Lockdown Friends And Experiences For Our Children

India is in the middle of a COVID-19 pandemic since March 2020. Irrespective of the Government’s lockdown/unlock, one aspect of the response remains steadfastly constant – children remain locked up in their houses, but for entrance tests. In such a scenario, what can be lockdown friends and experiences for children?

The scientific evidence shows that coronavirus spreads predominantly in closed surroundings with poor ventilation. The outdoors has the least risk in spreading infections. The countries that have reopened have done so with outdoor lung spaces i.e. the parks as a first candidate to reopen. However, in India, the children parks remain in shut down mode, they would be the last to open.

The scientific evidence shows that children are at the least risk of COVID-19 infections. Yes, they can spread it to the adults, a risky proposition. In India, the Government lockdown has clubbed the children < 10 years with elderly > 65 years, who are at the maximum risk and have ordered them to remain at home ever since.

The Government refuses to understand that the children not getting fresh air and sunlight, a chance to play, social interaction opportunities also represent a risk in itself. In addition, kids get bombarded with online education, in a like-to-like replica of school time-table but on a screen. It is a tough time to be children these days in India.

Fortunately, for our soon-to-be six-year-old twin daughters, they are saved from the perils of online learning. The simple reason being, they are not enrolled in a school, yet. However, not being allowed to venture outside, an anchor to our lives could have played havoc to their young minds. But it is not to be. Courtesy their lockdown friends and experiences.

A stray cat and her kittens

Within a week of the starting of the lockdown, a stray cat descended on our home. The cat was not at all afraid of us. She kept demanding food, which when given to her, she graciously decided to adopt our family and home.

The girls were excited beyond limits. They suddenly found themselves to be the proud owner of a pet cat. They named her Licky; the reason being she licked the milk. The girls’ day started with Licky and ended with Licky.  They ran around her, patted her, fed her, sang songs for her; Licky basked in the attention.

The girls were over the moon when Licky gave birth to two kittens. Girls gave nonstop commentary on what the kittens were doing, how they were growing, how Licky was tending to her litter. Then, the lightning struck. Licky left the house with her kittens. The girls were crestfallen.

After 3 days, Licky resurfaced, terribly hurt and without her kittens. We got to know that the kittens were on our neighbour’s terrace. Licky had abandoned them, stopped eating food and died. We brought the kittens home, the girls were again over-joyed. We fed the kittens every 3-4 hours, stimulated to pee and poop and kept warm. The girls were learning how to tend to their young pets.

Throughout, the kittens kept looking for their mother. One of them died after a couple of weeks. We realized that a kitten should not be raised single. A kind acquaintance helped us find a foster home for the single kitten and we gave him up for his good. It broke the girls’ hearts, but they understood.

This entire episode lasted for about four months. It was an emotional roller-coaster ride for the girls, the highs of delight to the lows of sorrow. Till this date, they remember Licky and the two kittens with warm fondness. They have also come to learn that in life, nothing is forever. We lose someone close to us, but the remembrance of the time spent together is a joy in itself.

Shiva and Rakesh

Shiva was my wife’s colleague (was, because Dirty Feet has had to temporarily shut down due to COVID-19). He stays in the office. Rakesh is Shiva’s friend, who came for a day to the office on Janta Curfew and then got stuck due to the lockdown. They come to our home daily for meals. Rakesh has since left, Shiva continues to be there.

The girls have become very fond of both the guys. They have become their play-mates for the age-less games and endless talks. It is to the credit of Shiva and Rakesh that though they are in their early 20’s they play with amazing ease with the six-year-olds. They have made the girls so comfortable that they think that it is absolutely normal for kids of their age to play with 20+ year olds.

Yes, the children should play with children. But, that has almost never happened with our daughters. Whenever we go to any outdoor places/parks, children of any age are rarely present. In the neighbourhood even under normal circumstances, children hardly come out for playing. Lockdown has become a blessing that they have actually got play-mates, who have the ability to bring out their innate child when playing.

Plants, bugs and birds

Every walk with the girls is an opportunity for a nature walk. With the lockdown, that is also ruled out. My wife is extremely particular about the exposure to nature for our daughters. We have realized that plants are friends of a lifetime for children. So, she put the ample space in the front yard of the house to good use by getting pots and doing gardening.

The girls have a great time mixing soil with coco-peat, putting seeds, watering and seeing the blossoming of their sweat. The plants (a majority of them veggies) also bring with them a fair share of butterflies and bugs. A bulbul tried making a nest in the gourd creeping around but left mid-way after incessant snooping by the girls.

Hoping that the girls and we further grow our small kitchen garden even after the lockdown ends. It takes a lot of time and efforts to keep up with the gardening, but raising eco-aware children are a just reward. There is no other activity/experience with a bigger multiplier effect than nurturing nature-friendly kids. It does good to them, Mother Earth and everybody’s future.

Street Vendors

We stay on the ground floor of an independent house in the by-lanes of a busy neighbourhood (even now!). Barring the most strict phase of the lockdown (earliest 2 weeks), the area is thronged by 10-12 street vendors during the day. This turned out to be a window to social interaction for our daughters and us.

In the scorching summer of April, May and June, we taught the girls to stop each street vendor on the road and ask, if they wanted water. It might look like a poor cousin to regular social interactions, which lockdown has left no occasion for. But, it did a lot of good to build empathy and caring in our children.

The girls asked the reasons for the vendors to be on the road even during severe heat and lockdown, what happens when they get tired etc. We, of course, did not have answers to all their queries. It is a learning curve for all of us.

Lockdown friends and experiences

The above are the lockdown friends and experiences that helped maintain our sanity during the lockdown.

As I write this, I realize that irrespective of the lockdown, they could have become a part of our lives, and enriched our being. Just that, we may not have allowed it to be.

What have been your lockdown friends and experiences?

One Pot Meals: Highly Recommended For Children

A hard task for each parent is to ensure that their children eat every taste and every vegetable. Kids with fussy eating habits are a parents’ nightmare. A meal-time, at times, transform into a veritable push and pull as the parents have made a certain dish and the kids have their preferences.

We are blessed till now, that our soon-to-be six-year-old twin daughters eat everything served without a bother. I have written about my guess-work about what makes them eat all their vegetables. My wife has her hypothesis, as well. She feels that the girls have been introduced to a certain way of cooking pretty early in their culinary journey and seemingly, this has helped them develop taste buds that accept all the flavours and veggies. Enter the one pot meals.

One pot meals for children is apparently neither an appealing nor an exciting idea. On the face of it, one pot meal goes against the conventional wisdom that a child needs to be introduced to all the various tastes. One pot meal does not fulfil this criterion. Then, how can it serve the task of making children eat all the stuff?

One pot meals introduce each taste and veggies uniquely

Consider a delectable meal spread across various courses/dishes. As a parent, we feel that we have done our task to ensure that a child has options and can have a well-balanced diet. Now, this is an inadvertent pit-fall.

With so much to choose from, the kid would want to have what s/he prefers. That’s the end of the story, as it goes. The parent will keep banging her/his head and the child will also keep replying in a matching fashion. For s/he knows that asking for a dish of preference is very much an option.

More importantly, the child will keep choosing and having food, the taste of which s/he believes s/he likes. The kid would not want to experiment with other flavours on offer.  S/he will stick with the tried and tested much to the parent’s irritation.

Now, consider the one pot meals as the only dish available for serving. The kid does not have an option to choose from. S/he sees the parents eating it and knows intuitively that s/he will also have to eat the same.

More importantly, one pot meals will have a single and unique taste on offer, as per the ingredients used. When the child eats the one pot meals, s/he learns to appreciate the taste and may develop the liking over some time. Though, it is secondary; the child eats is primarily important and it is what counts.

