5 Tips To Get Kids To Drink Milk

Our almost five years old twin daughters, B +ve and O +ve, eat all the vegetables. Likewise, they also drink their milk. Daily. Without a fuss. I cannot believe our luck in this context. Fingers crossed that they continue this in future also.

I was wondering what could have lead to the girls drinking milk. To be honest, the points mentioned below are what we feel as parents that have contributed. Though, it is very much possible that we can be wrong and that our daughters would have anyways had milk or they are having it for some other reasons.

Set an example as a parent

This is the fundamental step in getting kids to do anything. A parent is a role model for her/his child. The parent has to set an example by drinking milk in front of the kid. And, of course, everybody knows that children love to imitate.

I love milk myself. I suppose our daughters when they were not on animal milk, would have seen me having my daily glass of milk. Once they started on to the regular milk, it was a given that all three of us will have milk together. This continues even today.

When the child sees the parent doing a certain act, there is no doubt in her mind about doing that act herself.

No health drinks/sugar

Earlier, when our daughters initiated their milk drinking, they were having health drinks along with. Soon, I realized that almost all the health drinks are chocolate flavoured. I felt that something is wrong somewhere. Our daughters were getting used to the chocolate flavour and not milk. This was not done. We stopped health drinks immediately without any major damage done. Same for sugar.

I feel that when a flavour – chocolate or sugar is added, the child is having that flavour and taste and not the milk. As the child grows up, s/he is anyways going to be offered a lot of chocolates/sweets, why should a child have milk to get that flavour/taste?

We want the taste of the milk to stand out and have our children drink milk for the sake of milk and not for added flavours/tastes. This also means that no smoothies, no essence, no milkshakes, no cereals; no sugar, please.

Hot / Cold, Mugs / Cups

There have been times when one of the girls or both of them refused to have milk. They also happen to say at those times that the temperature of the milk was not to their liking. We realized that serving the milk at an appropriate temperature can help a lot. Both the girls like their milk at room temperature; neither hot nor cold.

The girls like to have options in mugs and cups to have their milk. They have 2 / 3 different sets in which they have their milk. They choose the cups/mugs daily to have their drink.

As long as they are having milk, I am fine with the hassle of bringing the milk to room temperature and letting them decide the crockery.

Bring on the milk products

Both the girls love all the milk products – curd, buttermilk, butter, cheese, paneer, yoghurt and their favourite – ghee.  They have malai – cream daily, as soon as the milk is cooled.

I suggest, to ensure that a child does have milk, it is better to introduce milk products first, rather than the milk. Once the child takes the liking to the milk products, introducing milk should be relatively easy.

Milk as a routine

I suppose the statements like “you have if you want to”, “it is ok if you do not like”, or a forceful statement like “you must drink milk” would make children defensive and create a doubt in their minds about what is being fed to them.

Rather, it is always a routine to have milk and a sense that it is expected of them to drink. And, they do. There is neither a reward nor a punishment for drinking milk; it is a way of life.

To repeat, we do not know for sure what has led to both the girls having their milk daily. The above-mentioned reasons are what we have come up in hindsight – may be true or completely off the mark.

I hope if any of the above points can be of help to you. Do share your experiences and views.

PS: Our paediatrician doubted that one of the girls was lactose intolerant. She was tested and the results were negative. The above-mentioned points do not apply to lactose-intolerant children.

5 Questions To Ask Kids To Get Them Talking

In the post Why Do You Go To School? Why Children Are Asked This Question? I have expressed my views that children should not be asked about their school as a first question of the conversation. Now, if that is ruled out, then what does an adult speak to a child about? What are the questions to ask kids to get them talking?

I am referring to kids in the age-group of four-six years. I realized that barring schools and chocolates, there are not many things that adults get comfortable about talking to kids in this age-group. Our soon-to-be five-year-old twin daughters are a chatter-box, but they also need an ice-breaker to get them going with relatives/strangers.

