Image By squarepants2004j/auntyh uia
By Kabir Pathak
Hours spent over homework assignments. What’s due? How much have you done? Chasing the kids every minute they are home to make sure schoolwork is completed—bribing them, threatening them, pampering them. And then the dreaded EXAM time—cancellations of all social engagements, going into a cocoon with all ‘wasteful’ activities banned; the whole family’s focus shifting to exam preparation. Instilling of competitive demanding targets: “You must be number one. You must beat so and so on this exam. We will be shamed if you don’t!”
Does this sound familiar? Have you been guilty of all or any of the above?
Did you ever sit and wonder where it all led? Was this the most effective method? Was your child number one in class always? What was the psychological effect on the child? Did you help or hinder him or her?
I have not conducted any research on the matter nor read any voluminous works that guided my behaviour but can only speak from experience of bringing up two daughters. I found the experience not only enriching and rewarding but sufficiently different from that described above with tangible enough results to want to share with other parents who hopefully may find it useful.
The first principle with which I grew up in my own school was that nothing can be taught. It may sound frivolous or pompous, but from the time of Socrates until now there has been a belief that a teacher should be more of a guide than an instructor.
The principle assumes that humans are born with knowledge and the teacher’s function is to encourage the student to think for himself /herself, to work out the solution from what they know already, and to build on it through the years. The teacher’s job becomes not only interesting, but also challenging.
Applying this to the problem of homework or studies generally, the first thing I did was to never chase the children about their schoolwork. They had to understand and practice from a very young age that they, and they alone, were responsible for completing their assignments on time. If they did not, they had to face the teachers and whatever penalties the teachers decided. These formed their first steps in becoming aware of the responsibilities of their own actions.
The other uncommon method used was that I declined to intervene unless they themselves asked me to. If they did not understand some concepts or subject matter at school, or had difficulties in figuring out what their homework was about, I would only then spend as many hours as necessary to get them to figure out the solution, or explain the concepts in different ways until they themselves grasped it.
In our home there was never any sense of panic at exam time. As parents we did not feel pressurised with anything related to school. In fact it was an opportunity to refresh old forgotten knowledge and learn new things all the time.
And the result of what many may consider a lazy, irresponsible laissez-faire attitude? Both shone throughout their school years, and have now obtained postgraduate degrees from the two highest ranked universities in the world! Not from any brilliant coaching on our part, but from their inborn thirst for knowledge and self-disciplined approach to work and life.
In fact, so consistent was their success at school that their mother often reminded them to let others shine as well. “You have been blessed enough!” she would say.
They developed humility and sympathy to those less fortunate than themselves and continue to do their best to help others.
In practice, what I have suggested may be too bold and difficult for some. It may take considerable time and effort for parents to detach themselves from their self-perceived duty as lifelong “teachers” of their children. But it is my firm belief that those who do so will see the benefits of their changed manner of guidance.
A few tips to remember:
➢ Don’t put pressure on your kids in any form.
➢ Help them when required, but patiently, in a calm atmosphere. This is the time and opportunity to give your best.
➢ Let them see school and education in a broader context, not only as an opportunity to prepare for a career but as first steps in a constantly learning experience about life in all its forms. Let them feel the thrill of Knowledge.
➢ Above all, learn together.