Teaching commitment to children

Bhanumathi Narasimhan

Children are good at resisting – vegetables, the morning bath, the music classes, handwriting practice, Hindi tuitions…each one has his or her own list. As parents, how much do we persist and where should we let go? How does one inculcate commitment in a child?
Commitment is necessary only when you have to do something that doesn’t seem convenient. Commitment is the best remedy for laziness (one of the biggest hindrances for learning in a child).The primary activity of a child’s mind is learning. It comes to them from all directions and from every experience. Focusing their attention on the right activities is essential. A balance between left brain and right brain nourishment is key. Along with mathematics and science, they should learn some dance or art. They should spend time playing some sport. They must involve themselves in social activities infused with values of kindness and a caring and sharing attitude. They must have some time to be with nature and care for the environment.
Saying no is fine
In all probability they might insist on watching a particular cartoon on TV or playing a certain video game for 10 minutes more but you push them into doing as you say. This is fine, and in most cases, as the years pass by, when your son is playing the flute melodiously on a moonlit night by himself sitting in the balcony, he is likely to feel happy that you did not allow him to drop his classes. Commitment invariably brings comfort in the long run. Furthermore, activities like playing tabla, mridangam, or dance also serve as catharsis.
It removes the restlessness in them. When restlessness is gotten rid of, only then creativity dawns. Eventually, they start enjoying the activity and the immersive experience.
There is a saying in the scriptures, “Shodashe Varsha prapte putram mitram vadacharet”. Once they turn sixteen, they should be given their space to decide for themselves. Till then, it is the formative age. We can definitely guide them, but certainly not spoon feed them. After sixteen, like a friend, we can give them a hearing. Till sixteen, take it upon yourself to guide, suggest and direct their time and activities.
However, parents should also know their limits when it comes to monitoring the children.
A surgeon cannot be told by the patient where to cut and what to stitch. Similarly, teachers should be given the space to enable learning in the child. Parents are a big contributor in the child’s growth also when they step aside and allow the teacher to guide the intellectual development of the child and the blossoming of his or her potential. We have to show reverence to their teachers so that they learn from us.
Without reverence, learning is a challenge. When parents are respectful to each other, to the teachers, to the elders of the house, children who are keen observers are influenced to act in the same way.
It then becomes easier to guide them in the right direction because they listen to you, respect you.
For this, parents themselves have to be stress-free and give quality time to the child. That is why meditation is a necessity today. A few moments of deep rest, of tranquility, rejuvenates and refreshes you. And in a calm clear state of mind, you can take the right decisions and push them ahead with confidence.
The infinite field of possibilities is open to our children. Hold their hands gently, till they are ready to fly.
(The author is Director, Women and Child Welfare Programs of The Art of Living)