The way parents interact…

I stumbled across this paragraph and I think it is the most beautiful example on how powerful the example of the adults around a child are.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The ways parents interact with their children
contribute to shaping children’s understanding of
themselves, their parents, human nature, and the world
around them.

A parent who takes a toy away from a
toddler who had just taken it from another child, while
saying, “No grabbing,” teaches both children that
grabbing is okay—for those with more power.

A parent who unilaterally imposes a curfew implies that a
teenager can’t be trusted to make thoughtful decisions
about his life.

Instead, in both words and actions, parents can convey two key ideas:

1. Everyone’s needs matter, and

2. If we connect sufficiently, we can find strategies that will work for everyone.

Inbal Kashtan

This paragraph from Inbal Kashtan calls for reflection from the parents and carers of children alike; it calls for reflection on the adult´s empathy and the capability to be empathetic.

One day – and I do hope it is soon – adults and carers can realise that empathy and the empathetic process is the best gift an adult can give to a child (and another adult); the act of listening and act upon our words and actions sends a clear message of our ability and intention of communicating, connecting and understanding the needs of the other person. It may as well open doors and pathways for both parts to reach agreements and understandings which will benefit both sides, as a result of listening and communicating.

The immediate benefit is that both sides can feel understood, loved and cared for. On the long run, this kind of conversation feeds and enriches a relationship based in understanding, trust and respect.

La manera en la que los padres interactúan con sus hijos contribuye a formar la visión que el niño tiene de si mismo, de sus padres, de la naturaleza humana y del mundo que los rodea.
Un padre que le quita un juguete a su hijo que a su vez el niño le quitó a otro niño mientras le dice “no le saques el juguete al nene” está enseñando a ambos niños que sacarle juguetes a otro está bien – para aquellos que tienen poder.
Un padre que impone horarios a un hijo mayor está implicando que no se puede confiar en él para que tome decisiones acertadas.
En cambio, en palabras y acciones los padres pueden dar dos mensajes claros:
1 – Las necesidades de todos son importantes;
2 – Si nos conectamos lo suficiente desde el diálogo, podremos encontrar estrategias que serán útiles para ambas partes.

Inbal Kashtan

Este parágrafo de Inbal Kashtan llama a la reflexión de padres y todos aquellos que están con niños; llama al adulto para que reflexione sobre su propia capacidad de empatía.

Espero que un día – no muy lejano – padres y aquellos que cuidan de niños se den cuenta que empatía y el proceso empático es el mejor regalo que un adulto le puede dar a un niño (y a otro adulto); que el acto, el ejemplo de escuchar al otro y obrar con hechos y con palabras nos ayuda a conectarnos y a comprender las necesidades del otro; tal vez abre puertas para que entre las dos partes se lleguen a acuerdos beneficiosos donde se refleja el resultado de escuchar y comunicarse.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

El beneficio inmediato es que ambas partes se sienten comprendidas, escuchadas, queridas. A largo plazo, se fomenta y enriquece una relación basada en la comprensión, la confianza y el respeto.

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Guess what the electronic nanny is doing now….

“I need 5 minutes” thinks carer.

The child is restless, lobbying for the attention of the carer. The child and the carer are both exhausted. The child has many, many toys but they don’t seem to make a difference. The child plays with all of them, the carer plays with the toys to see if the child is interested. Child is interested in seeing the carer play with the toys. And nothing else.

“I need a cup of tea” thinks carer.

“I need 5 minutes to myself” thinks carer.

 And there it is. The tablet.

Carer sits down to select a cartoon that can entertain the child for 5 minutes, whilst putting the kettle on for a cup of tea…perhaps to make that phone call. By now the carer is an expert on multitasking i.e. looking after the child, entertain the child and, whilst the child sleeps, do all the rest.

Finally, a cartoon that is simple, lovely songs and colours, does not seem offensive and the carer likes it. Tap tap tap, there it is.

The child holds the tablet, and the eyes are as round as two teacup saucers.

As the child is absorbed entirely with the screen silence reigns once again – and it is not night time. Ah, that cup of tea. Oh, the phone call. Check for messages or comments on the social networks. Ah, send the email and carry on working on that project. Perhaps gain some time and make a start with meal time. Or tidy up the room, get on with the dishes or get rid of the pile of laundry…

Still silence from the child. By now the child is completely engrossed with the cartoon, a different episode.

Carer comes into the room to check on the child. The child seems happy. Carer is happy to see the child happy; hence the carer carries on with a myriad of tasks which otherwise, would be left for later if not left undone.

“That cartoon is a hit” thinks the carer.

Does any of this sounds familiar?

It is what I simply call “the electronic nanny”. Any electronic device which is capable to entertain the child for endless hours, keeping both child and carer happy to the brim. The carer can get on with day to day life and the child can be entertained. By now the child has a selection of “apps” that can teach numbers, letters, colours, rhymes, songs, stories, shapes and even other language!!! ” This is just genius! How comes no one ever told me about it!” thinks the carer.

Do not take me wrong: the health of the carer is as important as the health of the child. And when I say health, I mean physical and emotional health, not just the healthy food and everything we link with the word “health”.

