Sunday, November 11, 2018

Anjali - How Can Parents Say Things Like That?

Anjali and Mansi and Brahmani's bookstall at their Diwali mela drew a lot of walk-ins. A lot of kids wanted to buy stuff - and parents tried to do their best to accommodate them. Some parents bought their children all they asked for, some bought them a reasonable amount and some did not. That did not prevent the children from hanging about near the stall and staring hungrily at the books.
Driving into the rainbow - One of my favorites
Anjali told me later about this mother-daughter combination that visited the stall. The child was 7-8 and probably in her third class. She told her mother that she wanted to buy a jigsaw puzzle. As I remember it was not very expensive too.

'Puzzleaaa?' asked her mother in surprise. She was pretty shocked that her child wanted to solve puzzle.

The child nodded and said she wanted the puzzle.

'Tell me the spelling of puzzle first,' said Mom. 'You don't even know the spelling of puzzle and you want to buy a puzzle. No need.'

This interaction would have left the kid feeling really dumb and most likely put her off puzzles and any brainy activity for the rest of her life. In three sentences her mother probably gave her a strong belief that she was not smart and she better not ask for things like puzzles. And the public humiliation before her seniors was another aspect.

'How can she say things like that Nanna?' asked Anjali shocked. 'How can she say, spell riddles?'

But we all do that as adults, in one way or another. Unless we are very aware of what we are saying and doing, we introduce these beliefs in our children's minds about worth, intelligence, class, beauty, deservability, security. Some of us do it subtly and some explicitly.

It's far better I guess to be like that grandmom of Bryan Stevenson whom he mentions in his famous TED talk on injustice. He remembers his grandmom calling him aside and telling him one day that she observed him and that he was special and that she realised that he could do anything he set his mind to. Bryan believed that and continued to believe that until one day as grown-ups when he refused to drink beer (another belief planted by his grandmom) his older brother tells him that his grandmom said that to all the kids. Bryan laughs about it now, but the seed has been sown and it grew well and now he can laugh about it. Or another story where this father takes his three little kids to Disneyland and does not take the option where they could go free if they went under the turnstile. When he buys tickets and goes to the turnstile the man asks him why he bought tickets for his little kids. The man says they are not little kids - the first one is a scientist, the second an engineer and the third a lawyer. So many more stories where they set their expectations and anchor the children and the children grow into them knowing that someone believes in them.

Even the book 'Mindset' speaks of how anchoring the children right helps immensely in their growth and achievements.

No comments: