While formal education in school is the most accepted and established means for  structured learning for children, we cannot overlook the importance of the education that happens before kids step into school- the unstructured learning.

Considering that the first 5 years in life (the foundation period) are the most impactful years in forming personalities, a lot of learning, grooming and development happens outside school when kids interact and play with family, friends and relatives. So let us today discuss the role of us as parents in child upbringing.

While parents undoubtedly love their children unconditionally and want them to accomplish, some conscious efforts help make it easier. Also research suggests that parent involvement has a positive impact in a child’s performance. And beyond academic achievement (in grades and scores, continuous interest in learning and greater interest in commencing higher education), parental engagement also helps children develop better social skills, show improved behaviour, exhibit stronger self regulation and management.

A holistic education is one that offers a sound mental and psychological growth, gives direction to children in academics, sports, values, cultures, human behavior etc. which makes them sound and competent adults by building them socially and emotionally. First and foremost, we must build their self esteem. Never lose an opportunity to express warmth and affection to them, so they feel loved, secure and confident.

An eminent psychologist Gabor Mate says,

“Love felt by the parent does not automatically translate into love experienced by the child.”

So we must find ways to express our love consciously. For me, greeting my kid with a smile and an “I love you” when he wakes up works well. That’s the best way to begin my morning. Also hugs are magical. I don’t miss even a single opportunity to hug my little one. While it makes him feel loved, it lightens me a great deal. There’s nothing like the human touch, to give the child a sense of security. Studies have shown that kids who don’t receive affection can suffer from chronic stress, which can disturb the parts of the brain involved in focusing, learning, and memory.

Listen to them, talk to them. Respect their questions, answer them. Give them attention every single time they seek it. Acknowledge their disappointments and try to address them. Discuss problems at hand with them, seek their opinions so they feel important. Have meals together where the whole family sits together, converses and reviews the day’s events.

Involve play, to be able to continue to hold on to the child’s’ interest and engagement. Connect what your child learns in everyday life. When brushing their teeth, teach them the importance of hygiene. When bathing them, educate them on the different parts of body, importance of cleanliness. When trimming their nails, count their fingers with them. When taking on the road, educate them on colours, types of vehicles and rules to be followed.

Tools like music are scientifically proven to enhance retention. Encourage their creative bent, their hobbies and skills. Also involve yourself in their activities. Motivate them to read, write or pursue any art form that interests them. Every child is unique and is blessed with different talents. Celebrate their victories, however small. Applaud and appreciate. Never compare them in any way with anyone else. Giving freedom is important, in thought, in creativity for cognitive development in early years. Leave some things on them. Let them take decisions. Allow them to make friends of their choice.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama once said,

“When educating the minds of our youth, we must not forget to educate their hearts.”

This clearly suggests that we also must build sensitivities in our children like compassion, empathy and helpfulness. While empathy is the ability to understand and be sensitive to other people’s feelings, it also helps children in strengthening their bonds with family, friends, and even strangers. Imbibe in them the quality of inclusion, equip them with qualities that educate them to live in a diverse society, make friends with different array of people; no discrimination with the poor, the differently-abled and socially less developed strata of society. Teach them to treat people with respect from different cultures, ethnicity, language and religion.

Educate them on their duty towards nature and environmental responsibilities. Talk to them about global warming, plastic ban, green revolution, saving resources and prepare them for bigger responsibilities as human beings.

Parents are powerful role models for children. And seeing is believing. So a parent must walk the talk and put into practice what he/ she preaches. Most children just watch and follow footsteps. So it’s important for parents to tread this path carefully and try to be complete individuals before working on their children. Support them, stand with them as a good friend would. Your child looks for you, just be there.

Your child is watching you. Be responsible. Be pleasant and positive. Practice gratitude. Trust them. And watch them blossom, become complete, and offer a promising society.

As Andy Smithson said,

“The sign of great parenting is not the child’s behavior. The sign of truly great parenting is the parent’s behavior.”

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