What do most mothers do the moment their 10-year-old walks in from school, dumps his bag, and heads straight for the couch and the remote control?
Most prove they could commandeer a firing squad: “How was school? Did the teacher like the project? Did you do well in the test?”
Sujata Vasant Dewanji has a good laugh when she talks about this today. Until a couple of years ago, she was one of these ever-questioning “helicopter moms”.
The Positive Parenting Workshop helps mothers understand what their children need
Today, thanks to a support group and a better parenting philosophy, this former computer engineer is the epitome of a chilled-out mum. Life with her two kids, she says, has never been more fun. The support group, Positive Parenting Workshop, of which she is a member, is part of the Centre For Montessori Training, Chennai (CMT-C).
It started in January 2004 when Kesang Menezes, a mother who was thrilled to see how self-disciplined her children were at the Montessori school, decided to implement the same ideas at home.
“I thought if they can have this discipline at school, then why not at home?” says Menezes. She approached the Centre and asked them if parents too could benefit from the Montessori philosophy—to help them understand their children and facilitate better parenting in the process. “Our basic tenet is to help children become independent and learn to help themselves. The way to achieve this in the classroom is to give them freedom that helps them become responsible. We thought the same ideas could be applied at home if parents introduced consistency in their behaviour and created an environment which gave children opportunities to grow,” says Uma Shanker, director, CMT-C.
That was the start of this parenting group. The idea at the heart of the group is: Let your kids be. They don’t need to necessarily solve the jigsaw puzzle or make it to the under-15 swimming team. Provided they have the opportunities, if an Olympic champ or math whiz has to emerge, she will.
The facilitators of this group are mostly mothers. Experts in child psychology and child development are roped in for sessions from time to time. But it essentially remains a forum for parents to share their experiences and help each other.
One big block in a process such as this is the parents themselves. “Several people associate a group like this for parents who have problems with their children, which is not the case,” says Menezes.
Dewanji always thought she was an excellent mom, until attending the group’s discussions shocked and surprised her. “You need to be aware of the child’s needs and wants and, most importantly, be happy when you are with your child.”
Today, when she takes her children to the pool, she isn’t one of the moms standing on the side, yelling at the kids to complete one more lap or checking with the coach about whether they can enter the next competition. “I let them be. They just enjoy themselves,” she says.
The group’s weekly topics range from discipline, freedom, communication (or the lack of it), food-related issues, to bullying and self-esteem. There are no quick-fix solutions. “We just want parents to be aware of their children’s needs and to find their own solutions,” says Menezes.
This Chennai group meets every week, and has split into five groups—with about 10 parents in each—across the city. The groups are also divided on the basis of the age of the child—parents of children up to 6 years are in one group, 6-12 years in another and, finally, parents with teenagers are part of a new group that works with Shanker.
Swap fussy food stories but remember these points when you set up a parenting circle
1. Never try to provide quick solutions. Every child is unique, and what works for one may not work for another.
2.The group should be a forum for parents to share their experiences. Remember, there is no good or bad parenting. Nobody is a failure if they are trying to share their ups and downs as parents.
3. Parents need to be open-minded to share their experiences with others.
4. Treat it more like an educational circle, not a counselling centre.
5. Try and get childcare experts to speak once in a while.
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