To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child , a garden patch, or a redeemed condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, April 24, 2011

End of words...

Was going to drop my child for the school bus this morning, when something struck me.  Small children have so much to share!  And they are so open to the idea of sharing.  It could be the smallest of things (from us 'adults' point of view).  How he 'touched' another child with the foot at the Taekwondo class, or another one 'touched' him, to get more points.  Or how he whacked the ball with the cricket/baseball bat at the neighbourhood game yesterday.  Or the latest jokes he heard.  But children are full of beans while sharing such things.

Then why is it that as children get older, they tend to clam up about many aspects of their life.  At the least, they don't seem as enthusiastic while sharing.  Part of it could be due to the emotional (and physical changes) children go through, especially when they enter the teens.  The need to 'keep secrets', perhaps.  But for the other, large part, is it due to a level of 'disconnect' with parents or older relatives.  Seems so, given that many parents/older relatives may tend to try to impose their own worldviews on the children, without first appreciating (or, at least, trying to appreciate) the children's own views.  Though it seems the age gap may be more of a myth than reality. Many children are seen to be closer to their grandparents than parents, for instance.

Is the main factor then the perennial listening ability and skills.  After all, as we ourselves grow older, there is no denying the fact that we tend to become more 'opinionated'.  Coupled with this is the typical mid-life crisis among parents of teenagers, which propel them to try and get traction for their own views over others, at any cost!  So is it this 'controlling' attitude which may be putting off children from openly sharing, while they perhaps feel safer sharing their thoughts with grandparents or other relatives/acquaintances, without the baggage of having to 'conform'?  If so, this puts renewed emphasis on the need to inculcate that most important of skills, ability to just listen, which is so necessary in so many professional pursuits as well.  And not just in the traditional spheres like practicing psychology, but in as diverse arenas as business analysis and internal audit (how the times have changed!).

Which brings us to the theme that while (learning to!) interact with our children in a wholesome way, we may be becoming better persons (and professionals) ourselves.  If only many of us would give adequate importance to our interactions with our children, instead of dismissing it as just an intrusion into our 24x7 professional lives.  Even without filtering such interactions through the scientific prism all the time (which would be a pity and rob the interactions of the essential ingredient of spontaneity), the concepts of transactional analysis can point us towards the associated skills of negotiation, open listening, etc.  Look at it this way: children are perhaps (though maybe not always!) more transparent than people in business settings; so if you can't mould your interactions with children towards win-win solutions, you've hardly any chance of doing the same when confronted with hard-boiled business executives!

But shorn of all business-like jargon, the point is that we should keep enjoying our 'small talk' with children the  best we can.  Who knows when they 'grow up' (suddenly, as it sometimes seems) and stop talking to us except in monosyllables...