Read a slightly dated article by Shweta Bachchan on her father Amitabh Bachchan…
(For the full article please click here)
Towards the end of this article Shweta lists reasons as to what makes Amitabh Bachchan “COOL”. The last reason in that list is “Because he is full of child-like wonderment even though he’s seen it and done it all”. Amitabh Bachchan turned 74 on this 11th Oct 2016 and he is still idolized across generations. None of the actors or actresses of his generation or actors and actresses from later generations have been able to do so. Obviously this has nothing got to do with acting because had it been so then there were lots of them who were much better actors then him. There is something more. I believe that something more is what Shweta Bachchan succinctly summed up in her last statement – ‘child-like wonderment’.
This article made me start thinking about this thing called as ‘curiosity’ or ‘child-like wonderment’ – What is curiosity? What determines it? Why some people have more curiosity and some have less? Why children are more curious generally? Why does curiosity exist? Is curiosity good always? etc. etc. etc. Armed with the power of Google I started exploring and came across with some very interesting research done over time. In this article I will share one such research – “The Pandora Effect – The Power and Peril of Curiosity” by Bowen Ruan, Christopher K. Hsee.
In an experiment performed by the researchers, three types of pens were used – red pens gave electric shock when clicked, green pens gave no electric shock when clicked and yellow pens may or may not give electric shock when clicked. The findings were quite interesting – on an average, those who didn’t know what the outcome would be clicked about five pens, while those who knew the outcome clicked about one green pen and two red pens. In another experiment the participants were given a choice to click three kinds on button on a computer display – buttons of type1 that will produce good sound, buttons of type2 that will produce painful sound and buttons of type3 which can produce either good or bad sound with equal probability. The results were again similar – people clicked more when outcomes were uncertain. Not only this the researchers also found that those who clicked more felt worse or less happy afterwards. Now this is interesting – what the research shows is that when the outcome is uncertain people tend to act more or ‘click’ more. This is probably to reduce the uncertainty but in the process of acting more we end up feeling more miserable.
These finding made me think and apply it to parents around me – honestly, as a parent, all this applies to me also. All parents love their kids and this applies across generations, across countries, across religions. Now because parents love their kids so much, they are continuously thinking about ways to better equip their kids for the future. Unfortunately, no one can predict future – it’s uncertain – and because it is uncertain parents (like the research participants) try ‘clicking’ more and more. In other words, parents act more and more – google more, talk to more people, send kids to multiple classes, meet more so called specialists, make kids read lots of books, take kids to various new places to see and learn new things, etc. etc. – in short they push kids more and more and more. What’s the end result – just like the research participants they are worse off – that’s why probably you see so many over worked parents, tired parents, exhausted parents.
Parenting is no longer a process of reliving one’s own childhood with one’s kids…it’s become a task to be performed with defined targets.
I remember hearing a very interesting TED talk given by Julie Lythcott on “How to raise successful kids without over-parenting”. In it she uses an interesting term – ‘checklisted childhood’ – a childhood spent on meeting targets. Judie also says in the same talk the following:
“What I’m saying is, our kids need us to be a little less obsessed with grades and scores and a whole lot more interested in childhood providing a foundation for their success built on things like love and chores. Did I just say chores? Did I just say chores? I really did. But really, here’s why. The longest longitudinal study of humans ever conducted is called the Harvard Grant Study. It found that professional success in life, which is what we want for our kids, that professional success in life comes from having done chores as a kid, and the earlier you started, the better, that a roll-up-your-sleeves- and-pitch-in mindset, a mindset that says, there’s some unpleasant work, someone’s got to do it, it might as well be me, a mindset that says, I will contribute my effort to the betterment of the whole, that that’s what gets you ahead in the workplace. Now, we all know this. You know this. We all know this, and yet, in the checklisted childhood, we absolve our kids of doing the work of chores around the house, and then they end up as young adults in the workplace still waiting for a checklist, but it doesn’t exist, and more importantly, lacking the impulse, the instinct to roll up their sleeves and pitch in and look around and wonder, how can I be useful to my colleagues? How can I anticipate a few steps ahead to what my boss might need?”
This is what I want to ask to parents (including myself) – why are we so paranoid about our kids? Why can’t we just let our kids be kids? Why can’t kids just simply play, eat, sleep and play again? Why should they do so many classes? Why should every action of theirs be analysed so much? In short why should we click more when there is uncertainty?
Look around – look at people who are successful (after all that’s are we trying to do – make our kids successful) – and let’s see for ourselves if they did in their childhood what we are making our kids do? And yeah I have heard answer to this question many times before – there is more competition now. Really? Let me give you an example – 20 years back there were probably around 2,500 seats at IITs and around 200,000 students would have taken the IIT’s famed joint entrance exam – in 2016 CBSE got around 12 lakh applications and IITs today have around 10,000 seats. Has the strength of competition really changed? Nothing has changed as far as competition in any field is concerned (and even if it has changed it’s much lesser then what is perceived) – but what has definitely changed is parents’ paranoia because marketers are bombarding them with information and exploiting their vulnerabilities. There is something called as clickbait in marketing – do you see sensational headlines in media everyday – why do they do that – simply to exploit your curiosity and get media mileage out of it. All marketers know how to exploit our vulnerability by playing on our ‘click’/’act’ habit when there is uncertainty. If you still don’t believe me just look at the heading of this article :-).
Recall the 3Idiots movie – when Raju goes for an interview and he is asked as to why his grades are consistently poor – and what does he say?
“Due to fear…I was a bright student…since childhood parents thought that I will abolish their poverty! I started to fear…when I came here…I saw that there’s a race…if u don’t come first, no one will recognize you…I started to fear even more…fear is not good for grade, sir…I started wearing more rings, praying more…not only praying, I started begging to God to give me this, give me that…Sir, today I haven’t told God that get me this job…I just folded my hands and said thank you for this life…if u guys even reject me today then I don’t have any regrets because I believe I will somehow do something worthy with my life sir…”
We need to get out of this fear of failure and start trusting ourselves. Let’s understand one thing – more is not equal to good – just like clicking more is not equal to happiness. Let’s keep it simple – let kids have fun…let them play lots of games…let them ask more questions and remain curious…let them live their childhood and do lots of daily chores – and then see for yourself that your kids will have the confidence to face life when they grow up…like Raju they will also say “I believe I will do something worthy with my life mom and dad”. Let’s remember that our role as a parent is only of a mentor and not a selector – or as Judie says w.r.t. her own kids, “My job is not to make them become what I would have them become, but to support them in becoming their glorious selves”.
Let’s vow to give our kids a “Happy Curious Childhood”. Cheers to a happy and fun filled parenting.
Before I sign off let me say one thing – though I have shared my view w.r.t. over-parenting, honestly I have not been able to define what is over-parenting precisely. So for e.g. is making kids go to 5 classes over-parenting or making them go to 2 classes is over-parenting? Is making kids study for 3 hrs everyday on topics we think are important over-parenting or making them study 1 hr everyday is over-parenting? To put it simply I don’t know where does no-parenting stop and normal-parenting starts and where does normal-parenting end and over-parenting starts?
I would be happy to hear views of all of you w.r.t. what is over-parenting according to you and how do you avoid it. Please share this article if you like and also share your views.
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