Last week, Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States at a lavish ceremony in Washington DC, USA. The entire event, which lasted several hours, was telecast live throughout the world on TV. But when the cameras panned to Trump’s 10-year-old son, Barron Trump, the boy did not seem to be interested in what was happening around him or what his father was talking about. Young Barron yawned several times, and could be seen trying to keep himself awake. Barack Obama’s younger daughter, Sasha Obama, was also photographed yawning at her father’s inauguration in 2013.
Barron and Sasha yawning at important events in their respective fathers’ lives isn’t a sign that the dos weren’t important to the children. It’s just a sign that such events just don’t interest kids in general. In fact, most children in such a situation would have behaved just like Barron and Sasha.
It’s very common for adults to take children along for parties, events or shopping. Parents rarely bother to find out if their children want to accompany them to something that is of interest to adults. But clinical psychologist Seema Hingorrany says that taking children out with you is healthy for them. “Taking children to parties, events or for shopping helps them develop social skills. It’s also a good opportunity to mingle with friends and family, which helps later in life. But, at times, if your child is not in the mood to attend a party or an event, it’s okay to let go. A parent shouldn’t have rigid boundaries.”
However, Swati Popat Vats, president of Podar education network, says taking children out often may not always be good for them. She says, “If a child is socially integrated at such events from a young age, he or she will grow up with positive social and interpersonal skills. Manners and etiquette can be learned in such situations. But if a party or dinner winds up late at night, it may affect a child’s health. Also, if the child does not have company and is left to fend for themselves, it could end up being a burden.”
But if a child is old enough to understand what they like or dislike, parents can always ask them for their views. Hingorani says, “When we mould children according to our expectations, we stop their emotional and psychological growth altogether. When children are growing up, they are forming their likes and dislikes. They may not like to visit certain places or certain people’s homes. So, it’s ideal that you inform them where you are taking them and why. Good communication always helps form a better bond between parents and kids.”
Deciding on your own
But it’s not parties, dinners, shopping or events that parents force their kids to tag along for. Regardless of their children’s wishes, adults often sign their kids up for extracurricular activities such as dancing, singing or music lessons. Popat Vats says, “While the concept of ‘enrichment classes’ is catching on in India, I don’t know if the term ‘enrichment’ describes it best. I think it is more of ‘keep them busy at any cost’ for some parents. For others, it is ‘I didn’t get a chance to learn this, so let my child do it’. ”
She adds that children need and should be given free time and be allowed to get bored, as that’s how their creativity and reasoning skills develop. “We are pressure cooking our kids, which is leading to fractured youth,” she says.
So should parents also make decisions about extracurricular activities by giving weight to their children’s opinions? Popat Vats says that the child should be the one to choose. “After all, you want the child to learn something from these activities. But in most cases, parents thrust these activities on to their children.”
In fact, experts say that instead of forcing their choices on their children, parents can find out what interests their kids and decide on extracurricular activities. “Sometimes, it is pure trial and error. It is also important for parents to understand that a child may not like a particular class not because they find the content boring, but because of the other children and their behaviour, or they don’t like the teachers. It is vital that parents talk to their children about such things before rejecting a class or activity,” Popat Vats adds.