People talk, a LOT, about teaching kids values, “good” things and how getting an early start is usually beneficial. I agree. To some extent. As parents, we often forget that while there are milestones that a majority of the kids attain at relatively the same time, there are outliers here as well. Some children reach certain milestones earlier and some reach them later; without any disability hindering them. It’s like the marathon or climbing something uphill…you’ll get there, but someone will always get their ahead of everyone else and there’ll always be the person who reached after everyone else. But they reached. And that should be celebrated. Especially with kids.

Now to take all the ambiguous talk out of the way and illustrate my point more clearly.

I have been trying to get MLM to switch off lights, fans when he exits a room for a longish period. Also to run the taps slowly and shut them off so water isn’t wasted. Same with food, take a small amount, finish it and then take some more. Basically trying to teach him to pace himself and also see to it that things don’t get wasted. But then crops up every parents’ biggest bugbear- THE WHY.

Why do I need to switch off the fan? What is waste? Why can’t I keep the water running as long as I want? The whys are endless and there’s a good reason for it- he doesn’t understand consequences yet. He has experienced consequences but he doesn’t know *what* they are. And usually the kind of consequences he’s experienced has resulted in a broken toy, a time out or a spank on his backside. Those are *bad* things to a child. They will try to avoid them but to get them to understand consequences of wastages of natural resources is a toughie at a preschool/primary school age.

Up to an age relying on the “Because I said so” response to their numerous whys has to suffice. Of course changing the tone and words of the phrasing help in getting things done. I’ve been falling back on, “Please do it because I asked you to”, “Please do it for me”  at times.

One of the most critical aspects of education is also knowing when to teach rather than relying mainly on  what to teach. As parents we need to have the pulse of the kids and know how much our child is capable of comprehending before we look at milestones set up by doctors and educationists and give ourselves sleepless nights thinking about where the child is lagging according to norms and guidelines. But those guidelines are important. They not only let you know what a child of a particular age is capable of, it also helps us understand how much deviation there is. Deviations help in identifying disability vs a mere delay.

I read this blog post from a mom I admire and whose posts I read eagerly. Her older son knows the names of birds I have never heard before. And not just knowing the names, he can identify them at any given point of time and can demonstrate that HE HAS ACTUALLY LEARNED something. A concept. And those are things which will stay with him always. So performing on demand and showcasing the extent of his knowledge shouldn’t be the main criteria for an adult to gauge how far along a 3-year old has progressed.

My child is very expressive and affectionate and his protective instincts are very strong. He is empathetic and champions the cause of those whom he perceives as the underdog or those he feels are being dominated. Sometimes he’s wrong in his perception viz an older sibling hazing a younger one isn’t always full of malice…you’re supposed to be pinched and shoved. But it’s quite a revelation for me to see him exhibit these facets of his personality at this age. What does a typical 5-year-old know these days anyhow? Spiderman? Lays chips? Ice cream and his alphabets. Basically still quite young and innocent.

This morning a few things made me smile and look at how my child processes information. He was trying to read the milk packet. He sounded the letters out phonetically- Mmm-Iii but by the time he got to L he said lollipop and said kite for K. He’s got his theory in place but a little tangled up. But he remembers. And what he remembers he will recall and eventually understand the way it’s meant to be understood.

We need to do more than just keep the child safe…we need to see what kind of learners they are, what interests them, what is fun for them. We also need to be aware of their intrinsic traits like compassion, affection and help boost them. A child can learn a good value later on in life too. He needs to learn what he’s capable of learning, to start with. The rest will all fall into place later on.

Here endeth the lesson.