I have come up with a list of 5 questions to ask kids to get them started. The list has been arrived at keeping in mind the ease of the adult initiating the interaction. Also, the children in this age-group cannot be asked targeted/specific questions for they may not have the exposure to what the adult is referring to / know how to express themselves in as many words.

The list of questions to ask kids is broad-based and depending on the interest levels of the adult/child, the questions can be worded/modified. Of course, it is not at all necessary that a child will reply to any of these questions. They are their individuals and with their own preferences/likes/moods. Like any other relationship, it depends on the rapport that an adult can build with the kid that s/he will respond.

Play

What does a child do? Play. This is an activity that a child does all the time. At least, that is what I have come to believe based on my experience.

Just ask the child – what does s/he like playing? If the child does not respond, say that you would want to play with her/him. Even now the child does not respond, you can suggest the games to the child. This is sure to get the kid going.

There are a lot of games that do not require any material. They can be played anywhere and anytime, by any number of players.

What’s more? It will enliven the child in the adult.

Food

Eating is something that everybody does. Ask the child what the food s/he had in the earlier meal, going to have in the next meal and so on. Speak to the child about the food you had/going to have.

Food brings people together, and children are no different. The conversation can be about meals, vegetables, fruits, milk, spices, cooking, buying, cleaning, portions, colour, source and what all you and the child can think about.

Just, keep the chocolates out. Chocolates are not food for it is no good.

Transport

The simple assumption is that either the kid or you have travelled for the get-together to happen. Children are fascinated with modes of transport.

Speak to children about how you/they travelled to come to the place. What did you/they do during the travel to engage? What all was seen and experienced during the travel?

One of my daughters love to talk about to how uncles driving two-wheelers do not wear helmets, taxi uncles do not wear seat-belts and auto uncles do not ply on meters. She can go on and on about the inefficacy of Hyderabad traffic police uncles if somebody brings her onto this topic.

Stories/Songs

This is another activity that all the children would do. They love to hear stories/songs and also to tell/sing themselves. Just give them the opportunity.

There is no need for the adult to know any fairies and demons stories, we do not know ourselves. Tell the children any make-believe imaginary story of 2-3 minutes, and that is enough for them. For time to come, they will keep asking questions about the story or even extend the story themselves.

By songs, I mean actual songs and not rhymes, though that will also do if adults happen to remember their rhymes. Children are very good at remembering the tune/rhythm and can pick it up fast.

Nature – Animals/Birds/Insects/Trees/Flowers/Sky

For children, anything and everything under the sky, including the sky, fascinates. I would want to believe that that is how it should be for adults too.

Just see anything and speak to children. Even if you do not see a thing, it is fine, speak about it. It will suffice to a child.

Summing Up

Children are innately curious, creative and imaginative. Majority of us adults have lost it as we grow up to be worldly-wise.

When the majority of us ask the same question – “Which School Do You Go To?” to children all the time, we are making them adults sooner, than later. Beyond the name of the school and grade/class, there is no other discussion point to continue the conversation, leave aside building the rapport and knowing the child.

What would be your questions to ask kids to get them talking?

Which School Do You Go To? Why Children Are Asked This Question?

I have written Why I Stopped Asking What Do You Do. I realized that this question has an equivalent for children also. Similar to adults equating their life with what they do for a living and not with life per se, adults also equate a child’s childhood with schools. Rather they equate not childhood, but children themselves.

You do not believe me / agree with me? Witness any conversation that an adult is initiating with a child. What will be the first question of the interaction? I bet, the child will be asked – “Which School Do You Go To?”

The life as a stay-at-home father has revealed quite a few societal stereotypes to me, which otherwise were a part of my own life and I never realized it. This is one of those.

Our twin daughters do not go to any formal environment, not as yet. They continue to be at home. Any conversation, (at times, it is not a conversation at all), with anyone and everyone, relatives / friends / strangers / people who meet us on the road / shop / park / public transport / lift / anywhere – our daughters are asked the first question – “Which School Do You Go To?”

By the way, as on date, our daughters are not even five years old.

Education / School

I have never questioned back anyone who asks “Which School Do You Go To?” If I would have done so / do now, I am sure I would be answered back – what is wrong with the question?

