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Parents, give your kids a break

Parents, give your kids a break
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First Published: Fri, Jan 09 2009. 09 15 PM IST

Distance learning: The holiday that appeals to you may not work for your children.
Distance learning: The holiday that appeals to you may not work for your children.
Updated: Fri, Jan 09 2009. 09 15 PM IST
I used to be an avid trekker in my youth but outdoorsy activities took a backseat as I got wrapped up in work and family. Now that my twin son and daughter are 13, my wife and I have been thinking of introducing them to the great outdoors through age-appropriate treks and camping for just the four of us. But they seem resistant to the idea of living without television, flushable toilets and computer games. Is it irrational of me to expect them to take to life beyond the city, after they’ve spent all their lives in an urban environment?
Since your children have not experienced anything like this till the age of 13, they’re doubly resistant to your idea of a holiday. To top it, they’ve stepped into adolescence, and we all know how that works, don’t we! Though you have not done much outdoorsy stuff in recent years, you have experienced it before, and know the joys of it. To your kids, it is likely that it all seems some demanding “fad” on your part, and they don’t want any part of it!
Distance learning: The holiday that appeals to you may not work for your children.
You can’t make them enjoy something. Yes, you can get them to experience something, and then decide whether they like it or not. However, your kids seem to be in that zone where they’re not interested in the experience and have, in fact, closed their minds to it before even getting there.
So what choice do you as a parent have? One, you can insist they come along, and then you will have to put up with their reluctant, non-participative presence. Second, you can simply detach from the idea (perhaps temporarily) that you need to do this as a family.
See if you and your wife can go do these kinds of outings/holidays on your own, without dragging the kids along. And hope that your enthusiasm and joy rubs off on the kids in some oblique way. One does have to live the changes that one wants to make—and hope that it will have downstream benefits for your children.
For any parent who is reading this with younger kids, here’s a pointer. If you do believe in exposing your children to something different from the usual mass appeal stuff—whether it is music of a certain kind, simpler holidays, reducing TV and computer use for the kids, etc, 13 is a less than ideal age to start!
Another thing that strikes me is that you have to find ways to get your kids to be more open and flexible—not by suddenly springing an idea on them, but by subtly bringing these new elements into your daily life. Meaning, you have to walk the walk yourself. For example, one parent who began to listen to and enjoy Indian classical music, and had musically inclined kids, insisted they join music classes. Of course, she had a mutiny on her hands. And after five months of cajoling and pushing, she gave up.
However, she continued with the pursuit herself, listening, learning and going to music programmes. Four years down the line, she sees that both her kids, now 16 and 18, are drawn to classical music (besides “their” kind of music).
A lot of these intangible values or inclinations are “caught” rather than “taught”. So you could continue with your own pursuit of the outdoors and what it has to offer, without lecturing or badgering or begging your kids to be part of it—and then just hope for the best!
The school that my kids go to is extremely strict about holidays. If the kids are not in school on reopening day after any vacation, both the child and the parents are severely upbraided; they are even thinking of imposing a fine for any extra days of vacation that a child takes. I think this is carrying it too far. What is your opinion?
To an extent, I can understand where the school is coming from on this issue, especially for higher classes, where kids miss out on quite a bit for every day of school that they “bunk”. Moreover, the school is trying to send out a message about discipline and commitment and a clear and sharp divide between work and play. The rather strict attitude may have come as a result of far too much casualness on the part of many parents about the rejoining date.
However, having said that, I do agree that this makes life rather difficult for families who are already juggling the schedules. Sometimes it is also just not possible to get bookings on trains and planes in such a way as to return in time for school reopening.
Recognizing these issues, some schools make the opening day or two after vacations a more loosely structured one, without jumping into the nitty-gritty of the syllabus. I would say that this is in any case a more “human” approach, allowing the students that little extra time to make the transition from unfettered fun to the demands of schoolwork.
As for unscheduled holidays or what in the adult world is called “casual leave” for specific purposes such as family occasions, most schools are understandably wary of allowing this too often.
The fact may be that only 2% of parents overdo things, while the others are quite aware of the importance of school attendance. Like you, they too feel that they should be allowed the leeway to make an exception and have their child take the day off for personal family reasons. After all, in the adult world, everyone is now talking about a healthy work-life balance!
Perhaps the answer lies in getting the PTA of your school to review this issue and come up with a more flexible and realistic solution to the issue of vacations taking a nibble out of school time.
Gouri Dange is the author of ABCs of Parenting
Send your queries to Gouri at learningcurve@livemint.com
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First Published: Fri, Jan 09 2009. 09 15 PM IST
More Topics: Holiday | Adolescence | Syllabus | Play |