Children learn more by observing than by listening to instructions

Meenakshi Umesh

Respecting the child is easy – remember that each of us was a child! Once we have established the feeling of mutual respect with the child the journey of parenting is a breeze! All we need to do is do everything we want our child to learn. If we want our child to learn to read, we have to read and enjoy reading our book in full view of the child. My eldest learnt to read without any effort at teaching her the alphabet. In fact she remembered full words instead of alphabet letters. When I used to be reading the books I love she used to come and I used to tell her, “Please wait. I am in a very interesting part. Just give me two minutes”. And she would wait patiently and once I was ready to put the book down she would ask what was in the book and I would tell her what I had been reading. Once I was reading the book on fear by J Krishnamurthy and when she asked her I told her that the book said that we must not be afraid of anything. She immediately said, “I am not afraid. You only keep telling me to be careful”. It was true! And I realized that my fear that something would happen to her was making me put lot of conditions on her movement and activities. I took a deep breath. And I decided to surrender. I came to the logical understanding that I had no control over what was happening around me. That I could exercise my control only over the responses that I made to whatever was happening. That I had the choice to worry or not to worry about what happened or could happen. That I had the choice of educating my child about the consequences of actions but if I tried to control her movements I would be making both our lives stressful and limited!

The decision to follow the child in her fearlessness, her intuitive exploration and the decision to keep my fears and doubts in check so that I do not disturb her flow was the decision that made everything after that more enjoyable and a completely beautiful unlearning experience! I began to learn from her by observing her just like she was learning from me through her observation. And I became more and more conscious of what I was doing because I knew she was observing me! I was her role model. And whatever I wanted her to do I had to do and whatever I did not want her to do I should never do.

She was learning what to value, how to behave, how to respond to a situation, and how to live everyday by observing me! That was a huge responsibility. Knowing that I was still learning was a great respite. I could afford to make mistakes, own up to them and learn from them! And so could she. She too was learning. We were both on the same plane- the plane of learning from our mistakes. All we had to do is apologize in case we did something hurtful own up to our mishaps and learn to have control or respond differently the next time. Both of us felt comfortable in our skins, could laugh at our clumsiness or stupidity, and were ever willing to learn. This humbleness of attitude and the lack of hierarchy made our common space completely stress free and happy!


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