I wonder really how much should a child know at a particular age? It’s really very child specific isn’t it? Even between siblings sharing the same set of chromosomes, learning comes at different stages. My brother spoke pretty late, while I was a vayadi (chatterbox in Tamizh) since I was born (Okay that’s exaggeration, but I would talk a lot!) my brother could look at a page just for five minutes and then you could ask him any questions and he would answer. I, on the other hand, would go about reading it loudly 10 times and yet skip the key point of the page…In short, what I mean to say is, even same chromosomes sharing siblings have different stages and times for milestones.
However, when we put in a bunch of kids of the same age let’s say 4.5 to 5 years together, we expect everyone to have the same skill sets. Recite 1 to 100, write A to Z, read, speak etc..
For those of you who are regular readers of my blog, you would have realised that at one stage, till about 2 months ago, I was extremely disappointed that R never makes an effort to read on her own. I am a mother who keeps harping on the fact, that I will never compare my child to anyone, she is unique, if she wants she can do it her way, etc. But when it came to reading, I must admit, I was super disappointed. I felt sad that my child, to whom, I try and read regularly is not even making an effort to read. She says ‘Amma, mereko nahi aata (Amma I don’t know)’ I started comparing her to other kids I know, who started reading at 4 years, etc. Until one day she told me ‘Amma, I don’t want to read okay!’
And then I realised, I was pushing her the wrong way. Okay, so she may start reading at 10 years, big deal! As long as she continues negotiating me with X number of books when I suggest X – 2 number of books, I think I shouldn’t cry 😉 and the kid sure likes story books, (touchwood) I know that for sure! And that’s when I realised, we do expect a lot from our kids.
At 2 years – is she saying all the alphabets? Does she know 1 to 10? Do you think she should also be knowing the spellings of one, two and three?
And at 3 years – at least can identify A to Z – capital and small letters? Or know the spelling of 1 to 10? And she should be able to know 1 to 30 at least?
And it continues…
While I do agree that kids have amazing grasping power, does it really make sense to teach systematically taught stuff to kids?
The problems, at least in India, as per me are these:
- We seem to confuse between education and learning. While we do need an education system to teach things systematically, often we don’t seem to emphasize on the learning. That’s where we seem to lose out many potential research candidates. Learning means everything. From learning to know when you want to do potty (what? it’s important!) to learning to lift the food and put it in your mouth, from learning that landing on the sand after a jump is not going to hurt too much, to knowing that staying for too long in water is going to make your skin wrinkle. Learning is everything. We need to encourage learning in children, not just rote learning stuff by heart!
- We want our children to be the BEST in everything. Honestly that’s just not possible. You would have a robot as a kid then, not a child right?
- We tend to compare excessively. I have faced issues of people telling me, why would your daughter write A to E while my son writes only A to D…no seriously!
- We often live our dreams through our children. May be I am also guilty of that. I want R to learn Classical music (vocal or an instrument) is it because I couldn’t get to learn it?
I could think of so many other things. Please don’t think this article is written to point fingers to anyone’s parenting skills. Each parenting style is different and as my mother puts it ‘the parents know the best for their children. It’s just that I want us to create a generation of people who yearn to learn and not just rote learn everything they see…may be then, we can look towards a more positive childhood for our children? May be if at four, your child can tell you that he/she wants to use the loo, or that she wants to put the carrots into the fridge and help you out, you should be really happy about it!
First published in the IMC Magazine