How much teaching is too much?

By | November 21, 2009

In my eagerness to create the best world for my baby, I haunt online places for growth and development regularly. Forums are some of these. A common factor I find in these places is how much parents get their children to do. A real life friend of mine has a son who does a whole load of things – music, dance, chess, football, tennis, advanced mathematics, 5 languages ……

It makes me pity todays child who gets objectified into the canvas of the parent’s ambition. Sure, the modern thinking is to make learning fun. Yet, at the end of a day in Disney world, I do get tired. In the case of this friend, they speak Hindi, Marathi and English at home. In addition to that, she “exposes” him to French and German. And she is not alone. I hear echoes all over the forums for parent discussions.

I’ve noticed that there is a lot of attention paid to teaching babies second and third languages, etc. It makes sense if you speak those. For example, English, Marathi, Hindi and Kannada are spoken in our home, so baby will eventually end up understanding and communicating in them all. Or I can understand a family not usually speaking English at home making efforts to speak it around their child and supplementing it with lessons or other “exposure”. But why would I make such huge efforts to teach a language I don’t even know myself? What’s the point? How is it functional for communication?

The way I imagine things panning out is that as long as I can sustain exposure to the sources of the alien language, the baby will acclimatize to it. Once he is older and the exposure stops or fades when other more relevant and immediate learning and time needs come in, the “use it or lose it” will happen anyway. I don’t think that teaching for the first couple of years a language the child doesn’t get anything done from using (considering how daily contact is not in it, making it dysfunctional for communication most of the time) is going to keep the language alive in his mind for life. So then why?

Also, I’m looking at the impact of our overambition on our children. Whether we make it play or not, it is a constant bombardment of stimulation. If I have to expose my child to language, maths, sign language, creative activities, physical play, ….. when is the time to stand and stare?

I’m a very laid back person and do a huge amount of stuff naturally with Nisarga. Not much fazes me. But I get the jitters thinking of exposing a child to a “learning environment”, labeling it fun and making him accept all these alien things. And I hate the word exposing – you expose objects. People should have the respect of being offered a choice – you introduce, suggest…. Give respect, get respect. Youd child is learning more from how you are with him than he is from what you do with him.

But then, my idea of parenting is very attachment not only in the advertised manner, but emotionally too. I am perfectly okay with the baby clinging to me all the time, not being friendly with new people he meets, developing in his initial years with constants shared with his most trusted people. I find it a strange world where we make our kids independent when they are dependent, and then when they are exerting their independence as they grow up (teens onwards), we wish they would be closer to us. Plain unnatural.¬†Ever heard of a baby needing to be taught to want closeness and safety of its mother/other close people? It is the “teaching to be social” and forced entry to the unfamiliar that breaks those bonds before they are ready to stretch. Once the child is vulnerable in a new situation and grows up fast to cope, what do they need the emotional side of their parent for?

You objectify the child, and the child slowly starts seeing you as a facility rather than person.

Ever heard of a baby needing to be taught to want closeness and safety of its mother/other close people? It is the “teaching to be social” and forced entry to the unfamiliar that breaks those bonds before they are ready to stretch. Once the child is vulnerable in a new situation and grows up fast to cope, what do they need the emotional side of their parent for?
You objectify the child, and the child slowly starts seeing you as a facility rather than person.

I’m aware a lot of my personal value judgments influence how I see this issue, but I find it remarkably like training a circus lion to jump through a flaming loop. Sure, a good trainer will make it fun, but a child needs to absorb the familarity of the “trusted” and the okayness of shying away from the “other” to be emotionally anchored in his own self-worth.

If a majority of the attention, enjoyment and appreciation a child gets is to teach something or the other or for health, etc. I am enabling an unfortunate belief in the child. I am important when I learn things. I am important when I do more and more things. I believe that if I do it too much, I will cause Nisarga to stop enjoying anything that doesn’t involve doing something, learning something or embracing every new challenge coming his way.

I think an important part of Nisarga’s upbringing is to be picking and choosing. What is immediately necessary is a priority. All else is a choice, and preferrably led by him. The day he shows curiosity about how different people in the world communicate if not in the languages he knows, is the day I’ll “expose” him to what they sound like, and if it interests him, we can take things from there. Otherwise, I’ll be happy knowing that we can communicate well with each other, and he can express himself and comprehend the world around him enough to be functional (self-sufficient is something he can decide for himself). Functional being defined by him being okay with the state of things.

If we move to France and he feels alone, I might help him learn French as a way of communicating with people. Otherwise, I’ll wait for him to show interest. If he doesn’t, that’s fine too. It will be one language more in a list of infinite languages that he doesn’t know. Big deal!

What I’m curious about is where do you as a parent draw the line? How much is too much?

How do we manage our desires and dreams with respect for the individuality of our child?

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