Well, I suppose, the school is a means to an end – Education. If the people are so concerned about education, why not ask children about what they know / what they are learning and what they are not. Why the question about school?

The contra argument to the above would be that the adult does not have the time or the energy to go in detail about a child’s learning. So, the easy question about the school. In that case, if the adult does not have the time/energy to engage in a meaningful conversation, why to ask a question in the first place? And that too, only about school?

Schools are, of course, an important element of education. However, I am not able to understand, how / when / where / why, the schools have got a sole proprietorship on education? That, people, ask only about which school and not education, per se.

School – A status symbol

I realized that the girls are not getting asked much about their grade/class (leave aside their learning), but only which school do they go to. I am getting a feeling that this question has become a measure of at what level of social/economic hierarchy a family exists / lives.

People have a fair idea about schools and their fees/infrastructure/claims/lineage and what not. I suppose nobody will ever share their income, but knowing about where their children study, people, at large, can figure out where to place the family in the societal pecking order.

Schools are, I suppose, means to education, for a just and fair society. Then, why would I equate the schools with a status symbol? Why would I raise suspicion on a simple question – “Which School Do You Go To?” Because, right from Government schools, Hyderabad (a city where we currently live) has schools having fees up to 7 lacs per annum and more. Welcome to India’s economic disparity and a defunct educational system, rather a redundant state. But let us not digress.

If people want to know whether the children are going to school, the question to be asked is – “Do You Go To School?” However, people ask – “Which School Do You Go To?” and hence, as mentioned above, I have reservations about the underlying objective.

A Ruined / Missed Childhood

The girls are playing in the park. They are in a zoo. They are in the shop for buying groceries. The girls are having their nature walk – collecting twigs, leaves and flowers and their all-time favourite stones. They are jumping in the rain puddles. They are shopping vegetables in the Sunday Market. The girls are making their mud mounds in the court-yard. Anywhere and everywhere, the aforementioned question pops us – “Which School Do You Go To?”

Give the girls a break. Give me a break. And the person asking this question should also take a break. The girls are not even five years old. They are enjoying what they are doing and also learning in the process, I suppose. It does not matter even if they are not learning. They are children and they are not going to get their childhood ever again. Let them have it.

Why do we limit the child and childhood only to schools?

What are your thoughts on this question – “Which School Do You Go To?”

Self-Defence: Teach Kids To Stay Safe

India is no country to raise daughters. I know about this. I am also a father of soon-to-be five-year-old twin daughters. Just like other parents, we are very protective of our children. We want to keep them safe from every danger.

At home, our daughters continue to be in their comfort place, filled with love, joy and happiness. We know that they are going to face the harsh reality of this world fairly soon. Rather, they have already started facing in several instances. There will also be occasions where they are alone out there and they have to learn to take care of themselves.

Self-defence for kids is important. It is not about hitting back. They are too young for this and this is not the purpose anyway.

Self-defence for kids is being aware of their surroundings. It is about having the confidence and the capability to grasp what is right and what is wrong. And, if it is wrong, how to deal with it at their age of 5 years.

Identify Unwanted Touch and Abuse

Some people have a habit of touching kids – mostly cheeks, sometimes back, nose, hair and at times, other body parts as well. This is completely uncalled for and unwanted all the times. This is no way to show one’s affection for a child of any age.

Our daughters are going to be five years, and even now, outright strangers feel that they can show their friendliness by touching them. We are telling our daughters to leave the company of these people. And if it gets repeated, immediately reach out to us.

Our daughters know their body parts and their functions. We are also teaching them about their private body parts and that should not be touched by anyone, even by the family members and their friends. If somebody touches, tell them not to do it and inform it to us right away.

Strangers and their offerings

Of course, not all strangers are bad. Most of them are good. Now, how to differentiate between a good stranger and a bad stranger, when many strangers have a habit of giving food items – mostly chocolates and sweets to children. I do not know.

As a result, we are teaching our daughters not to take any stuff from strangers. This looks impolite and rude to many people. But, I know that it is required in a country like ours for ensuring the safety of the children.

