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Final exams being all over the house, play time is constantly under control at our place these days."6 to 7 in the evening and that's it. Please plan your revisions, TV and whatever else around it." I find myself repeating this every other morning. A few days back, at the dinner table, the kids started to tell about their day and a sentence caught my attention - "You know Daddy, Shruti plays the whole day even during her exams. That is so not right. I wonder how her parents allow her!" Not knowing whether that was a benchmark being shared to get extra play time or a genuine query, I was taken aback by the hint of criticism. My husband immediately sensed it too and replied "Maybe she finishes whatever she has to study early in the morning. You guys start studying at 10." "No, she said she gets up at 9 and by 10:30 she is in the park." came the reply. "Every house has a different rule. Whatever her parents think is good for her till she grows up and can take her decision is right. In our house, we think you can do with one hour of play in the evening during exams so that is right here." was my reply. They bought it and moved on to discuss other stuff.
However, this conversation stayed in my mind. The mother in me was not too happy about the criticism evident in that discussion. They are too young to learn this. Positive criticism and critical thinking are good traits to develop but criticizing someone is a different story. My antennae were up to listen better and assess if it was a habit with them. Fortunately, I could not catch a repeat. However, this has put me on my toes and I discussed with my husband that we, as parents need to be very careful. May be we sounded critical about someone in some discussion and they learnt it.
So this is my latest learning as a parent and I hope it is not too late. Like all other things including language, personal habits, world view etc. we end up teaching our kids how to criticize. We may not do it openly or explicitly and definitely not for teachers, family or friends but even if we discuss a difference of opinion with someone amongst ourselves, kids may learn how to criticise. Their developing minds and ability to analyse information is still at a nascent stage. A simple expression such as "I sometimes fail to understand why Mrs.Kapoor cannot reach on time ever!" may actually register as Mrs Kapoor is never on time, which is wrong and therefore she is wrong, and it is fine to say so.
This becomes worse when we end up saying such things about our spouse, even if out of short lived frustration on a situation. "Your dad never understands." OR "This is an old story with your mom." may be expressions of routine exasperations but leave a mark on the naïve minds.
It is said that children learn what they see. Let's add a 'hear' to this old and true saying. I am watching myself and it is difficult but worth it. Any child who learns to be critical of others at a young age is more prone to developing a negative attitude in life. This may also impact his or her interpersonal relationships at school, amongst friends and later at work and home. Let's try and appreciate more things and people and teach them to be positive and grateful instead of teaching them criticism. I am trying...would you?