Thursday, April 29, 2010

My learnings and "un-learnings"

When we know that a child has a disability, we immediately try and make an attempt to understand things better. But when it is a child without a "label", we immediately raise the bar for everything that they say and do. Why? Why is it that we don't make an effort to try and understand "all" children irrespective of their labels and personalities? Why is it that we find it so difficult to respect individuality in everything?

I have had many discussions with an old friend and colleague about many issues like this, and I have learnt a lot from those discussions. Just having another person to talk to on the same wavelength has clarified so many of my day to day concerns and has opened up my mind to see things that happen every day in a new light. These are not my rigid views, but my learnings and unlearnings. Raghav has been my teacher.When you have a child or are in contact with children, you learn everyday. And most of what you learn is about yourself and your conditionings and how that impinges on everything that you say or do.

I have often pondered over many of the following issues, as many continue to surface with Raghav everyday or every now and then. What I want to share is my perspective and my thoughts on these.......there are as many views and opinions as there are people in this world, anyway!

I think it is important to understand the situation and environment the child is in first, before labeling it as a tantrum. I would rather see it as a way of expression rather than as a "problem behaviour". I think most tantrums happen when kids are under stress - that stress could be due to hunger, sleep, tiredness, boredom, and so on. There is something that has reached a peak within them that they are unable to express in any other way at that time and so they "throw a tantrum". Most often I think it is not because they are being stubborn that they throw a tantrum, it is beacuse of something else. I have learnt this the hard way by making many many mistakes. Now, I have learnt to observe things more carefully with Raghav and try and understand the stress factor. And most often, I see a pattern that I did not see earlier.


Children like to be in control of their environment and make their own choices (don't all of us like that??!). They have an internal clock and sense of what they want to do and when. It is only when we try to shift the control to an external one that the problems arise. Then, they need to understand what to expect and so need to know or be prepared for what is in store for them. So while routines are convenient for us adults to make, it is better and easier for both parents and kids, when kids make their own routines. Children live in the moment - the present - and so maybe schedules would not make sense to them. And why would they? and when they do make sense to them, I think they would ask us for schedules.

When I was asking Raghav about the things he liked and disliked at school, this was one thing he said : "Amma, what is a timetable? I don't understand a timetable." When I tried to explain what it was, he said: "Amma, I don't like to do a particular thing at a particular time. I like to do it in my time." I have given him that time now and work my routine around his. There are days when he doesn't want to eat until he has finished what he set out to do - building something with his lego, or a painting. I am learning to respect his time, in the hope that some day he will learn to understand our urgency and needs as well.


Children caught in these time and space warps that have been created by the regimental structures in schools often show restlessness - a constant need to be doing something.....unable to decide for themselves what to do with their time......and they become so obsessed and stressed out about "finding something to do".....and sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that they need that.....that they need to be given a structure and choices and stimulation. But in reality, what they need is to unwind.....relax.....unlearn and relearn what it is indeed to be free and creative.....and learn to just "be" with themselves and discover themselves again!

After one month of being at home, I see a huge change in Raghav - he is much more comfortable with himself.......there are fewer times when he asks me what he should do.....he is better now at being able to make those choices and decisions....there is less whining, more laughter.......more smiles, less tears.......more understanding and less defiance......less anger and more peace......

Today, when I talk to him about school, he is able to say much more than he was able to a few months ago, or even a month ago......the anger is gone and he is calm and collected when he talks about it.........it has taken this much time to get to this stage......for whatever wounds to heal.....there is no more talk about destruction and monsters.....

There are times today, when I see or meet some other kids in the neighbourhood or kids he used to go to school with........and I see a similar pattern all over again......a similar restlessness, a similar "wanting to do things" all the time!, similar insecurities and fears, and I sit back and wonder about how it was for us and how it has all changed, with one bold decision of "unschooling"!


  1. i enjoyed reading priya. my favorite line is : "And most of what you learn is about yourself and your conditionings and how that impinges on everything that you say or do." not because i agree with you :), because this is a wonderful challenge- of being with the kids 24/7 (at this point) with opportunities (to learn) thrown at you and understanding how much you're willing to learn.

    and yes, to some kids, routines seem to make sense early on- i dont understand why (or why not). yesterday i met a kid who's stressed by "free play". to Raghav, 'taking control of his environment' means not having a timetable. to this child, it is to have one. her mom (like i did somewhat) had to become more organized and structured in order to fit around the child's needs. for the first time she was saying, they've had to have a timetable in the house! we discussed how, as you hope, that the child sees our preferences and begins to understand our needs (to have more loose time) some day. :)

    keep blogging!

  2. Sivakami - so does this mother make the schedule with her kid or on her own? I am curious to know that......I just feel that we give kids an external structure from very very early on, that they get so used to, that they find it very hard to exist without that......what do you feel?

  3. the structure was guided by the 'methodical' kid, whom the mom noticed to be getting so much out of it - in terms of feeling secure, confident etc. she has adjusted to the kid's preferences after some initial challenges because of her personal preferences. this kid is 2 without any prior negative external-structures experiences that i understand. just as kids like Raghav feel so much better breaking free from a stifling structure, there are kids like this one (and perhaps mine too) who engage very actively and playfully while & after determining some structure in their day. makes sense?

  4. Reading these comments is s learning experience to myself.Bringing up Priya and Radhika, I don't remember much other than some of their stubbornness.We did not know very much as priya does now.To me their happiness was paramount.Their security was important.
    From my experience we use too many unnecessary words when relating to the child. We pick up one of their habits or preference. Keep repeating them and the child is often conditioned to believe that is the correct thing to do and go on making it a habit.
    We broadcast our pride of our children to Tom, Dick and harry, quite unnecessarily. Thug I have very little role in bringing up Raghav, I admire my daughter and her way of looking at things.
    I am learning and enjoy doing it.


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