Toddler lesson – Finding your role model


“Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.” – Neil Postman

Everyone derives their values and morals from something – religion, books, role models. I didn’t believe in role models when I was young because no one affected me or influenced me deeply enough. The very little I learned was from the people around me – family, friends, neighbors, teachers. All the more reason why I get nervous about teaching values to my son because majority of what kids learn from their parents is by watching them. We are what we think; We are what we do & our kids are an extension of ourselves.

Who is your Role Model?

Image by MARUYAMA Takahiro via Flickr

When my son does something, I try to pause and ponder about it for a second. I ask myself two questions:

  1. Is this part of his growth chart, is this one of the milestones kids normally reach (both good & bad)? Or
  2. Is this something that I’m passing on to him, is this something he does because he sees it as something I’d do?

Throwing tantrums, being stubborn and wanting to do everything himself would be part of his milestones. Two year olds see themselves as individuals, seperate from their parents and are trying hard to imitate them.
Needing personal space, not wanting to be bothered when doing activities and not too inclined in socializing would be part of things I possibly influence. Kids are a replica of their parents until they become smart enough to outgrow that disease.

Kids also teach us many things everyday if we choose to look closely and are open enough to learn from them. Here are a few things I’m trying to teach my toddler or should I say a few things I’m trying to be good at.

Things I’m trying to teach my toddler (or the things I suck at):

Socializing

Growing up in a joint family that chose to live in a small furural city, I never had the chance to socialize outside my circle of family and friends. Shy by nature and failing to develop the skills to mingle in a large group added to my adolescent woes of trying to define myself, among other things. I have the habit of shying away from big groups and falling in to the comfort zone of sticking with just one friend or two. I see traces of that in my son and I’m glad it’s still too early. So I try to take him to more outings and get him used to large groups. It’s my way of learning to socialize while teaching him as well. Being part of social organizations. Taking part in meet ups. Expanding the network.

Socializing and networking are like sevillanas. Like square dancing. There is a kind of grace needed to move around, an elegance to change stance and eye contact while switching places. It’s an art. Some people are the master of that domain while others manage to scrape through with little or no scars. As for me, I have no clue. I have no clue how to work this dance floor. Upbringing, experiences, surroundings! I was not trained. Nor did I take the time to master it myself. Now I’m as clueless as my little one when it comes to social norms & etiquette. I’m as lost and scared as a mouse left in a busy Bombay street.

But I take a deep breath, try to find reference from books I read, people I see & things I come across. I try to tell myself that socializing is no different than public speaking and recollect my Toastmaster lessons. Confidence & passion are the key to connecting with people no matter what the venue is – stage show, podium talk, home gathering. Listening glues everything together perfectly and helps when you maintain timing and bring out the sense of humor in you. Confidence, listening, sense of humor, timing – I have not mastered any of these, not even close. But that’s what makes it very exciting too! I get to learn along with my little one. It won’t be long enough until he throws me out of the room when his friends show up, but I get to enjoy while it lasts.

How many moms get to do that – socializing and learning with their little ones?

Conforming

I’ve been rebellious about many things in life. Some rightly so. Some not. Kids are rebellious by nature, but they need to be taught that certain things are not worth the protest. Daily chores, for instance. We have to do some things in life whether we like it or not. The sooner kids learn this, the better. We must put up with life’s rules and suffer through some discomforts in order to achieve the greater purpose, our dreams. The earlier we realize that, the better. I learned this the hard way. I am still learning. Adult life should be spent living, exploring and creating. Not making up for the things missed out during childhood.

At least not the basics. That’s exactly what I will try and impart to my son, hopefully in a way that warrants his attention & keeps him entertained.

Kids are fearless and most often gross. They are like the contestants in fear factor. They will do anything, eat anything and be anything. All the more reason that they should spend the youth figuring out their personality by experimenting. I picture my favorite scenes when I have trouble, scenes from movies like Count of Monte Cristo & Shawshank Rdemption. Our lives need not be as hard as those protagonists in order for us to relate to them. Every life situation, each decision we make and paths we choose have the potential of locking us up or freeing. If only I had learnt sooner that keeping my eyes on the prize while letting go of trivial things and holding on to ideals could reap rewards, I’d have done things differently. And it is my duty to make sure my son doesn’t have a lot of “if-onlys” during his reflections.

What was not taught to me needs to be taught to my son, in a fun way. While complying with things that we absolutely don’t want to, we can reward ourselves. Doing the dishes for instance. I wasn’t asked often, but when I was, I used to hate picking up and arranging the clean vessels when I was a kid. It’s such a boring task. Picking them up, washing them and storing them away in a place where you know spiders & lizards freely dwell that you need to wash them anyway. Such a mundane task. If I were to ask my son to do something that mundane today, I think it is also my responsibility to provide him with an option where he can have fun & forget the mundaneness of it. Plugging an iPod for instance. Talking to him about something he likes. Having a conversation & connecting. Anything that fits at that time & place. It’s work and I do them even on those occasions where I absolutely don’t want to or prefer doing something less responsible, something more fun (because it takes many trials before I succeed when it comes to anything toddler related). I conform. My reward is that one day my son may not remember the monotonies of the chores he did (because he might not have found them monotonous at all). 🙂

Discipline

“I’ve blown off careers just because I didn’t wanna wake up on time”. – Louis.C.K.

Photo credit: dailydemotivators.com

Personally, I am not sure how many careers I could have had. All the time spent sleeping and being lazy. I used to love being lazy. I used to enjoy sleeping. I still do. What can I say, I didn’t have good examples trying to teach me not to. I remember locking myself in the study room and sleeping before an exam. People would think I was working hard, studying. Honestly, what kind of a seventh grader needs to study for 2 hours? Not per day, not per week, not even per month. There is enough torture in school that no student needs studying at home. What kids need is practical application, lot of fun examples, discussions, reviews and debates with kids their own age as well as grownups.

That’s exactly one of the reasons why kids lack discipline. They are forced to spend time on things they don’t enjoy most of the time. Sometimes all their time is spent on doing things they hate. Nothing to show for it in the end.

Sleeping is not bad. Lazing around is fine as long as it is not on a regular basis.  But kids don’t need to sleep. Adults don’t need sleep. I think, as humans we need sleep only when we get old.

It’s like the Woody Allen quote where he wonders about starting out old and finishing off as an orgasm. If biologically we could forego sleep until we hit retirement age and make use of all the time to do things we love. If only! But, with the limited hours given in a day, if kids are allowed to do the things they love for some of their time and made aware of it, they’d happily oblige and conform to the chores they don’t like as much. Or at least that’s what I think. I remember waking up early to study for my tenth grade exams because I had one of my favorite movies recorded & waiting for me to be watched at the end of it. I remember being excited about anything dance related & even enduring school because of that.

If I’d known that psychologically I could trick myself with doing something I love while enduring things I hated, may be I’d have stayed home with my folks longer. On the other hand, may be it’s good that I didn’t 🙂 Now, I have the chance to learn these things through my son. He helps me become a better person every day. He points out my flaws and helps me work on them. He helps me find new role models every day. In myself.

 

Be your own role model!

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