One thing I have learnt from all the leadership books I have read is that the only way to get people to follow you or do what you want them to do is to make them want to do it.
This pandemic has been tough on parents of school going kids. Getting a child to study in what used to be primarily a fun play zone is challenging. Even 4 and 5 year olds are given pages and pages to write.
Initially my 5 year old was very excited to do her school work. But after 6-7 months of no holidays and poor network dragging the class she became a bit hostile and would throw a tantrum. I started giving a day or 2 break and then begging and pleading. Review time I would take them out after she submitted her work and that way she completed the assignment as soon as the teacher sent it. This method worked against my conscience. Why was I bribing my child to do her work? Then I recalled what my parents used to tell us. I don’t remember the exact words, but it was something like – You can become whatever you like in life but see that you put in your best. I remember my father telling me that if I chose to become a sweeper, then people passing by should say “This road is so clean. It was surely swept by Sarita”. It not only sensitised us to the dignity of labour but also made us realise that our future was our choice. Keeping my parents words in mind I told my daughter that she can become anything she wants and that not all professions require her to study. Then I asked her what she wanted to become in life. Her latest is an ‘architect mama’. “Then you will need to study a lot. To become an architect you need to study and to be a ‘mama’ you need to study even more so that you can teach your children. But if you want to clean houses or sweep the roads or do any kind of manual labour then you don’t have to study from a book but you have to practice working hard. You can start by sweeping and mopping our house daily and sweeping around the house.” Her response was “I will study Mama. I want to become someone in life. But you sit with me.” Now all I have to do is ask her what she wants to become and she runs to her books. One has to consider that children are also moody like us so be understanding if they have “off days”. This does not mean that she does not have to do work around the house. She helps in all household chores that are safe for kids to do. Even on days that our maid comes she runs to assist her. In my opinion both physical and mental work are required to grow into well balanced individuals. There are different ways to motivate children. This one worked for me.
Having a time table helps a lot. It should not only have chores and studies but these activities have to be spread out with fun and recreation- all given equal importance in terms of having to be accomplished.
Giving options is a nice way to give them a say. They can help you finalise the time. It is better to keep the timetable subjects broad like cooking, cleaning(room or area of their choice), play(indoor/outdoor-upto them), school work (depends on the teacher), reading (could be school story books or any other book), tv/ video time (ideally give one or 2 options), art and craft, drive, etc. Drives are my children’s favourite and we use them to revise, colours, shapes, nursery rhymes and even reading (from sign boards). Of late I have been lazy on the time table method and had to use other techniques.
Praising and thanking a child for doing something as simple as keeping a book in place or a dirty plate in the sink can motivate a child to do other tasks just to bask in the praise. Try it.
That said, each child is different and requires a different approach. I can tell my daughter that she does not need to attend her music class and that I will attend it as I want to learn to play the yuklele, and she will cry and plead with me to allow her to attend. I’m sure there will be many kids who will say “Good. You go ahead. I’m going to play”. Parents know what will work best for their child. Sharing ideas helps.