One pot meals have an advantage over every other food dish that it is a meal in itself. And, it does so by using minimal ingredients and staying true to their taste/ flavour. When a child eats a unique flavour without any other flavour simultaneously jostling for taste buds; it helps in developing a taste/liking for the same.

One pot meals are healthy and nutritious

At times, there is a misconception that one pot meals are not healthy and nutritious. Believe me, they are. My wife ensures that without fail, there is a vegetable as a key ingredient. Apart from colour, taste and texture, it also provides vitamins, minerals and natural fiber. The grains/rice fulfils the carbohydrate requirements.  We add beans to complete the protein quota.

Seasonings add to the flavour of foods. Using spices and herbs limit the amount of salt needed in the dish. Moreover, sugar has no relevance. Oil usage is also limited. Ghee can be used as a topping as per the liking and meet the fats requirements.

What can be unhealthy in this? You have the choice to hold back on whatever you feel like; similarly, add whatever you would want to. Yet, the meal will be complete in all regards, unless you skip a complete ingredient in itself.

A child can help in the cooking, too

When a parent is making a meal spread across various dishes/courses, the bandwidth gets occupied in the process. The cooking itself becomes time-consuming and soaks up the energy. There is no way that the parent can involve a child in this process without tearing up her/his hair.

Now, look at the one pot meals. It is simple, requires minimal preparations and leaves enough room to involve the kid in the cooking. When the child gets involved in the process, s/he builds ownership to the cooked dish and makes it easier to have her/him eat the same.

A sure-shot winner

What is more? One pot meals are much more amenable to reduced wastage vis-a-vis ingredients, left-over and prodding the child to eat. It is more peaceful and enjoyable to cook and eat; leaving more calories in the body for everyone in the family at the end of cooking and eating.

One pot meals also give a subtle message to kids that the simple can be fun and enjoyable too. One need not have multiple courses/dishes to cherish the food. Similarly, one also need not have much of paraphernalia to claim a happy and fulfilling life. Life can be as uncomplicated and as undemanding as we can make it to be, ala one pot meals.

The basic reason for us to promote one pot meals for children is that it is about a unique taste and flavour. For a child to be an unfussy/adventurous/accepting eater, it is the taste and the flavour that has to matter; and not the particular dish; per se. One pot meals are not a dish at all. It is what you make it out to be.

Simply put, with one pot meals, it is not the potato curry or the paneer curry or any leafy curry or for that matter, a cheese topping that a child develops liking for, but for the potato, the paneer, the leafy vegetable, the cheese – individually.

Government Says No Zero Academic Year. But What’s And Where’s The Plan To Reopen Schools & Colleges?

India has been in the state of health emergency since March 2020. The Government’s response has lurched from half-baked lockdown to various stages of unlock. However, one aspect has remained constant throughout. The educational institutes of all hues remain shut. The Government has steadfastly maintained that the safety of children is the first priority.

This measure is, of course, very well received by the parents. Now, the next step for parents is to worry about the education of their children. Online education has been going on in various forms, but it cannot be expected to replace the in-person teaching of schools & colleges. The parents are anxious that the children have no learning loss and do not miss out on their study.

To allay this fear, the Government of India has proclaimed “The Centre will not allow this to be a “zero academic year” without any teaching or examinations.” On 10th August 2020, Ramesh Pokhriyal said “A decision on physical reopening of schools & colleges is likely within 10-15 days”. To quote the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource Development “This is appreciable”.

On 8th June 2020, Union School Education Secretary Anita Karwal said “The Centre was framing guide-lines for safe reopening of schools. Guidelines are likely to include rigorous health screening and quarantine protocols, hygiene measures, and staggered attendance for students allowing for blended learning from classrooms and home”.

What’s and where’s the plan to reopen schools & colleges?