But compromising the future health of a child for 5 minutes of “peace and quiet” – that you know it will end up becoming an hour if not more; and more still, becomes something regular – is a steep price to pay. There is even an article on the guardian about it: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/dec/25/screen-based-lifestyle-harms-health-of-children

I know it is easy said than done; and I know this because the “electronic nanny” was once a guest in my house. It did take immense strength to remove her from my son’s life: endless hours of crying, tantrums, rage – yes, rage of him throwing everything and making everything and everyone in the house a target – manipulation (those big sulky eyes saying “oh, please, I am about to die here” sort of look) and more tears, screams, kicking and empty gazing – or evil staring.

You name it: I have been there and it is a path where you will be told “not to be cruel to the child” or “what kind of parent does not allow the child to watch TV” “C’mon…put your feet up, give the child some TV, get some time for yourself” or even worse, the silent look.

Then others may say that the child will be “behind his peers” when it comes to technology. Do they mean that the child will not know how to push a button or slide a finger on a screen? Do they mean they will not know how to use Instagram?

It took a lot of patience and a lot of “I’m not going to give in to this”. More than anything: It took me a lot of inner acceptance that my little one could be included on daily chores such as dusting, stretching duvets, putting clothes in the washing machine, putting the dishes away, do some planting, or perhaps help with the shopping. I had to accept that he was not so little anymore and if a plate fell on the floor and broke it was a good excuse to change the service set.

I must accept and adapt to get the electronic nanny out of the house. I had to give more time to the chores and tasks and not rush around if I really wanted to do this. Again, it was not easy to get into this new self-imposed rhythm. But to see the results? Oh boy, that was a real treat.

When my little one discovered that he could put his laundry inside the washing machine – although it took ages, if not eons!  to get done – and then press the button to see the machine working he was as excited as Columbus may have been when he landed in America instead of India. When he discovered the brush and dustpan and the noise it would make on different surfaces; when he realised that shaking the dustpan would undo all the work he has done; when he saw the tulips bulbs he planted starting to sprout. And the list can go on. And the electronic nanny was almost gone.

As horrible as this may sound, I had to stop under estimating my little one’s abilities and strengths. Awful words, are they not “Under estimate”. I was doing so, what I solemnly swore the first time I held him in my arms “I will not do what they did to me: I will not under estimate you”.

I mentioned that the electronic nanny was almost gone. Yes. She is with one foot out. I am still battling to get her completely out. It is hard to leave bad habits and electronic devices on a child’s hand is no different. At least we agreed on only 30 minutes per day – and now we are on 22 minutes a day. And when the bell of the kitchen timer goes off, he, on his own accord, turns the electronic device of his choice off. No moaning no complaining no tears no tantrums. He happily goes to his bedroom to play or gets in the kitchen to see what am I doing.

Now the toys are interesting and he can create his own little world. Or if he sees me reading something he grabs a book and pretends to read. If he sees me around the computer, he asks what am I doing, and soon enough he finds something to do. But he does not crave for a screen or any sort of electronic device.

Yes, it is not easy by any means to go through a “detox” but believe me, it is possible. If someone comes and tells me that “I am damaging him because he is lacking the technology side of life” I can be happy with the fact that he is learning to live without an electronic nanny to “nanny” him when I am doing things such as looking for jobs, house chores or writing. I am sure he will have time to learn technology.

I am certain, however, that the skills he is acquiring now through play and helping around the house will not be learned through technology.

As far as I am aware, there is no software on earth that can mimic the feeling of soil when planting a bulb, or the feeling of warmth inside a house made out of duvets and pillows.

 

What else?

As I mentioned on my previous blog, nowadays I am working as a Nursery Assistant in a nursery whilst doing my Early Years Education Course. Being an assistant I go from one room to another and providing help wherever and whenever needed. As I said before I am gaining more experience than I can handle.

This last week I had to spend more time than usual in the babies room which provided me with amazing insights – now they see me and they greet me with immense smiles – and plenty of food for thought since inevitably, I keep comparing what I read with what I see and I imagine how I could help them develop naturally in the best possible way.

Well yes, I say “I imagine” because being an assistant I am there just to do that, not to say what I think and what could be done to help / improve and make it better for the little ones. Between the state-of-the-art equipment together with the age appropriate toys – sufficient to rival any toy shop, believe me on that one – that is not difficult at all, just requires time.

But time is something that gets completely lost in the midst of cleaning, feeding, changing nappies, filling forms, more cleaning, nap time, more feeding, more cleaning, more forms to fill (directly proportional to the amount of feeding, naps and nappy changing) and so on and so forth until the evening draws to a close and there are no more babies left because they have all gone home.

I’m sure by now you must be wondering…but what about the babies? Well, the babies are there crawling, walking, babbling, crying or sitting in between the nappy changes, the food and the nap.   The carers are there not only to care for these primal needs in a baby aside from having an extra pair of eyes in the back to watch them so they do not fall or injure themselves.

The carers as well are there to educate the little ones in basic life skills since they have to start to learn how to socialise, how to be together at circle time and how to play together, respect each other and schedule in between some unguided exploration amongst dealing with complex emotions.

So you may say what is wrong with this picture? Everything seems to fit the description of any nursery in the planet if anything a pretty good one. Children are fed, entertained, changed, put to sleep and controlled. What else?

What else. Some questions, is the answer to the “what else”. Question yourself: does a baby know all this malarkey of socialise of being together at circle time and being sat amongst their peers?

Does a baby need to learn “basic” life skills? This raises the question of what do we think, culturally and as a society what a life skill is…