A two and half year old was struggling with a toy puzzle and trying to fit in the blocks. The father on entering the room saw this spectacle, immediately swooped down, took the piece from the child’s hand and fitted it in the part. Bravo! The father won but the little child failed….The child just lost the opportunity to explore with his own hands and to solve the puzzle with his own sense and speed of intelligence. He got instead a sense of failure and a sense that father is ‘all powerful’ and he is a ‘no good’. He was deprived of the pleasure of the feeling of success and the ensuing confidence. If the father instead had sat there patiently and egged him on to try alternative moves he would have helped the child in many more ways.
A three year child accidently spilled her fruit juice which her mother had just made. The child began to cry and feeling guilty said ‘sorry mother I wasted the juice- it was my fault’. The mother although very upset with the scene controlled her anger and sat down. She said ‘I am sorry too, the juice was wasted, it was very expensive and papa works very hard to earn money for us. Be careful next time. Promise to be a good child on the dining table. For now, do not worry, I will make you some more’. The child was very guilty and learned a lesson but in a positive way.
As a routine if a child comes with a learning difficulty for help, I give him a simple assignment of writing down a small paragraph on any subject. When I see the parent/s interfering into the assignment and trying to give ideas to the child or make corrections in his writing, I know what is going wrong. They keep correcting him all the time and do not allow him to make mistakes and correct it himself. I then ask him to be his own ‘teacher’ and do a self-correction of his work. He takes his own time to search for his errors in spellings and grammar and feels happy when he is able to do it. I encourage him to observe carefully and pick out the errors and try to reduce them next time.
Ayushi’s parents always chided her for making bad friends. Her mother would criticize her friends and pick faults of each one of them. They were according to her, ‘not good in studies, shabbily dressed, not good looking and smart, won no prizes’ and the likes. This upset her a great deal for she was thirteen now and knew how to choose friends. She loved experimenting with new types of clothes and hairstyles which made her mother furious. Constant advice and lecturing made by Ayushi’s mother made her angry and irritated for she felt she was not allowed any freedom at all in her home.
Making mistakes and learning from them is a great source of education. If given the freedom to make mistakes and indulge in self correction, it helps the process of development in many ways. Firstly, the child is not ‘afraid’ of making an error and does not ‘live in fear’ of being judged at all times. ‘What is my mother going to say if fail the first time or if I turn out to be wrong?’ With such fears children do not dare to attempt new tasks for fear of failure. In contrast another child with an accepting mother would say ‘my mom will laugh at my mistakes and tell me not to worry about it’. She would be happy with ‘the effort I have made and would encourage me to improve my efforts’. The difference between a critical mother and an accepting mother is enormous. An accepting mother would be patient with her child and after putting her to ease, talk to her to discuss the issue at hand giving suggestions and alternatives.
A teenager gets scolded for choice of clothes, hanging out with peers, indulging in casual behaviour and choice of friends. A parent with fixed, rigid ideas, values and with less patience would solve the problem by ‘shouting, lecturing, criticising, stop talking and giving the cold treatment’. They could also ‘refuse to listen to understand the problem at hand, not show trust and faith in their own teen, and harp on focusing on studies as if life depended only on attaining a good degree’. Parents forget that the attaining of maturity comes from a sound personality which can think through problems in a logical way, which also means using the power of critical thinking. Such traits can develop through open minded discussions at home within a safe and healthy atmosphere with positive vibes and free exchange of ideas and thoughts’. An intellectual atmosphere at home is imperative but sadly missing in most homes. Instead of being told in a direct dominant way by parents, ‘do this and don’t do this’, a teenager would be happy to have a fair exchange of thoughts and ideas. Most parents can find that intimidating and not know how to counter the argument in a cool balanced manner and hence use ‘force and command’ to put down the belligerent teen. They bemoan the fact that ‘why cannot my parents be more like a friend to me rather than bossing me around’.
Making mistakes and learning from them is a great method of self realization. A trial and error in many tasks can lead the child to the realization of right and wrong and what is good and bad for her/him. Although we partly believe in the adage ‘wise men learn from other men’s mistakes’, the beauty of life lies in experiential learning whose value surpasses any wisdom given by others or gleaned from the books.