The Government’s announcements are well-intentioned. However, seemingly, they are missing out on the detailing. More than 15 days have passed since the Minister’s remarks, but there is no further discussion on dates to reopen schools & colleges. More than two and half months have passed since the Secretary’s remarks, but no guide-lines have been published by the Government to reopen schools & colleges.

This is baffling. The schools & colleges cannot reopen from the next day of the reopening announcement. They need the time to train the teachers and the support staff, they need the time to improve on the school infrastructure; they need the time to prepare for the reworked academic calendar. All these preparations require resources, time and money.

The diverse universe of schools & colleges operates on different band-widths and capabilities. Some of them may readily be able to make the required changes. Many of them may require hand-holding in various stages of the proposed changes. Few of them may require additional manpower and financial support to help them navigate the changes.

All the above will become clear only when the purported plan by the Government shows up, which continues to be under wraps.

What to do when infections happen?

Once the schools & colleges reopen, the few students/teachers/support staff will inevitably get infected with COVID-19. What’s supposed to be the threshold for the educational institute to continue its operations and when should it shut down? If required to shut down, what should be the contingency plan? When to reopen next? What happens if again the infections soar?

Rather, the first step to reopen schools & colleges would be to define the acceptable level of infections and the rate of spread in the ward/locality/geographical unit. In the Indian context, the students are spread all across the city/state/country and not limited to a neighbourhood. A large number of students stay away from their families to pursue their education. How do deal with the infections and the treatment in such a scenario?

Seemingly unrelated but a relevant aspect of handling infections with the reopening is to decide on the state of other activities. Should the functioning of religious places/restaurants/non-essential travel etc be curbed to reduce the chances of infections for educational institutions? COVID-19 is making us prioritize. Till now, we have prioritized safety of children. Now, to prioritize the education, if something else needs to be stepped down, so be it.

All these will be up for debate only when the Government shows what it has thought on the subject.

The parents, teachers, support staff are all stake-holders

The Government keeps mentioning about the educational institutions as a single entity. The focus on management is vital as they are responsible for the decision-making of their organizations and their buy-in is a must for the reopening. They are the ones who would be ensuring that the Government guide-lines are adhered to. But, they are not the only ones.

None work in isolation in today’s inter-connected world. Depending on the Government guide-lines, every parent needs to make their planning and decisions. Risk acceptance levels vary for different people. Some may perceive the Government’s steps to be unsafe, may want to hold back their wards and they should have equal right to do so.

Teachers and support staff are extremely important stakeholders in the entire process of reopening. Somehow, they lack opinion and seem to be taken for granted. They are the bread-winners for their families and would be worried about what happens to them if they get infected with COVID-19. An insurance and treatment plan for them would give them confidence about resumption.

Again, no clarity for any of the stake-holders. Rather, it does not seem that the Government is even contemplating their participation in the decision-making process.

No Zero Academic Year

No Zero Academic Year is a wish for every parent, student and all the other stakeholders too. The Government is desperate for a No Zero Academic Year, presumably to keep all the constituents happy, but it is not showing equal desperation in coming up with inputs and strategies to achieve the desired output. To repeat, what’s and where’s the plan to reopen schools & colleges?

The seamless transition to the Government guide-lines to reopen schools & colleges is not going to happen over-night. It is going to require lots of preparations, moving back and forth, also to ensure that the weakest of them do not fall through the sieve. The ball will start rolling only when the Government makes its plan public. The sooner, the better.

Wish the Government shows the same urgency for the plan to reopen schools & colleges as conducting JEE/NEET and college final year exams.

COVID-19: A Helpless Parent, JEE/NEET/UGC And An Indifferent Government

I am a parent in India. Like every other parent, I try to keep my children safe and away from danger. This, seemingly an innocuous task, has turned out to be an onerous one beyond my capabilities. I do not know what to blame and how to take corrective measures in this unasked for situation. I just know that this involves my children, the centre of my life. They are at risk for no fault of them and I am just a helpless parent; who cannot do a thing to help them in any manner.

