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?”

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.

India Is No Country To Raise Daughters

It is outrageous. Shocking. Absolute disgrace to all of us. The whole nation. Supreme Court’s report showed that from January 1 to June 30 this year, 24,212 First Information Reports (FIRs) were filed across India under the POCSO Act.

(POCSO – Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. It deals with child abuse and sexual assault on children. In short, Child Rape).

India registered 24,212 FIRs for child rape in 180 days. That is 135 FIRs for child rape daily. This is insane. Out and Out sickening. There are no words to describe this.

Also, there would be incidents where children do not report sexual assault to their families. There would be cases where families refuse to approach police station to file FIR. If all these get added up, I do not want to even think about it. And, POCSO does not deal with FIRs of rape on adult women.

24,212 FIRs of child rape in 180 days. These are not mere numbers. 24,212 lives ruined forever before they reach their adulthood. These are 24,212 children, most of them girls, innocent, naive, simple, just a child, who would just want to play. What have they ever done to deserve such a fate?

What have we done as a country to avoid the FIR No. 24,213?

Political Leaders

When the elections come, the politicians turn up and promise whatever and whatnot for votes. Has even one politician owned up to fight for any of these 24,212 children? Has even one politician vowed that s/he will make her/his constituency child-abuse free, where the safety of the daughters is guaranteed? Ever heard even one statement condemning these incidents from Prime Minister to the Corporator or the Sarpanch and all the Honourable Political Leaders in between?

Forget it. They will only throw Kuldeep Sengar, the Unnao BJP MLA at us.

Judiciary

The time limit for investigation of all cases of rape has been prescribed, which has to be mandatorily completed within two months. The deadline for the completion of trial in all rape cases will be two months. Note that, this mentions all rape cases and not just POCSO cases.

So, what would this mean? India is getting justice? Far from it. 1.5 lakh POCSO cases are pending trial. These are not 1.5 lakh cases, damn it. These are 1.5 lakh children abused and carrying the scar for the rest of their lives. And India’s defunct judiciary will keep dragging its feet till the accused dies of natural causes – old age and the case will be dismissed.

Indian Parliament has passed a law to provide death penalty for rapists of girls below 12 years. When the Judiciary does not deliver justice, what use is the law of death penalty?

Forget it. Nirbhaya convicts are still very much alive. The Honourable Supreme Court is yet to decide on their review petition.

The Government

As per available data, the number of victims compensated under POCSO was 3% in 2015, 4% in 2016 and 5% in 2017. The Government cannot even compensate the victims, leave aside get them justice.

India has a Child Rights body – National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR). It is a statutory body working under the Ministry of Women and Child Development. This distinguished Commission has not gathered any data related to child sex abuse cases since the POCSO Act came into being in 2012.

Forget it. The Government will just say “Beti Bachao”. What for? To get them raped?

The Police

Of the 24,212 FIRs registered under POCSO in the first six months of 2019, over 11,900 cases – just under half – were pending investigation. Meaning, the Police registered only the FIRs, and that is it. In India, anyways nothing is expected out of the corrupt politicians and the defunct Judiciary, at least the Police could have taken the lead in providing India’s daughters with a safe environment.

Anyone IPS officer/police station/constable could have taken a public vow to make her/his jurisdiction POCSO-free.

Forget it. They are busy perpetuating their indulgence.

The Media

Ever heard any one of these 24,212 FIRs in any of the media – print / digital / TV / anywhere? Has there been even one media outlet that says that they will report all the POCSO cases in their respective catchments from the day FIR is registered to when the trial court passes a judgement – daily?

Forget it. They will not see any saleability in this reporting.

This brings us to the biggest culprit of all. Us. Society.

What have we been up to? What are we doing? Where have we reached as a society wherein 100 + of our kid daughters get raped daily? We have lost our moral and ethical compass so much that nothing moves us out of our slumber.

Where did we go wrong as a society that perpetrators of these 24,212 FIRs within 180 days are amongst us and we are silent? Where have we lost our spine that our political leaders, government, judiciary, police, media – none of them are playing their part in delivering a safe society and we are silent? How did we become a place where it is unsafe for our daughters to enjoy their childhood and we are silent?

I know that we are somewhere, still humans. Just do not know, where humanity is lost.

I thought I am living my dream as a parent, I was wrong. It is a mistake from my side for making my twin daughters take birth in this country. I am sorry girls.

3 Factors In Selecting A House For Children

We had to vacate our home for the last 10 years. It was a place where O +ve and B +ve had stayed ever since they were born. This house was on the third floor of the apartment, with no play area, on a 24*7 busy main-road, right opposite a metro station. It served our requirements, that we had 10 years back, very well.

Now, we had to choose a house that suits the requirements of our twin daughters, currently four and a half-years-old. We listed down the factors important to us.