Bullying

Our daughters do not go to any formal environment. Their visits to parks and their playing with children in the neighbourhood have been enough to get them introduced to being bullied.

They are waiting for their turn and somebody will push them out of the queue. They are making their sandcastle and somebody will stamp and run all over it. There are few kids in the parks for whom pushing, shoving, poking, kicking are also the means of playing with other children.

We are teaching our daughters to stay away from these children as a first measure. If these acts get repeated, we have told our kids to tell the child, who is doing it, not to do it again.

We have not yet reached the third stage of provocation.

Snaps and Videos

There are utter strangers in the parks, public places, public modes of transport and they start clicking snaps of our children. Few of them even want to take a selfie with them.

I do not get this at all. What is it that leads a person to photograph a child that s/he does not know? We have politely told them not to take snaps of our daughters. Though, we have not been forceful enough to check their devices and delete our snaps.

We are telling our daughters not to allow any strangers to take their snaps and videos. It is absurd to teach such a thing, but I have seen it happen several times that it cannot be called an unusual occurrence.

Mobile Number and Address

This is the basic point to be taught to a kid in self-defence. No parent would ever want to lose a child. But, things happen, at times.

To better prepare kids for such unforeseen events, we have told our daughters to reach out to police. And if police are not there, tell the strangers around to call their parents. They have memorized our address and the mobile number.

Summing Up

The above is what has come to our minds for teaching self-defence to our soon-to-be five-year-old twin daughters. It revolves around understanding their surrounding and keeping themselves safe and protected. It is, of course, age-appropriate and the list will keep growing with their age.

What else would you suggest for teaching self-defence to children?

3 Tips To Manage Screen Time For Kids

It is a foregone conclusion that kids are going to have screen time. The only question is how much and how to control. Almost each and everyone I meet has an opinion about managing the screen time for kids. Digital space and newspaper inches abound with advice on this subject.

I have seen some of the suggestions to control screen time for kids. In my honest opinion, these would not work. These suggestions are like – creating “technology-free zones”. I feel, it has to be the other way round. Only 1 or 2 places in the house where technology can be used, rest to be devoid of it. Another input is to set aside times to unplug. Again, the advice is in reverse. The real-life advice has to be set aside times to plug. Rest all the time is to unplug.

One other gem that I have come across – let kids earn screen time. It is outrightly inane. Screen time is no carrot for which I would want to use a stick. We have no belief in rewards and punishments. Another crazy advice is to obtain your child’s passwords. What next? Put a drone behind your child?

Seeing all these experts’ advice floating around, I thought I might as well list down my hands-on tips on how I, as a stay-at-home father, am managing screen time for my five-year-old twin daughters.

Look at your screen time first

Give the children a break. We will speak about them later. The kids were not born with an idea that they will have screen time and oodles of it.

To start with, who showed them the screens? What do the kids see when they learn to turn around/sit/walk/speak? What do the kids see when they wake up / are being fed / potty is being cleaned / are asleep? Their parents glued to their respective screens.

The kids are only imitating the behaviour they see and remember, they are kids and not adults. When the adults find it difficult to control their screen time, why haggle behind the kids?

We sold off our television when our twin daughters were born. I, to date, use a feature phone. My wife uses two smartphones; I use an I-pad. We have an understanding that when we are with our children which is all the time as far as I am concerned (I am a stay-at-home father and my daughters do not go to any formal environment) and when my wife is at home, we shall NOT use the screens.

There is nothing more urgent than spending time with our children. Period.

Let the kids be the decision-makers about their screen time, Within the set limits

We know that our daughters are bound to have screen time. There is no point in squabbling with the inevitable. They know about its existence and they better have it at home, in front of their parents, than anywhere else, with anyone else.

Currently, we have told our daughters that they can have their screen time on I-pad, once a day. They are free to decide the time. They can have it in the morning/afternoon/evening/night. The girls have the screen time for 30-45 minutes. They do not have the concept of time, but we have learnt by trial and error that the short duration does not work. There are, of course, aberrations when they see I-pad twice a day, but few and far in between.

