By Shilpi Madan
Motivational speaker Shradha Salla believes firmly that if our children cannot learn the way we teach them, maybe we should teach them the way they learn. Her intuitive approach and solution-oriented perspectives have been gaining ground as she focusses on strengthening little people, to ensure they are confident enough to tackles issues like bullying and peer pressure, effectively. Mother to Aarna, 14, and Sunehra, 12, Shradha helps children and parents channelise their energies effectively, through her workshops. Excerpts from a conversation:
You interact extensively with children across schools. What is the main issue of concern that has come up in your perception of their psychology?
Anxiety disorders. This includes general anxiety or an obsessive compulsive behaviour pattern, spanning all domains in a child’s life, from peer pressure to the competitive streak to be the best to issues related to their own social standing, to even simple day to day activities. Certain issues crop up that rankle children throughout the day, and beyond.
What about the moods of a child?
A child’s mood flips like a coin; the trigger could be anything, from a household issue to a small tiff on the bus ride to school. But what is important is that throughout the day, this pendulum is moving. As parents, we must recognise this issue and help our children to control it for bettering their own focus. Also, a child may be good in studies and another, great at sports, but the level of competition is very high. Often, we as parents tend to compare our child to others. Hence, instead of looking into their own personal strengths, the children tend to go into a low phase feeling the grass is always greener on the other side.
What is the correct way to handle these issues?
There is no wrong or right way as each child is unique and each parent wants to do the best by her or his child. I always believe in the intuitive approach. Follow your instinct. The extent of severity in some cases can be solved by with a spot of patience and perseverance. Other cases may require a bit of professional help.
Share a few tips with us.
It is a collective effort. We start by establishing a natural environment in schools where direct competition is healthy and each little person is recognised and applauded for their own special talent. This encouragement reflects in the child’s behaviour and temperament as well. As parents, we must desist from taking our child’s day to day simple problems too personally and work as a team with peers and teachers. The idea is always to focus on the issue that demands attention at the moment, and come up with a practical and positive solution.
How can parents help in cultivating a positive outlook and self-confidence in their children?
I always believe that behind every young child who believes in himself is a parent who believed first. But social, genetic and environmental factors also play a very important role in your child’s life. Therefore, always talk and communicate with your children. It is not the hours you spend with them but the quality of time you give them that truly matters. Maintain a positive environment at home. This ensures that this is the energy they attract wherever they go. Remember to be accessible to them at all times so they know the first person they need to come to in any situation is you. Draw a thin line between being a friend and being a parent, as times are changing and we need to change too as parents.
Can you share specific tips?
Simply put, when children focus on excuses, parents need to focus on responsibilities. Be patient, listen, give your kids undivided attention when they talk with you. Show flexibility and understanding, be consistent in your behaviour. Avoid swearing in front of kids, being violent, disrespecting staff, uttering white lies…these tend to become their habits. More is caught than is taught.
What about teachers?
All children need is a little hope and someone who believes in them. The parent teacher relationship is vital as the baby steps start at the point when they work and communicate together effectively to wield a long term, positive impact on the child. For teachers, to share a positive relationship with their students is very important. One must demonstrate sensitivity and never shame a child’s low performance in front of his or her peers. It is a good approach to be consistent in your behaviour and build upon a warm, positive atmosphere in the class that speaks of trust.
What methods do you specialise in? For instance, techniques that you make use of to instill that level of revised focus and clarity of mind in little people?
As children are great imitators, we must give them something great to imitate. I teach kids the art of positive thinking; how to control their thoughts and mind and improve upon their own physiology and body language. Children need to see something good in everything and everyone. There is always one thing that you can learn from every person, however young or old. I focus on getting children to recognise the silver lining in every situation, and in the process teach them how to fall in love with themselves and be comfortable in their own skin. Our posture holds 80 per cent of our energy. The instant we make it upright, our confidence level goes up and consequently our mindset and energies around us tend to change. Another important learning that must be ingratiated is ‘Don’t react’ because every situation in life does not require a reaction. Hold on. Conserve your energy. Think whether something merits a reaction from you, or not, before you overreact.
What is that golden rule?
“I love me” – you must have self-love, self-belief and never ever give up on yourself.
Do you think parents often transfer their own fears and apprehensions, voluntarily or involuntarily, to their kids?
Absolutely. Always remember, the best security blanket a child can have is parents who respect each other. As a child matures, old fears are overcome and new fears arise. All of this stems from the home environment as they are constantly looking up to their parents as role models. Children observe and soak up fights between couples, in-laws, domestic help… As parents, you must never ever run each other down in front of your kids, never use abusive language or argue within their earshot as they instantly pick up words and tonal inflections. Avoid smoking or drinking in front of them; discussing financial issues with them. Create a positive environment at home.
How can parents cultivate positive energy at home?
Kids learn by example, not advice. Make the effort to eat at least one meal together, which is family time, when you discuss what has happened during the day – your day and their day. Talk, talk, talk. Avoid using gadgets during this time, desist from taking calls youself (laughs). Set a morning routine, a sense of structure to the day is important, that ends with bedtime. Eliminate excess noise at home, and never compare your child with others.
What is the best emotional immunity builder for kids?
Be happy yourself and celebrate as a family as much as possible. This knits you together. Always encourage your kids to develop new skills. Read to your children often on different topics and subjects, put up clips on their softboards at the study table, make a mention during conversations. At the same time set reasonable boundaries for your child and ensure she gets enough sleep time. Be demonstrative, show respect and love for your spouse and other elders in the family.
All children are different. Some are tough. Others emotional. What is the best way to groom young minds?
As a parent you must respect the personality of your child, as each one is unique. Then set goals according to their abilities. Let them fall and fail once in a while as the learning will be better and more effective. Show and teach them the value of who they are as people rather than social stigmas. At the end of the day, each petal in a flower is different but they still need water and sunlight to grow. Similarly, each child will be different but the basics are the same. Be equal. Don’t let them feel the difference.
What is that one thing that all children need to learn?
You are unique, yes, there is only one of you in this world. Be confident, have respect for others and take on the world. Let your voice be heard the right way.
What is your biggest learning?
My biggest learning comes in the form of my two daughters. Children learn as they play and most importantly in play, children learn how to learn. It is absolutely magical. Their minds are pure, unbiased, non-judgmental and they speak the truth. Children call a spade a spade. I feel as adults we need to unlearn and go back to thinking like a child.
Wherever you are be all there. Be present, hundred percent in whatever you do. Each morning we are born again and what we do today matters the most. Personally, I teach my girls to grow daily, in all phases of life – studies, sports, creativity. That is how I live and that is the example I want to set for them. Our children are our biggest investment, they are our future.