How many classes have you enrolled you child for? 'Comparison - Part 3'.
A mom of a 5-year-old talking during the evening walk- "I keep her very busy. She is enrolled for ballet, Bollywood dance, Jazz, swimming and gymnastics' and of course her regular coaching class for English and Math."
I quipped, wondering about her heroic child- " Why so many classes? How does she manage? And why a coaching class? Isn't it too early. She goes to regular school?"
"Common Yaa, haven't you seen everybody around, and it will give her an edge," pat came the reply.
"Edge over?" I asked.
"Edge over others in alphabets, numbers, shapes ...it will make her faster and better, and she will get into the habit of 'regular study hours.' And extracurricular activities are so much needed nowadays. Everyone is into so much. Isn't it? Have a look at Facebook, and you will know what other children are up to?"
I was ready to faint, but I managed a croak - "But you can teach her and make her get into regular study hours. Are you working? (understandably, she doesn't get enough time on her hand to sit with her child."
She chirped animatedly- “No. I don't work. It's just that 'she doesn't listen to me. When the homework comes from the coaching class, she is more organized."
And everybody nodded in unison—clap clap clap.
I walked away surprised, sad, and anxious, with questions bombarding in my mind.
A child doesn't listen to her parents, and that parent needs an external institution to help her listen and regularize her life, introduce a schedule and make her sit. Is it a parent's success or failure? I wondered.
That child is a normal child with no special needs. Her mother is a well-educated SAHM. Where is the disconnect, and is that disconnect the right one? Today it a coaching institute, what about tomorrow. Giving a listening ear to one’s parent is the most basic that every child should be taught.
Are we so short of time, energy and willingness, or parental control that 'external coaching institutions' have become a need at the age of three, four, and five? Don't we know our alphabets, shapes, and numbers? What is the missing link? Is it our own ambitiousness which we are transferring on our children? I am in for all kinds of coaching when needed. I took math tuition in 9th grade too. But preschool?
Pondering over these, my thoughts shifted to my own child.
“Should I put my 3-year-old for the coaching class?”. What about ‘his edge'?”
“Should I enroll him for hip hop, gymnastics, and Taekwondo? Am I missing out on something if I am not able to post his glories on Facebook?"
By the time I came home, I was sorted in my mind-“it's not the children who are competing. It's their parents who are competing... garbed in fancy Barbie frocks and Superman T-shirts."
I was sure that YES, I WILL enroll him but will ask a few questions before. I shall not jump the bandwagon because everyone is doing so. Today if I jumped, tomorrow, my son would be jumping on every bandwagon because 'everyone else’ is, and that is not what I want. I want him to think for himself and his choices.
· Why am I enrolling him for that violin class? Am I enrolling him because I never got to do it, and he will make my dreams come true? Is it because everyone else is, or we as a family feel that violin is the opportunity we want him to expose? Is it my dream, after all?
· Will he be able to sustain this for an extended period of time? Every skill needs patience, perseverance, and focus to be mastered. Will he or I drop out in the middle?
· Will all these classes leave him drained or trained for something extraordinary that he actually enjoys doing?
Studies have constantly shown that mastery of a skill, musical or physical, requires extended focused attention and a child's active participation. If they are learning music, they must practice regularly, exhibit long periods of focus, memorize lengthy musical passages, master technical skills, and understand diverse musical structures. An equal amount of energy and attention goes for dance or sport. Is it possible for a child to master innumerable skill along with the pressure of academics? More importantly- is it fair?
Is it reasonable to start early- Yes! Such learning experiences tend to foster cognitive processing, particularly during childhood when the neural connection is forming rapidly. But how early is an answer every parent has to find for their own family considering the interest of their own child?
It's difficult for a parent to not feel competitive when other parents post pictures of their children with awards and trophies on Facebook and social media platforms. While that is a big life question in itself as to why parents do so and what they get out of showcasing their child as mini-celebrities, a parallel question is how parents at the receiving end handle it or stay away from the race.
I understand a child needs high test scores to gain access to the best academic opportunities and extracurricular activities to widen his horizons. If we want the best learning environment for our child for the many years, he is in school and after, test scores and trophies matter. With stakes this high, we have to help our kids prepare well whether or not we believe that the skills they are learning now are the skills that will make them successful in life.
I UNDERSTAND, but can there be a slightly healthier way of going about it so that we do less damage? A less stressful way?
How difficult is it to jump out of this vicious circle of comparison and help the child discover himself and his talents and work on them rather than discover the other child, his abilities and try to become like him?
Is it so challenging to RESPECT and APPRECIATE our child?
Compare if you must, but don't judge. Compare for inspiration and not for aspiration.
Try it out - "You know, son, I met your friend the other day at piano class. He really plays well, and he has learned it in a short period of time. I have seen that he focuses a lot, has kept few hours every day in his schedule for practice, and sticks to it. It's a thing to learn from him."
Try this one out - "Did you see him? How well he plays the piano. He got a trophy again. Why don't you ever learn from him? Don't you feel like getting that trophy?"
Which one is appropriate for your child? And I rest my case here.