It would be wonderful if these two characteristics – super and happy – coexisted in a child and, of course, they often do. But many a time, they do not.
As I begin to share my particular viewpoint in parenting, I am probably the least qualified among all the lovely parents in our school since I became a parent just three years ago and have but one child. However, I’ve been teaching and therefore, dealing with children for more than a decade in four countries namely India, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan and one of the common factors is that parents everywhere seem to be caught up in the same modus operandi.
Looking at the after school situation here in Yokohama, there are a myriad of classes even preschool children go to today. While all these are commendable and even necessary for elementary students, it makes me wonder when I see preschoolers go to swimming, gymnastics, music, ballet, art, a foreign language and later juku or kumon – in other words, a class every day after preschool.
Parents everywhere – be it Yokohama, Hong Kong, my hometown in Mumbai or elsewhere – wants successful and amazing kids, everyone sets high expectations for their kids and want to get a head start in this direction so send them to after school classes to help them become good at most things and turn out a super kid.
Yes, we all want children who will grow into successful and well-adjusted adults and it is our responsibility to work towards that but do all the extracurricular activities make the busy, fruitfully engaged preschooler happy? Is being super the goal to be reached at the cost of being happy? We know that relentlessly banging the achievement drum messes kids up.
Sometimes, it’s hard to balance what’s best for children with what makes them happy but the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. And by ‘happy’, I don’t mean the “being-set-loose-in-a-toy-store-fiddling-with-everything-with-grubby-fingers” happy, I mean the ‘happy’ in quality time spent with mommy reading a book, going grocery shopping with daddy, playing hide-n-seek with playmates or grandpa (the latter is more fun!) or just swinging off the monkey bars in the neighborhood park. In the end, it is really the simple things that satisfy kids.
Moreover, if the preschooler or elementary school student does so much of learning or classes this early in life, there is the imminent burn-out phase. Typically this happens in late adolescence or early adulthood but is known to happen as early as the elementary school years simply because the child has been doing one too many classes.
And for young children who are still learning to color, isn’t it far better for either parent or a trusted caregiver to sit with the child and help him/her to color or paint rather than send that child to art class?
There is also that ubiquitous ‘B’ word dreaded by parents and teachers alike known as boredom. We do everything in our power to keep our children and students from feeling bored and make sure they have enough activities to keep themselves occupied, and view it as a failure on our part if they dare say they’re bored. But boredom is not to be feared; in fact, studies show that it is good and even a requirement for kids. Boredom is that period when kids can just be and do nothing at all. It helps in rejuvenating their beings. After all, necessity is the mother of invention and if kids are bored, they themselves will try to entertain themselves and this fires up creativity, imagination and fantasy.
A few tips for raising happy kids:
- Give them the gift of faith in God – it’s the best security deposit we can give them
- Maintain a safe, nurturing, healthy family environment
- Give them age-appropriate household chores
- Praise effort rather than natural ability
- Encourage and give positive strokes (let us remember the self-fulfilling prophecy here)
- Help them build meaningful relationships with others
- And above all, spend time with your child!
The latter is the most difficult especially as the end of a long day of work and when the dishes are piled high but let us nonetheless take the time….
Take the time, while they’re right here by your side
Take the time, while their arms are opened wide.
Teach them how to love the Lord with all their heart and mind.
Oh, they’re only home a season, take the time.
For one day, they’ll want to spend time alone.
One day, they’ll need to be on their own.
Next week, their hugs may not seem quite the same-
Oh, they’re only home a season, take the time.
(1985, Paul and Teri Reisser)
And finally, statistics reveal that it is the happy child who grows up to be more successful, better adjusted, more socially adept, more fulfilled and almost…. Super!!!!