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29 October, 2011

Teach the seed to be a Tree


        One does not become a Mahatma Gandhi and then develop the qualities he is identified with.  When you are still Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, you develop certain qualities, and these qualities make you Mahatma Gandhi.  You don't become extraordinary and then develop extraordinary qualities.  When you are still ordinary, you develop certain extraordinary qualities, and these qualities make you an extraordinary person.  What you sow today, you will reap tomorrow.  the world-class citizens of tomorrow are developed in the cocoon of homes today by the responsible hands of parents.  The seed must be taught when it is still a seed on how to be a tree.

       It seems...  A father requested an old scholar to wean his son away from one of his habits.  The scholar took the youth and the father for a stroll through a garden.  Stopping suddenly, he asked the boy to pull out a tiny plant growing there.  The youth held the plant between his thumb and forefinger and pulled it out.  The old man then asked him to pull out a slightly bigger plant.  The youth pulled a hard and the plant came out, roots and all.  "Now pull out that one," said the old man, pointing to a guava tree.  The youth grasped the trunk and tried to pull it out.  But it would not budge.  "it's impossible," said the boy, panting after the effort.  "So it is with habits," said the old man.  "When they are young, it is easy to pull them out; but when they take hold, they cannot be uprooted."  The session with the old man not only changed the boy's attitude towards life, but it also helped the father to realise the importance of investing time on parenting, when the boy is still a boy, and not yet a man.

       At a time when there is exaggerated focus on which school, which college, and which institution a child should pursue education, are we grossly underestimating the role of parenting in the making of an individual?  Has there ever been a greater institution than parents and family?  Institutions build professionals.  Parents develop the person.  Much more than the time children have at school, the time they have with parents is going to have a greater bearing on their character.  I am not undermining the role of educational institutions, but I am emphasising the role of parenting, and without an iota of doubt parents are the primary architects in the development of character in children.

       How often we hear Sachin Tendulkar say, "My father always told me..." and "My brother used to tell me..."  When Yuvaraj Singh was asked about his comeback, his reply began, "My mother is a very strong lady..."

       It was Jawaharlal Nehru, who told his daughter Indira Gandhi, "You will often find your life splitting into two roads - one, the easy and the crowded and the other, the tough and less crowded.  Take the less crowded and that will make all the difference."  Much later in her life, Indira Gandhi acknowledged, "That is exactly what I did and that has made all the difference."  Mahatma Gandhi's mother told him:  "Even while in London, you will not touch meat, women and alcohol."  Much later in his life, Gandhiji acknowledged, "I exactly did that and those years shaped the character of my life."

       In fact, any time you admire somebody for their character and ask them to speak about it, almost every time, they will begin, "My grandfather used to tell me," or "I have always seen my grandmother doing this," or "My father told me once," or "This I learnt from my mother."  The reason is very obvious.  We learn much more by what we see than what we hear.

       That's why the primary responsibility in parenting is to be a role model worth emulating.  The only scripture most children read is the life of their parents because they get to watch it from the closet proximity.  The life of parents is the only Koran they will read in their lifetime; the only Vedas they will see; the only Bible they will experience; the only Dhammapada they will imbibe; and the only Dharma they will follow.  As parents, your life will serve either as a warning or as an example to your children.  I know it is an awesome responsibility, but how else can you explain why you came into this planet before them and then took the initiative to bring them to this planet.

       A child need not be a first rank holder for him to be first in life.  In every field people who have the lead role are those with horizontal exposure and vertical expertise.  So, parental responsibility is to create avenues of horizontal exposure to your children and they will grow up to find their vertical expertise.  To understand horizontal exposure, we must first understand that every human being has Multiple Intelligence.  For example, your ability to understand, appreciate and perform music is one form of intelligence - Musical Intelligence.  This is completely different from your ability to think in pictures, to be creative - that's another form of intelligence - Spatial Intelligence.  Those good at Math - that's Numerical Intelligence.  Those who have a way with words - that's Linguistic Intelligence.  People who usually make it to the top are those who develop themselves in Multiple Intelligence.

       A singer who also knows to communicate well is always more successful than the one who knows only to sing - for example, that's Shankar Mahadevan's edge -a great singer who is also a good communicator.  A cricketer who is also good at relating with other people has an edge - for example, that's what makes Mahendra Singh Dhoni such a successful captain.  A student who knows four languages has an advantage over those who know only three languages.  That's the edge of an Indian student when he goes abroad.  Get your children to play a team sport.  It will develop their Interpersonal Intelligence.  Expose them to an individual sport.  It will develop their Bodily Intelligence.  Encourage them to participate in Guide, NCC, NSS, Red Cross, RSP, etc.,  It will develop their Social Intelligence.  Parents who help their children to develop multiple intelligence will enable their children to be spotted in a crowd; such children stand above the crowd.

       Every child is a rare, unique, original, masterpiece...  Master's piece.  Don't mould him into a showpiece.  He is here to be 'he' and no one else.  So, preserve, the originality of the child.  Communicate enough to your child and instill in him the confidence that just because a group of his friends do not accept him as he is, there is no necessity for him to drop his originality.  The more and more parents appreciate children for what they are, children will never have to stoop down in order to gain recognition.  It is only when children are starved of appreciation at home, they lose themselves to gain someone else.  When parents take the responsibility to preserve and build the self-image of the child, he will understand that the group that doesn't accept him is not his world.  It is easy to be one in the crowd.  It needs courage to be different from the crowd.  And what your child will be will depend on the role you play as parents in shaping his self-image.

       How much ever scientifically explained, parenting is still an art that parents have to customise according to the temperament of their children.  Children, basically God's creation, have been entrusted in the hands of parents in the trust that you will play your part.  Please play your part diligently.  It is worth everything when you realise you will have an opportunity to parent a world-class citizen.

       People ask me often, what is the purpose of life?  Apart from all that you may discover, parenting is certainly one of the purposes... for being a parent.  Serve the purpose.

Source: Excerpts from the article published in the magazine FT.

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