Ting…Ting…Ting…My son kept hitting the mallet stick on the xylophone bars. He obviously didn’t know to play it, but the sound of it got him excited.
As a father, I want him to have fun and enjoy but as a parent, I start to look at perfection.
So, I did a bit of hand-holding and demonstrated my son on how to hold it right. For the 10-month-old, the best way to teach him something was to model it for him. (No! Now don’t think of me as a professional player. All I know is how to hold the mallet stick) haha.
And I spent a decent half an hour holding his tiny fingers, helping him get a good grip on that stick first and slowly hit one bar after the other. The only person in the world to believe that I’m good at playing the instrument was my son at the moment.
He innocently moved his eyes back and forth – looking at me and then at the xylophone.
I believed that the teaching was done and the learning had begun. And I confidently handed him the stick and proudly said, “Show me what you just learned from me. Hold this right and play it your way.”
My jaws dropped when he held the stick rightly in his hand and even before waiting to see what would unfold next, I excitedly shouted for my wife to come over and see what I had just taught our son.
But then to my dismay, he slowly lifted the stick and put it into his mouth. My excitement was short-lived but deep down a parenting lesson that I had learned from a quote struck me out of the blue.
“Shift the focus from doing right to having joy. When children learn to do things purely for the joy of doing it, their performance exceeds parents expectations. They aren’t doing things for external rewards of appreciation, money or fame. They aren’t trying to please people.
Doing things in the state of joy is a deeper form of meditation and the result of which is great focus, strong confidence, high-self esteem and above all the practice of self-love”.
I was now wondering where was I headed in trying to correct my son for the trivial things that have no life long impact?
For a 10-month-old all that mattered was play and as a father, I was doing my best to ruin it for him by making it right.
Like any other parent I was somewhere caught in the lessons of perfection.
As I mull over what I can do about it, I realize three powerful things that we all can do as parents:
Do not make our children a product to showcase: We all often take quick videos, photos or even ask our children to repeat the act to show off to people. I realized that in this process of exhibiting our children we often miss to encourage them to have fun and focus more on bettering them.
For example, a child who loves ice cream and as he relishes every bite, he doesn’t care if the ice-cream has spread all across his face or dripping from his fingers. He is solely obsessed with eating every bit of it. Until an adult comes along to spoil the joy of eating an ice-cream by lecturing about the table and eating etiquette.
We cannot expect our children to act like adults: I certainly agree that the seeds of value and discipline need to be instilled at a very young age. But an important question for all of us to think about is that, at what cost? Are we constantly seeking to perfect our child and robbing them of the little pleasures and joys of life?
My son hadn’t shown any interest in learning xylophone, he didn’t even know what he was holding or what it was called? But I was prepared to teach him the mere basics of holding it right and hitting the bars. Did it really matter to him?
We all keep correcting our children – “don’t talk like this, walk properly, behave well, hold the spoon right, draw within the outline, don’t spill the food, don’t get the dress dirty, comb your hair……..” An endless list of corrections as we believe that this will go a long way in making our kids become responsible adults. We all must have experienced this during our childhood, yet even as we have become adults our parents still continue to correct us. Don’t they?
To genuinely be a part of whatsoever they love doing: No matter how busy we are. But by participating and being a part of something that our kids love doing, we can enter their world and connect with them more strongly. But one condition – during this time with our child we don’t correct, advise, lecture or judge them.
If a child loves swimming, we join them for swimming only to have fun. If a child loves reading, we read together or ask them to read out for us. If a child loves to play video games, we play together or cheer him/her while playing or be interested to learn the rules of the game.
Research has proven that spending such quality time with children has resulted in children throwing fewer tantrums, being more disciplined and being responsible. It has also helped create stronger ties between the parent and the child.
I realize that if all the children were to play in a structure by following a set of rules and guidelines, how could we have known about the becoming of Pablo Picasso, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs and many more personalities who had dared to play by their heart and not by the framed rules or norms.