With this rule, they feel that they have the ownership of their screen time and they have to use it judiciously. We have set the boundary limits of having it once a day, we are happy. They feel that they are getting to decide on their screen time, they are happy. So far, so good.

Screen time to end with advance intimation, and not abruptly

Again, this is what we have learnt by trial and error. What would happen if somebody snatches a smartphone from an adult when s/he is in the middle of the game/binge-watching? There would be mayhem. It is similar to that. Just because they are kids, it does not mean that their screen time has to be snatched away from them.

Our daughters start their screen time at their pre-agreed time/schedule. Now, unfortunately, they do not have a sense of time (not that adults are any better when they are binge-watching). So, we have agreed with our daughters that whenever their story/rhymes are coming to an end, they will have to switch off the I-pad. If their stuff is getting extended further, they are told with a gap of 10/5 minutes that their time is nearing to shut shop and they are fine with it to continue on the next day.

We believe that if the kids are made to understand and explained with logic/rationale, there is no reason for them to throw a tantrum. They understand that if there is no electricity, there would be no internet on I-pad. They know that broad-band does not work once in a while, so they will have to let go off their screen-time, as and when it happens.

When they are showing this much of understanding, why not trust them in shutting down the device rather than snatching it away?

Summing Up

Screen time for kids is a necessary evil crept into our lives. It is bound to stay forever and better to control with practical clearly laid-down rules for children and more importantly, for own selves.

This cannot be done when the kids are growing up. It is better to discuss and agree upon between parents before the genie goes out of the bottle – the child sees the existence of the screen time when s/he opens the eyes in this world besotted with screens.

What would be your suggestions?

Why I Stopped Asking What Do You Do

“What do you do?” This is as innocuous a question as one can ask. This is as innocuous a question as one can be asked. We are trained/used to this question when we meet strangers, when we meet our people after a long time, when we meet a person whom we have known ever since. This is the first question to start a conversation.

The above were my thoughts. Earlier. Not now. I have realized, for myself, that there is no more a repulsive a question for a human being to ask / to be asked – “What do you do?”

I wish to share my journey on this change.

When I was working – “What do you do”

I have worked a corporate life for more than a decade. All along, I was asked “What do you do” by many people. Every time I replied, it was followed up with questions about my designation, the geographical area I handled, the quantum of business I looked after, the team that I managed etc.

Of course, my corporate job did not define me as a person. However, I never realized at that point of time that I was never asked anything more than “What do you do?” Nothing was asked about me as a person. I also never realized then that I never asked anyone more than “What do you do?” I asked nothing about anyone as a person.

But for the current phase of my life, I would have never realized this anomaly.

When I am a stay-at-home father – “What do you do”

I became a stay-at-home father in April 2017, leaving my job, to my then two and half-years-old twin daughters. My wife re-joined her enterprise – Dirty Feet.  This decision signified what she and I were as individuals, what our passion was, how we perceived life and what it meant to us.

Now, wherever/whenever, again I get asked the question – what do you do? Enthusiastically, I reply to what I am doing. What I get back is a stare. That is it. No follow-up questions. Nothing. Rather, I get cut off from any further conversation. As if I have ceased to exist.

Busy and engaged with my twin daughters, I never realized what was going on and why. It is now after almost two and a half years, I am figuring out what is going on and why.

Self and work as one unit

I realize that we have started equating our existence in terms of the job we hold and the work we do. Of course, human beings need to work to earn a livelihood. Somewhere, this livelihood has got equated with life itself.

We are obsessed with our work. We consider our existence in terms of work we do and that is it. Seemingly, we wish to believe that our job defines our worth, our value, our happiness and what we are or rather, we only believe this, nothing else.

We see ourselves as a rat-racer for life and the others as well and are fine with it (though we would not admit it publicly). There does not seem to be any other way for a human being to exist.

The passion and one’s identity

As stated earlier, I have been guilty myself of asking “What do you do?” This has been a recent eye-opener for me. I am the same person, rather a shade better, as I would like myself to believe after spending more than two years with my twin daughters. But, when I would want to speak/share about this journey, I find no listeners.