India’s tryst with coronavirus started in March 2020. The Prime Minister ordered a national lockdown in the last week of March 2020. The cases were in three digits, nationally, at that time. We were told to stay home, stay safe. Like every other citizen, I scared my family, children and parents to stay at home for their well-being and safety.

On the education front, the Government shut down all the schools and colleges. The exams were going on at the time of announcing the lockdown; all of them got postponed citing the safety of the students. Later, the board exams, CBSE, ICSE, States, got cancelled. There was a consistency in messaging – the children’s safety is paramount.

And now, suddenly, with the coronavirus cases hovering above 60 k on a daily basis and cumulative cases in excess of 31 lacs, the children are being asked to come out to give entrance tests and final year college exams. The Supreme Court has also ruled that NEET and JEE won’t be postponed. I don’t suppose their judgement will be any different in the UGC case.

No improvement, only deterioration

What has changed from March/April 2020 to August/September 2020 for a complete reversal of stance? In March/April 2020, I told my children that they should stay at home. In August/September 2020, I am expected to tell my children that they can go out to write exams. Leave aside my loss of credibility in front of my children, how do I allay their fears about their own lives?

Please get this straight. The children, no matter their age, are human beings in their own regard. They understand the goings-on around them. They comprehend that adults are fixated on a certain issue and that their parents have deviated from a normal life-style to keep everyone in the family safe. And, now, with the risks increased exponentially, why should they put their lives at risk?

There has to be perceptible progress in the circumstances to warrant a different decision. Here, we have none. Rather, the state of affairs is worsening. 1000+ people are dying daily due to Covid-19. The adults are not able to think beyond their lives and livelihoods, and we expect the children to think nothing beyond their exams!

Live with the virus, not die from the virus

The Government says that we need to learn to live with the coronavirus. The Supreme Court has said “COVID may continue for a year more. Are you going to wait for another year? Do you know what is the loss to the country and the career peril to the students?”

We signed up as parents to raise healthy children and not COVID warriors. The soldiers know that they might have to sacrifice their lives to protect their motherland. The doctors know that they carry a professional risk when they treat their patients with infectious disease. But children? What have they done to deserve a risk to their lives? They are not even adults. On what basis are children expected to put their life on the line? Children are surely not essential service workers.

I do not know whether COVID continues for a year. I know that it is the duty of the Government to keep the country safe. If the Government is not able to rid the country of the virus, how can it be the responsibility of the children to return to so-called normalcy? How have they failed that to pass the exams they have to put their lives at risk?

57000+ people have died due to COVID to date. And, more will die. Is this not a loss to the country? Who is going to claim this blood on their hands? Does the Government guarantee a career to the students who venture out to give exams in this scenario? If no, how can it ask the students to vie for an illusory career in exchange for a real-life?

 A helpless parent and the lonely angst

The Government knows that it is coming from a position of power, a position of unbridled brute dominance. The Government knows that in the dog eat dog world of the Indian education sector, where the elite medical and engineering seats are at a premium, there is no option for parents or the students to not give entrance exams if ordered to. They will have to fall in line, and they will.

In the Indian political landscape, each caste, each industry, each interest has a lobbying group to influence the decision-making process. But parents? The most-widely disseminated group has no unifying force that can speak in a single voice to get heard. The net result – The Government rams its way through with no opposition and the Supreme Court of India as a lead cheer-leader. Why should anyone bother for a helpless parent and her/his children?

Go ahead, my children. Give the exams. Though it is my duty as a parent, I cannot guarantee your safety anymore. Some of you may die, some of you may suffer from the disease, some of you may carry the scars for the rest of your life.

I am sorry for letting you down in the face of the Indian Government’s indifferent and inept handling of the pandemic. I am sorry.

A Helpless Parent

PS: The Government considers opening of children’s parks as a threat to life, but not giving exams. New Education Policy gets released and advertised, but we cannot look beyond the 3 hour rote fest.

 

 

Positive Screen Time: It Helps Children And Parents

Screen time evokes control, parental control as we talk about kids. Advice abound, online and offline, on how to manage screens for kids. No parenting discussion would ever be complete without the topic of screen time for kids. Quite a bit of parent-children communication centres on this subject.

Have you ever wondered how and why screen time brings forth friction and squabble? For an inevitable event, why should there be a push and pull for every aspect of the event? Why cannot there be a mutually acceptable common ground that makes everyone happy? Surely, nobody wants to be miserable about something that has become an integral part of life for everyone.

This leads us to the topic of positive screen time. While anyways we are at it, why not make every bit of it worth-while? Positive screen time is about children having good exposure and learning from it. It is about children having nice memories of their screen time. In short, making it a fun and enjoyable experience that children would look forward to growing up with.

So, how do we go about doing this? (Disclaimer: I am writing this as a stay-at-home father to soon-to-be six years old twin daughters. My experiences are hands-on, related to my daughters’ age and their growing up, and may not apply to higher age-groups).

Positive screen time is a family time

Look at it simply. Children are anyways going to watch, why not watch together? It has so many benefits.

A parent need not worry about the content at all. A parent knows what’s running, so will not come up with an abrupt end, a major tug-of-war point. There will be no time spent in instructing the children on what to see and what not to see and also checking the history of what the children finally saw.

Positive screen time is also about role-modelling. When the children see that all the adults in the house are busy pouring over their screens, s/he finds it obvious to do with one’s self. Indulging in screens ideally with both the parents or practically with one parent, children get the idea that doing this activity alone is not that enjoyable and not worthy enough to pursue.

With the children’s quota of screen time getting over as a collective family task, it leaves equal time for children to engage with each other as well as the parents. Imagine having everyone in the house watching screens at different intervals. Where the heck would be the time to even greet each other? Leave aside having a meaningful conversation or doing any task together.

Yes, there is a drawback. The parents do not get to act as adults in terms of having their screen time.

Screen time content as a means to foster common interest

Family viewing allows parents to introduce to children what they enjoyed in their childhood, or for that matter what they enjoy even now. There is enough variety in kids programming that can keep the adults, having varied interests, hooked up as well.

Consuming screen time together also works in shepherding children’s interests and trying to bring them on the same platform as their parents. The added benefit is that this hand-holding happens implicitly. There are no overt instructions, not even a mention of anything, children get their screen time and absorb along the way.

The only thing to keep in mind is that parents need to cross-check before-hand so that they do not end up watching what they don’t like and also, what they would not want their children to watch.

Positive screen time as a conversation tool

Simply put, positive screen time is active, and not passive. Meaning, parents pause the screen and talk to children about what’s happening on the screen. This applies to children of any age, and not just older children.

The programme is communicating to the audience – children and parents. Left on their own, it is difficult to gauge what the children are interpreting and it may show up in their behaviour and thinking in the most unexpected manner. The parents need to ensure that children get the message – explicit, implicit, intended, unintended, black, white and the many shades of grey along with.

The dialogue about what transpired during the videos can very well happen during the day. The characters of the programme can become a part of everyday household chores and keep conveying their messages, basis the parents’ imagination and application. This helps in broadening children’s perspective and imbibing learning from any source.

In nutshell

Screen time is here to stay. Whilst children are at it, let’s try and ensure that it does some good too, for the children as well as the parents.

Positive screen time for kids with the active involvement of parents has the potential to do just that. It encompasses discretion, quality, quantity and also the impact of screen time.

What would be your thoughts on the subject?

Toys And Games For Indian Children: A Missed Childhood

Have you ever tried buying toys or games? I tried in a shop claiming a decent assortment of toys and games. I found a Scrabble, a Pictionary, a Monopoly, a Battleship, 5-6 more games and that’s about it. For lack of options, I tried out online portals. It had a plethora of games claiming to be fun with learning, but for an exclusive game or a toy option, it was nothing more than what I saw in the store.

