Don’t restrict your child’s natural curiosity to explore the world. Be an empowering parent – let go and watch your child grow!
A friend of mine from my college days reached out to me. He lives in Mangalore. He wanted me to “inspire some confidence” into his young, 16-year-old son. We met for coffee last evening. I found the boy to be very cheerful, very positive and extremely clear about what he wanted to do. He said he loved science – all three subjects, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. He aspired to study medicine (when he finished his 12th/Junior College in Mangalore) at the Armed Forces Medical College, Pune. He wanted to be a doctor and wanted to continue sketching (his hobby) all his Life. Now, what do you tell a child who’s got all his plans mapped out? I told him this: “Be curious always. Never settle into a comfort zone. Keep seeking, keep learning, keep enquiring. Nobody can motivate you. Motivation is an inside job. Whenever you feel distracted, think of what will happen to your long-term goals. Understand that distraction is not a sin. It will only delay your journey to your dreams and goals. When you refocus on your goals, you will let go of all that which distracts you.” The young lad smiled back at me. He appeared to have understood what I had to say.
“Are you on facebook,” I asked him.
“No,” he replied sheepishly, while looking at his dad questioningly.
My friend piped in: “His (Junior) College principal has made him sign an undertaking, an oath actually, saying for the next two years he will not get on to facebook or use a mobile phone – neither at College nor at home. The principal wants to ensure that his College’s success rate to get students into premier “professional courses” is never diluted. And I support the principal’s stand wholesomely.”
I disagreed with my friend. I said that both facebook and mobile phones are enablers. They are both tools, a way of engaging with the world, I suggested. But my friend cut me short. He was clear his son should not be “corrupted” with a view that “encouraged being on facebook”. I decided not to force my view. That ended my conversation with the young chap; for the rest of the evening, my friend and I went on to talk about our lives and times…
On my auto-rickshaw ride back home from the cafe, I reflected on the myopic perspective that both parents and teachers have that inhibits the natural curiosity that children have. In today’s world, when there is so much information available on fingertips, why would anybody want to deny their children access to that information? Yes, the internet can lead you to porn sites as much as it can lead you to wikis on various subjects. Being on facebook can connect you to friends and family who share experiences and learnings that can enable you to gain an insight into how the world thrives. Yes, you can end up adding avoidable people as friends on facebook if you are not prudent. But I feel a parent’s job is to help children develop this discerning point of view. Empowering with choice, while explaining consequences, is much better than restricting children from doing things that they will be naturally curious to do. This whole view that facebook and mobile phones will corrupt a child and ruin his or her Life is reflective of the parent’s/teacher’s poor quality of thought. In my humble opinion, the moment you restrain a child, you are planting the seed of rebellion or are encouraging the child to operate with deceit. Because, whatever you bluntly deny – without adequate logic and conviction – children will find the means, one way or the other, to access it. A better approach would be to allow the child freedom of choice, have continuous conversations and if there is an over indulgence from the child, only then take restrictive steps. To employ a blanket judgment that all children will get “distracted” from academics or that they will go “astray” if they are on facebook or if they use mobile phones is poor parenting and poorer leadership.
Another point: for heaven’s sake, let’s stop obsessing over “professional” courses, “safe” careers and “95+ percentage strikes”. What we need teachers to do is to inspire the spirit of excellence in children and not to flog them to deliver grades. What we need parents to do is to imbue good values in their children and not to make academically-proficient nerds out of them. Finally, here’s the bottom-line: This is not a case for facebook or mobile phones. This is about raising beautiful, intuitive minds. Empowering children will nurture their curiosity and creativity, restraining them will only make vegetables and rebels out of them.