Shelja Sen is co-founder of Children First, a child and adolescent mental health institute, and author of Imagine: No Child Left Invisible; All You Need is Love: The Art of Mindful Parenting; Reclaim Your Life: Going Beyond Silence, Shame and Stigma in Mental Health.
Let’s start by becoming more mindful of our language. Just observe the words we use to praise little girls — “gentle”, “nice”, “sweet” and the ubiquitous “good girl”; and for boys — “strong”, “tough”, “brave”.
It is only when they feel valued, loved and safe in a relationship that children can even be open to coaching. A red light is for behaviours that need a zero-tolerance, non-negotiable approach. The yellow light could be for habits the child is still learning to master.
There are many children who are shy, scattered, disorganised, dreamers, clumsy and noisy. They might still have huge reservoirs of creativity, talent, ability, generosity, etc, but all that is lost behind cobwebs of mis-wiring that keep them from connecting and showing their sparkle.
All that talk and the buzz we hear about classroom management, teaching strategies, inclusion all amount to nothing if the teacher is not able to love each and every child in the class and make sure they know it.
We are going round and round in the journey of our life missing what matters the most – playfulness. Start by keeping 10 minutes a day for a nourishing PQ diet. All you have to do is to roll up your sleeves, loosen that tie and let your hair down.
No matter what society tells you, it is not your fault, so look the shame in the eye and walk away. The saddest part is that it is women who end up policing each other. A mother shared with me, “My school mothers’ WhatsApp group is giving me sleepless nights."
The scary thing is that we have accepted this digital clutter so much in our minds and our lives that it has become normal to see people preferring to be on their phones than talk to the person next to them.
It was Nobel Laureate and eminent novelist, Doris Lessing who pointed out that boys were the new silent victims in the gender war where they are being “continually demeaned and insulted” and subject to “automatic rubbishing”. I couldn’t agree with her more.
Babies with secure attachments have higher chances of growing up to be socially and emotionally healthy. They carry the message that they are worthy as they are, they can trust others and the world is safe enough to explore.
We hear our kids have a problem and we want to jump into a full rescue mode. But hold on and instead ask them how they think you could help. If they feel they are not being judged, they might want to discuss their problem with you openly.