I walked all the aisles of the toys and games section in the store. An entire section was devoted to the assortment of Barbie dolls. One section had only the guns. One section was for blocks and one was for battery-operated toys. The last section dealt with the games mentioned above. I could not understand what were the options for children to just play?

I did a Google search on the Indian toys industry, found an article from The Hindu. It was a shocker.

3 facts about Indian toys industry

“The Indian toy market is about 0.5% of the world’s toy market,” says R Jeswant, VP Sales & Marketing, Funskool India Ltd (Source: The Hindu, March 14, 2020).

This is outrightly crazy. India has 17.7% of the world’s population (Source: Worldometers). If we talk only about children, India’s share in the world would anytime be more than 17.7%. Meaning, we have more than 18% of the world’s children in this country and they have only about 0.5% of the world’s toys to play with.

“85% of what’s sold in Indian toys market is imported. Again, 85% of the toys India imports is from China”, (Source: The Hindu, March 14, 2020).

This is another bummer. We have a pitiable share of the world market and whatever we do have comes from outside the country. China supplies 72.25% of Indian toys. If we ban China, and that we should, our children, for the time Make In India ramps up production, will have nothing to play with. A real nothing.

“India has $1.5 billion toy industry”, (Source: The Hindu, March 14, 2020).

$1.5 billion comes to 11238 Cr.  In 2019, about 26.62 % of the Indian population was in the 0-14 year category (Source: statista.com). This will come to 36.75 Cr below 14 years, though this is necessarily not the cut-off for toys and games. Combining the above 2 numbers will give us a budget of Rs. 305/- per child in India for buying toys and games for an entire year. A princely sum.

Unanswered Questions

  1. What would the children of the rest of the world be playing that Indian children are missing out on? Would the difference be limited to quantity or variety and quality of toys and games?
  2. How would this differential availability of toys and games manifest in Indian adults and adults in other parts of the world, who had access to them in their childhood?
  3. Is the limited access to toys and games for Indian children a recent phenomenon? Or has it been like this, historically?
  4. The Indian toy market is very small. What could be the reason? There is no demand because there is no supply. Or, there is no supply because there is no demand.
  5. Pictionary, Scrabble, Monopoly etc are games with a Western origin. Why aren’t these or for that matter any of the games not available in the vernacular avatar? Not even Pictionary cards?
  6. What about the Indian traditional toys and games? What are they? Where are they? Why there has never been scaling up for those 40-50 families in Channapatna, Chitrakoot, Kondapalli etc?
  7. China manufactures 72.25% of toys and games in the Indian market. How did this happen? How did we let it happen? What was the scenario earlier?
  8. India has hardly any outdoor spaces left in the urban areas for children to come out. If the toys and games are minuscule, what are the avenues for Indian children to play? Do they play at all?
  9. India has a plethora of institutional set-ups for children. If their buying of toys and games is taken out of the Indian numbers, what exactly would be left for the children at home?
  10. Lastly, what would be the thoughts of Indian parents about toys and games that it leads to such abysmal numbers?

My views

  1. Weight of school bags gets heavier by the day in India.
  2. Weight of parental expectations gets heavier by the day in India. (Why bother for anything that does not count towards JEE/NEET?)
  3. Parents who have not lived their childhood perpetuates the same with their children.
  4. As on date in India, malls are open, restaurants are open, religious places are open. But, the children parks are shut. Why? We don’t expect the children to play, only study online education. Hence, the continued lockdown for children below 10 years, 4 months over and counting.
  5. Letting children be themselves and have fun is a losing proposition in today’s world.

Above mentioned points are my guesses. Maybe, all wrong. After all, no children have ever complained; not even after becoming adults.

