Faith and freedom of choice are key ingredients for parenting – The New Indian Express

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Of late, due to the situation we are in, online education has come to the forefront, and in some instances, it is also replacing the classroom experience. I recently read a report about high school students pursuing online advanced placement program classes (AP classes), which universities abroad require, even while they are in school, to get admission into the university of their or their parents choice. These online AP classes provide an opportunity for children to school themselves learn, assimilate knowledge and work, even in the physical absence of a teacher.

The basic component for this kind of self-schooling largely comes from intrinsic motivation based on a structure offered through coursework. But whats even more significant and encouraging for a child is the trust that parents and teachers have in him/ her. Trust in our children, in their choices, and the right learning environment is the key to a childs happiness and success. This has to be preceded with information regarding the opportunities available to them, the long-term effects of choices and an analysis of the pros and cons. For all parents, the biggest roadblocks in their childs life can be anxiety, need to make choices for their children and sometimes a lack of trust in their instincts.

However, if our children had the aforementioned freedom it must be accompanied with guidance from parents.Often, opportunities come in the form of adversities, and the pandemic-induced lockdown has created a new opportunity for parents and children to adapt to online learning. As parents, coming from the traditional school of thought, we worry that our children might miss out on many lessons due to the absence of classroom experience. In our new role as parent-teachers, we want them up to speed with the next academic years syllabus, learn a new skill, practise the piano...the list is endless.

We want them to be the best! These expectations come only from a place of love, but the pressure right now might trigger fear and anxiety, or other issues which could be wide-ranging, say mental health experts. The question then is why cant we trust our children and their abilities? Do we think that children and young adults, when left to themselves, are not capable of making informed choices? On the contrary, there is empirical evidence to prove that the best recipe to help a child attain goals should include a few tablespoons of intrinsic motivation, advice and structure, and dollops of faith in his/her ability after we have prepared him to use this freedom effectively. This has precisely been Dr Montessoris approach towards children.

She emphatically stated that each child is unique, and comparing children is like comparing apples and oranges. Each child is put on earth with his/her purpose and if everyone became doctors and engineers what happens to teachers, artisans and people who work with their hands? Being a Montessori mom and teacher, I too have been questioning myself and have similar worries. But after listening to my colleagues from different parts of the world, the voice is one having faith in the child is the key to success. My daughter represented her school at a national swim meet, competing against national-level swimmers. But it is her approach to regional and national-level practice that made all the difference to us as parents.

While trying for regionals, she practised tirelessly as she wasnt yet in the rigour of class 10. But for nationals (when she was in class 10), she practised whenever she had a moment to spare showing self-motivation and the ability to make well-informed choices, balancing her studies and love for swimming. As parents, we were not involved in the decision-making process, and in fact, didnt want her to participate. She ranked fourth at the nationals and took it well in her stride. Aware of the volume of classwork, my daughter told us that she wasnt interested in winning; she aimed to better her timing, for which she had worked out a plan along with her coach.

This is true self-realisation. Children have their turning points when they learn to make informed choices coupled with parental guidance. Parenting is the only occupation that doesnt come with a handbook or coursework to prepare us. It is a tough journey but a joyful one. So, place your faith in your children, discuss and explain the options to them and let them make their choices. You need not put your child in a Montessori school to follow the philosophy i.e. freedom within boundaries and to follow the child.

Watch for signs of emotional well-being. At this moment, their mental health is far more important than an online class. Always keep the channels of communication open, talk to them, but most importantly, listen.

(The author has been a teacher for 20 years and is the co-founder of The Redwood Montessori school, LLP. She has worked with children with special needs, and is on the board of the Madhuram Narayanan Centre for Exceptional children.)

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Faith and freedom of choice are key ingredients for parenting - The New Indian Express

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