Working on the home front

G Jayaprakash Rao

Many parents today want to give time to their children but find it very difficult. They end up feeling guilty and frustrated. And when an opportunity does present itself, they do not know how to use it.

Quite a few schools are making a roaring business out of this situation. Parents are promised that their children will be kept engaged even after school hours. I am not finding fault with any school that offers to take care of the children until their parents are ready to come home. It is better that children go to such schools than stay alone at home with little to do, for an idle mind is the devil’s workshop! How difficult it is both for the parents and the children to tackle this situation!

There can be no argument about the fact that today the home is an extension of school. Homework, tuitions, project work, preparation for competitions, television and an occasional family function – these are things that comprise the content of a home.

Missing from the list are some old elements – grandparents, reading and … parents!

The devastating effect of all this is the inability to do anything but to place oneself (the parent and the student) at the feet of a school that creates that content of engagement. Safe and easy! Everyone does the same! So what can go wrong?

Plenty, if you ask me. It is only when our homes are treated as spaces of creative engagement that our children will lead a rich vibrant life. In this context we need to explore what makes a home a centre for meaningful engagement. Parents and families cannot walk away from areas of responsibility that are primarily theirs, not the school’s.

Parents have to recognise the need to provide facilities for children to engage themselves in. Like a study space, a collection of books, entertainment corner to house their toys and games, and, if possible, a computer with an internet connection. We should do whatever we can and whatever is within our means to make our homes, homes for the children and not extensions of their school.

Questions and the tone which the adult adopts while asking questions also play a very important role. The most crucial is the tone. Sometimes it is possible that children carry work home. Parents need to give the child the feeling that the onus of completing that work is on the child. If the parent shows over enthusiasm, the child may not own the process and it is then that the parent begins to nag. Any repetition of the same takes the joy of learning away from the child. It is important for the parent to give the child that space.

Parents are most effective when they extend support rather than direct help. For instance, they can share their own experiences or expose the child to new experiences. The opportunities are plenty.

It is not right to expect schools to discipline children. School and home must be partners in this regard. Discipline begins at home. The best models are parents. Schools can enforce discipline in an unemotional manner but the measures taken tend to be limited in scope and are mechanical. The discipline that the parent engages in encompasses forgiveness and compassion too, therefore, is wholistic.

Parents need to take the onus of transmitting culture. Children need to be taught how to respect work and those who work. Both boys and girls should be encouraged to participate in housekeeping activities, gardening, running errands and shopping. Children need to feel good about what they do. It is not uncommon in some families that children are rewarded for the work they do and provide one source for their kiddy banks.

Spiritual, social and emotional domains also form a part of home-grooming. Value systems are transmitted from parents to children. Are we equipped enough to live up to that expectation?

With so much at stake, is it not criminal to allow schools to walk into our precious lives in the guise of providers of knowledge and skills that the children would need for a bright future?

The author is Dean, Indus World School, Hyderabad. He can be reached at [email protected].

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