to hide when all the neighbourhood kids gathered to play ‘Hide and Seek’ in the evenings; wondering whether the other kids would agree to planting beans again in our front garden, a small patch of earth measuring 6feet x 10feet. This had become a communal garden for all the kids, and there had to be consensus before anything was planted in it. I remember being excited about how we dug up the soil and gave the garden a slope, and created an irrigation system that we believed we had invented! And the clay pots we made from that same sticky, clayey soil and baked in the sun.

Almost all parents I know talk wistfully about their childhood. So do I. There’s been quite a bit of criticism in the press on how parents drive their kids from one activity to another and rob them of their childhood. The way I see it, when moms take their 7-9 year olds to tennis classes, they are merely trying to give them some space to play and get some exercise. To their credit, coaches don’t drive the kids hard, and make sure they have fun by arranging non-competitive races and relays at the end of the session. Most moms waiting on the bleachers are not interested in pushing their children to become another Federer or Sharapova. Those who do, get more realistic as time passes. Dance classes are also seen as a fun activity involving other kids, and space to let off steam. The energetic routines, preceded by warm-up stretches, provide some exercise as well. Maybe that’s the best they can do, especially if they live in an apartment block with no yard, set on a busy road. These activities seem preferable to staying cooped up in a flat watching television or playing computer games.

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My nephew performing magic tricks at my son’s fifth birthday party.

I think most middle-class mothers in cities are doing their best to give their children as nice a childhood as possible. Where are the playgrounds? How many people think that expensive space in the middle of the city should be left with nothing constructed on it? If parents urge their kids to excel, it is to help them gain confidence: if they tell them not to give up, it’s to build endurance, as most Indian parents know Indian school, college and job realities.

Where parents are going wrong is in following the herd, sending a child through activities because other people are, without tuning in to their child’s needs to ascertain that he’ll like it. Also perhaps in treating them like future resume-enhancers. My nephew took a course in Magic in the summer holidays when he was 11 or 12. He loved it, and seemed to have a flair for it. Eventually the magician he was training under began taking him along on shows as an assistant, mostly to children’s birthday parties. And no worries, he turned out well enough – he is an engineer now!

 

Perseverance

‘Not giving up’ is one quality a child will need through school life and beyond.

Watching her learn to write ‘A’, I see her concentration as she writes  laboriously, tongue sticking out ; then I see her pride and satisfaction when it’s done, the little tent with the two sloping lines crossing rather than meeting at the top.

How did she learn to concentrate? Surely the job of writing ‘A’ can’t be so riveting?

When I look back I realize that it started long ago. . .

  • When she reached for the rattle I held out to her in her crib when she was just a few months old, and the ‘I-did-it’ smile when she grasped it.
  • When she was a little older, when she crept up behind and managed to catch the tail of the battery-operated toy dog that moved a few inches, stopped to bark, and moved on again.
  • When she took her first hesitant steps and realized that she could get anywhere, if only she concentrated on each step.
  • When she learnt to balance a stack of cups to make a tower; later, when she built things with Lego blocks and noticed that some of them didn’t stand, but if she added a few pieces in a certain way, they did.
  • When she completed a jigsaw puzzle by keeping at it till it was done.                                                                                         

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For the four years she did all of this I didn’t realise that she was learning to concentrate and keep at something till she got it right.

If she hadn’t learnt perseverance through these fun activities, mastering that first ‘A’ may not have held her interest. She had already learnt that the fun was in trying hard until she eventually got it. She had learnt not to give up.

As parents we need to praise our little ones for trying again and again till they get it right. Rushing them or showing disappointment that they are slow or clumsy defeats the purpose of the activity. Building blocks are for children to express their creativity and experience laws of stability firsthand, not for building perfect structures.

Anyway, it’s more fun to hear the stories behind each creation, because each is designed with a blueprint in her mind. If she says it’s a turtle, look carefully and you’re sure to see the resemblance.