I refuse to believe that people find their self-worth only in pursuit of their KRAs and target achievements. I refuse to believe that people do not find it worth-while to spend time with their family on a full-time basis. We cannot be a ten to six animal, almost on the job 24*7 with all-pervasive technological presence.

Then, what is it? Where is the passion? What is it that drives us a person? What defines us as a human being? Is it just a presentable reply to a question – What do you do?

My response

I cannot stop people from getting switched off once I say I am a stay-at-home father. So, my only response has been to stop asking in return – What do you do?

I would want to ask the person what is her/his passion? What is that she/he likes doing and cares about? What is that makes her/him happy and her/his thoughts as a distinct individual human being?

If this resonated with you, please let me know. It will motivate me in my journey further and feel happy that there are fellow travellers in this quest to be an individual.

How To Involve Kids In Everyday Household Chores

Everybody knows that it is good for children to get involved in everyday household chores. People are aware that it is beneficial for children and parents, as well. There is a laundry list of age-appropriate household chores for children on the internet.

The only thing is how to get children involved in household chores? Also, how not to involve them? As a hands-on stay-at-home father for the last two and a half years to now five-year-old twin daughters, I am sharing my experiences.

Children follow live examples

One thing that we learnt early was that children are great imitators, which I suppose everybody knows. They like to copy the actions, whatever is happening around them. So, my wife and I figured out that this is the simplest and easiest way to involve our children in daily household chores.

We start doing any task ourselves. In a moment, our children will jump to it. Just that, first we have to train ourselves and have the self-discipline to do the tasks on our own.

There is no point in telling the children to do this and that. They see that their parents are just sitting and giving them instructions. The output is also the same. They also sit and give reasons not to do the tasks. Or better, they do not get into the conversation at all. They behave as if we do not exist.

Rather, we start the tasks. The children follow suit. We do not have any age-appropriate classifications for household chores. They figure out themselves along the way if they can do it and find a way to do it. Be it dusting, folding clothes, putting clothes for drying, cleaning the kitchen, putting utensils, cutting vegetables, putting grocery, feeding the pets, making the bed, they have been able to get themselves involved in all these tasks and more.

Time is not of the essence

This again applies to us as parents, then children. When children are learning to do the tasks, they will, of course, be slow, they will take time, they will wander around, they will make a mess out of it, they will ask questions, they will leave the task mid-way and what not.

We know that without them, we can finish the tasks in less time. But that is not the purpose. The purpose is to train the children in these household chores and get their interest going. The purpose is to make them self-reliant and able to take care of themselves.

In this endeavour, if we take more time than usual in completing the tasks, rather at times, not getting them completed at all, it is all a part of the learning process. Many times, we have gotten into all sorts of conversations doing household chores and this is where their hands-on learning happens. This is where their curiosity gets all fired up.

In the larger scheme of things of getting children involved in household tasks, the clock has no role to play.

Quality will come along the way

Our children help us with all the tasks we do. Just that, once they are through and leave, several times, we end up doing whatever they have done, all over again.

Our children do whatever they interpret as our actions in household chores. We observe them and ensure that they do not hurt themselves. Apart from that, they are free to do the tasks in whatever way they deem fit. They are developing their methods to do the tasks and show their creativity in doing them.

What is important is that the children are doing the household chores, and it is fine if the means and the output vary from what we would have done ourselves.

How not to involve in household chores

As mentioned above, instructions have never worked for us. We do not believe in punishments and rewards at an over-all level itself, so it has no role here as well. We have a time-table to do our tasks, but there is no time-table for the kids. If they feel like it, they join us; else there is no expectation that they will do with us all the time. We do not give them any directions on how to do the tasks and how well they are doing. They are free to do as per their inclination and application.

In short, it is our children’s self-initiative basis our household chores that they get themselves involved in their own manner.

We believe that this is the process that has worked for us till now. We will see for the future how it pans out.

What are your views on how to get the children involved in everyday household chores?