Nature

We know that in a city like Hyderabad, first-hand interaction with nature comes at a premium. With this constraint, our prerequisite was that our daughters can spend as much time as possible outside the four walls of the house.

A place to play, run and jump under an open sky with the accompaniment of sunlight and wind. It had to be a place where they can splash around in puddles and bath in rains. A place where they can do nature hunt as and when they like, as much as they want. It had to be a place where they can see insects inside/outside the home and also the stray animals. A place with trees around where they can hear the chirping of the birds in the morning. All these, without the paraphernalia of getting outside the home and with the main door of the house open for their safety.

Our former house was 3 km away from the nearest possible park. Now, we wanted a park within the walking distance. And yes, we wanted to be away from the traffic, for nature and vehicles do not go together.

People

Given that our twin daughters do not go to any formal environment until now, we wanted a place where children come out to play. In our earlier house, though there were 30 flats in the apartment, there was no play area and children hardly got an opportunity to play together.

We selected the house with this criterion and I must say that we got it wrong. I realized that the weight of school bags is not going to reduce in India.

Another criterion for us in house selection was that the girls get to see and interact with all different kind of people that co-habit our country. Our daughters have now made friends with garbage collectors; they speak to sweepers and see all the types of street-vendors that throng the locality. They see diversity and try to understand that everyone is different.

Of course, in people, the most important criterion was that Dirty Feet‘s office is within a walking distance of 5 minutes. So, their mother does not have to spend time in a conveyance from home to office and back.

Space

Our previous house, with all its limitations, had one thing – it was spacious. The girls had a gala time running, hopping, skipping, jumping, climbing, cycling inside the home. We wanted it to continue, within the house as well as outside the house. A place where they can play peek-a-boo and keep finding new hiding places. All these without making nuisance to our neighbours, which we did a number of times, in the earlier house.

We wanted a place ample enough for their activities, arts and crafts and where they can make a mess to their heart’s content. The house needed space so that all their stuff – clothes, toys, games, books are kept within their reach, where they can take and put it back.

The above was our criteria for renting the house for children. We are sure that we are not going to buy a house for we feel that our requirements keep changing and we do not want to be tied down to a place.

Summing Up

Fortunately, we did find a house which we now call home meeting the above criteria. A ground floor house with a good enough court-yard. Yes, we did lose out on the high-rises and the perks of the gated community. Win some, lose some.

The girls are liking their space, sun, wind, insects, street vendors, stray dogs and cats, parks, trees, jumping around and more.

We do not know how it will contribute to their growing up and what will be its impact. We shall see. I will keep you updated.

What would be your factors in selecting a house for children?

False Sense of Urgency and Service Providers for Children

I have written about a small accident that one of our twin daughters had and what it taught us. Along with our learning, what has also remained with me is the behaviour of the paediatric surgeon whom we met first and the false sense of urgency she created.

False Sense of Urgency

The paediatric surgeon described the condition of our daughter in a medical language that both the doctors, whom we spoke to later, did not agree. She told us that there are only two options for our daughter’s treatment. Out of these two options, one did not even exist for a child of our daughter’s age, as per the later discussions with other doctors.

The above divergence can be attributed to the subjective difference of opinion among doctors, maybe. However, what stood out is the urgency with which the paediatric surgeon wanted us to act. It almost seemed like our daughter would be in dire trouble if we do not agree on the medical procedure to be performed on her. The paediatric surgeon spoke so confidently to us that we thought there cannot be any other way out other than what she is saying.

As time passed by we realized that, whatever she told us, as a super-specialist of paediatric surgery, turned out to be false. Our daughter healed without any medical procedures, which according to her was not an option at all.

Why did she create a false sense of urgency for us, as parents? Why did she want us to act immediately? How and what gave her the confidence to hard-sell a treatment which was not required / non-existent?

More of the Same False Sense of Urgency

As I think more about this, I realize that this is not a stand-alone situation. It exists with most of the service providers for children. Seemingly, the parents are the most gullible lot.

We see so many schools that promise so many things for children and they do it so confidently. The parents think that if they do not opt for it, they are going to miss out on a golden opportunity for their children. The same is applicable for coaching classes, summer camps, training classes. You name it and I do not think the narrative will be any different from the paediatric surgeon, I mentioned above.

The context will of course change, but the content of the discussion will remain the same. We are best suited for your children. There is no other option. You have to act now. And the confidence with which it will be told to the parents.

Why this sense of urgency gets created for parents by these service providers? It happens so fast and with so much of high frequency that parents hardly gets any time to ponder over what they are being told and what they are getting into. It is almost like decisions are taken on an auto-mode. Rather the service-providers themselves decide on the behalf of the parents.

There is no mention at all of any of the options that could exist beyond what the service-providers tell us. I suppose, bringing up other alternatives would be met with utter disdain. They are the subject experts, and how could we, as parents, question them and their ways and means? Do we want our children to do well or not? If yes, fall in line with what they say.

Summing Up

I think we were lucky that we spoke to Dr. Adithi, who told us not to panic and that we could afford to wait. The other paediatric surgeon told us that letting it be is a decision in itself and also a worthwhile option. Nature heals best.

I wonder if we could come across more such service providers for children who could give their inputs with the child as a primary beneficiary and not their own business interests.

I hope that we, as parents, do not fall in this trap of false sense of urgency created by the service providers, for their self-serving benefits.

What are your views on this subject?

Bravery Lessons From My Child And Doctors

It was just another day in the house. B +ve and O +ve were up to their usual selves – jumping, running and dancing around.

Suddenly, one of the girls fell on the floor. It is a usual occurrence, it happens a number of times during the day, so no alarm as such. She got picked up by a family friend sitting next to her fall. The girl, who fell down, was not crying and was not in any pain either. A minute later, the family friend got up in alarm, her dress was getting wet with the blood dripping from the chin of my daughter.

We cleaned up the wound with water and applied turmeric. The girl was not complaining. We asked about any pain. She replied in the negative and continued with playing around.

After 3-4 hours, the turmeric fell off. The wound was visible now and we had a shock. She actually had a deep cut, it was looking like a pit dug on her chin.

Lesson 1: The child is intrinsically brave. We instil fear in the child.

We immediately rushed her to a children’s hospital, close-by to our home. The nurse cleaned the wound and did the dressing. The duty doctor told us to visit a paediatric surgeon immediately. We went to the see the surgeon and she scared the life out of us.

All through this, the girl who had the wound was just being her own self. She was not crying or complaining. She was asking questions about the surroundings, the hospital, what the people were doing all around. Her sister was also normal, doing the same thing.

After what the doctor told us, my wife and I were worried a lot. It was visible on our faces. Now, the girl realized that something was wrong with her. She wanted to be picked up and comforted. Fortunately, my wife had the presence of mind to show the pretence of normalcy. And, that was it. Again, the girl was back to being normal, her own self.

This reminded us of an earlier incident. The same girl had fallen, 2 years back, and twisted her ankle. She had to get an X-ray done and had to put a crepe bandage for about 10 days. At that time also, there was no crying or complaining, just playing, whatever her limited mobility allowed.

I realized that children are intrinsically brave, irrespective of their situation and the situation around them. This is the first bravery lesson. We tell them about the consequences of what has transpired with them and they get afraid, as a result. If she would have cried, there is no way that we could have maintained our sanity. But actually, she through her behaviour, made us brave.

For the child, who are we teach to them bravery? For, they are the really fearless souls.

Lesson 2: Do not panic.

The paediatric surgeon had scared us about the well-being of our daughter. We wanted to follow her advice immediately. Somehow, it occurred to us, to speak to Adithi, our in-house doctor, who has now moved to the Netherlands.

Adithi heard us out. She could not see the wound over the phone which was dressed up. She told us that she would not believe a word of what the paediatric surgeon told us. Adithi explained to us about a couple of things that the surgeon had spoken to us and informed that that is not how medical procedures happen.

She wanted us to get a second opinion from our regular paediatric doctor who has been seeing the girls since they were born. She assured us that our daughter would be fine and there is no need for immediate action within one-two hours itself.

This was the second bravery lesson – Not to panic. The most common-sensical, but never occurs at the moment when required the most.

Lesson – 3: Letting it be is also a worthwhile option.

The next day we went to see the paediatric doctor, who sent us to the paediatric surgeon. He repeated whatever Adithi had told us the previous day, a complete contrast to what the paediatric surgeon in the previous hospital had said.

We were told that we could either get stitches for our daughter’s wound or just leave it to heal naturally. We told the doctor that we were unable to decide and he replied that letting it be is also a decision in itself.

As parents, we want to do the best for our children. And if we do not do or are not able to do, which goes against the conventional wisdom, we feel guilty about the same. Here we were told that, no matter what the others say, letting our child be was also a good decision.

This does not occur to us at all – letting it be, allowing nature to take its own course. This was the third bravery lesson. There are multiple ways of doing the right thing and there are also the wrong things, which abound in advice.

Summing Up

Our daughter is healing fine, naturally. She continues to be her own self, aware of her injury but oblivious to all other paraphernalia.

For us, there has been a number of bravery lessons learned, we hope to remember for the future. Trust the child’s instincts, not to panic and let it be.

PS: Adithi told us that we should apply organic turmeric powder on the wounds, and not the regular turmeric powder. Another learning worth sharing.