What would be your views about toys and games for Indian children?

PS: I consider Barbie a stereotype, not a toy. Similarly, the guns are meant for Army and Police, not for children. With all these STEM fun & learning combinations, why can’t we let children have just unbridled fun without the prerequisite of learning?

Temper Tantrums: Don’ts And Do’s

In the first part, I wrote about the temper tantrums as an inevitable element of growing up for children as well as parents. The first strategy to deal with temper tantrums is to try that they do not occur in the first place. However, they are bound to happen. So, how to deal with them?

Temper Tantrums Don’ts and Do’s

Basis first-hand experience as a hands-on and stay-at-home parent, I have a laundry list of Don’ts to deal with temper tantrums. The Do’s list consists of just one.

  1. Don’t focus on the surroundings.

The child is throwing up in public. The child is bad behaviour personified. Everybody is looking in the direction of the child and the parent. A parent is feeling ashamed, wants to run away from the scene, wants the earth to open up below the feet.

What should a parent do? Just forget about the people around. Believe me, everybody has only sympathy for the parent facing the child. Each parent in the audience has gone through this ordeal herself/himself. Why should they look down on anyone who is going through what they have endured themselves? For the others, either they do not have children or they had children so long ago that they have forgotten how it was way back then.

The child in rage deserves the sole attention from the parent, and not the notion of being a cool parent. It is fine. Simply put, everybody understands a parent’s position.

2. Don’t distract the child. If the distraction would have worked, temper tantrums would not have happened in the first place. It has failed, do not repeat it. It will make matters worse.

3. Don’t reward/punish the child to get rid of the situation. Even under normal circumstances, rewards and punishment are not the suggested parenting tools. When the storm is at the peak, they are not going to deliver. It will be further detrimental to the situation.

4. Don’t give in to the child. Once a parent does this, temper tantrums become a part of the learned behaviour of the child.

It is a split-second decision. If the parent wants to give in, do it before the explosion. Not as an afterthought.

5. Don’t reason with the child. Again, this could and would have been done earlier to avoid the situation. But, the fact that it has happened means either the reasoning has failed or the moment has gone to engage in a dialogue.

Come to think of it. When an adult is in a fury, s/he would not listen to anyone. How does one expect a child to do this? Not a worthwhile proposition.

6. Don’t leave the child alone. When the child is angry, s/he is the most vulnerable and needs emotional support. How can anyone be left alone at the moment of crisis?

Again, consider an adult in a child’s shoe of being infuriated. The adult needs a venting out, more so for a child. A child’s healing can never happen in isolation. But, only with a helping hand, body and soul of a parent.

7. Don’t trivialize and laugh out. It is a matter of life and death for the child that s/he is in a rage. Belittling and playing down his/her emotions is only going to make the hurt ingrained further.

8. Don’t remind the child of the previous temper tantrums. This will be adding fuel to the fire.

9. Don’t show and give examples of other children. How would an aggrieved adult feel when given an example of an irrelevant another adult? It is a foot in the mouth, with the additional negative of damaging the self-image of the child.

10. Don’t hit the child. A non-negotiable.

The simple way of arriving at all the don’ts is to think of what an adult would not want to be done to herself/himself when mad with anger. One cannot do with a child, what one does not want to be done to one’s self.

So, what to do with a furious and rampant child? I have only one suggestion.

Hug the child. Keep hugging the child till the moment passes through. Keep comforting the child. That’s it. Basis self-experience, this is the only mechanism I have to deal with temper tantrums of my twin daughters.

To be honest, it is easier said than done. I just keep telling myself that whatever else I do is going to worsen the situation, so keep quiet and just hug the girl throwing up.

The objective is to help the child identify, know and manage her/his emotions better. It is essential learning for children and also, the parents in growing up together.

What would be your suggestions to deal with temper tantrums?

PS: I also try and remember the trigger of the temper tantrums to avoid the history repeating itself.