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Demand and supply

In an increasingly consumerist world, children are getting more demanding. Parents say a combination of firmness, sensible spending and clear communication is the best cure.

mumbai Updated: Jun 16, 2011 01:22 IST
Prachi Pinglay
Prachi Pinglay
Hindustan Times

‘Don’t find faults, back positive thought’
Family: The Jains, Bandra Challenge: Boredom, short attention span | Solution: Channelising energy, strong communication

Rashmi Jain, 34, a homemaker and mother of two, makes one thing clear: “What the world calls hyperactive, I call playful. It is all about being positive.” She has successfully helped Manav, 10, her elder son, to become more focused and calm after doctors and teachers said he was hyperactive and restless.

Manav, a Class 5 student at Podar International School, was not alone. According to a recent Hindustan Times survey, boredom and short attention span are major challenges for parents who have children aged five to 15.

“When Manav was just over a year old, he could not sit still even for few minutes,” Rashmi says. Manav had trouble focusing and could not be left alone. “If you left him by himself, he would make a train of shoes, he would try to imitate my kitchen work and would make a mess. But I did not say anything negative to him.”

The fast pace of life adds to the stress of parents and consequently spills over onto children, feels Rashmi. So, she ensured that she was available for Manav and his sister Rutvi, 8.

Rashmi decided to channelise Manav’s energy and reinforce positive thoughts to deal with his impulsiveness and lack of focus. His father, Bharat, who runs a manufacturing and diamond jewellery business, supported Rashmi. “I realised that going to counsellors wouldn’t help. I never asked for help from schoolteachers either. I took it up on myself,” she says.

When Manav was three, she enrolled him at Overall Growth Centre at Rikshikul, an alternative school in Bandra, for extracurricular activities such as karate, skating and keyboards. She got every single instrument, skates, and keyboards so that he could practice whatever appealed to him. He is now a brown belt in karate and loves the drums.

The biggest worry for parents whose children cannot concentrate is academics. Rashmi developed study patterns for Manav, where she would give him targets such as reading 10 pages in half hour and gradually increased it. Manav, who now studies for over an hour comfortably, is doing well in academics.

For inculcating optimism and a positive outlook, Rashmi would whisper encouraging words to him after he went to bed every day for 15 minutes. “It helps reinforce your thoughts,” Rashmi says, adding that she would like him to practice meditation and yoga but only when he is ready.

Looking at his progress, Rashmi feels her patience has paid off.

'It’s homework first, TV next'
Family: The Paknikars, Goregaon | Challenge: Overexposure to TV, Internet | Solution: Discipline, extracurricular activities

If you don’t know who Doremon and ACP Pradyumna are, nine-year-old Satej Paknikar is not going to like it. Satej, who loves to watch CID, a detective serial, Doremon on cartoon network and every single cricket match, is among many children who are glued to TV.

Over-exposure to television, Internet and films is the toughest challenge for parents raising children between five and 15 years of age. However, because of his parents’ innovative and persistent efforts it has reduced considerably and Satej now plays and practices cricket instead of only watching it.

Sheetal, 41, and Hemangi Paknikar, 34, live in Goregaon with their two children, Satej and Sanjali, 4. Sheetal, an advertising professional, feels the impact of TV was the hardest to tackle with Satej, a Class 4 student at St John’s Universal School, Goregaon. With discipline and extracurricular activities, they have managed to control TV watching to a considerably.

“We had to understand why he was watching what he was watching,” says Sheetal, who runs a marketing service organisation and keeps a hectic schedule. “CID had interesting mysteries, similar to the crime thrillers we used to read as children. He was watching cricket all the time to learn the game. Kids watch cartoon network as if there is no tomorrow.”

Hemangi, 34, a classical singer and a music teacher, says you have to invest a lot of time in children if you want to divert them from TV or mobile phone games, another major attraction. “It’s hard to monitor things all the time if both parents work long hours. That is why I stopped acting in musicals, which involved rehearsing and travelling at odd hours,” she says.

She drew up a detailed timetable for Satej, where TV viewing was restricted to dinner and lunchtime. “We insisted on completion of homework and any other tasks before switching the TV on,” Hemangi says.

Satej eagerly waits for TV time, but sticks to the rules. “Rules are rules,” he chuckles pointing out to Hemangi that he’d watch TV for an extra hour that day because he could not watch it the previous night.

At a recent parent-teacher meeting at his school, this issue was addressed and parents shared their experiences. The Paknikars realised that the problem was the same with most children, but the solutions had to be unique.

The couple enrolled him in a cricket coaching camp, so that he could understand what it takes to become a cricketer. After completion of the camp, he continues to play cricket with his friends or even by himself at home.

It helps that there are many children in their housing complex so that there is company to play outdoor games, which ironically involve enacting CID characters and murder mysteries.

Satej, who loves to study social sciences, mentions Mahatma Gandhi and his teachings of non-violence. “I want to be like Gandhi,” he says. Point out that the Mahatma did not approve of murders and killing as shown in CID or cartoons, pat comes reply: “Oh, then I want to be CID, not Gandhi.”

Sheetal and Hemangi hope he will grow out of it.

‘No splurging on toys’
Family: The Chawlas, Kandivli | Challenge: Consumerism Solution: Firm decision-making, simple living

Mehr Chawla, 7, loved dolls, especially Barbies. She would have loved to own an attractive doll house, which her best friend had. She also liked to celebrate birthdays complete with theme parties and return gifts. However, she has now learnt to let go of her demands. In fact, she is excited about celebrating her next birthday at an orphanage.

Consumerism is one of the main challenges parents face while bringing up children aged between five and 15, according to a recent Hindustan Times survey. Due to continuous exposure to commercials, malls and a competitive lifestyle, children feel the need to own lot more than previous generations.

Being residents of upmarket Lokhandwala Complex at Kandivli, their two daughters — Mehr, 7, and Nimrat, 3 — are often tempted by toys owned by friends. Rina Chawla, 37, banker turned homemaker, and her husband Harmeet, a marketing consultant, decided to tackle this challenge by taking a unified stand on their children’s demands, inculcating simple living and encouraging outdoor activities.

“Children are manipulative, so we make sure not to disagree in front of them about their demands,” Rina says. “We are clear about not splurging on gifts and toys that will not result in any growth for the child.”

When Mehr saw a doll house at her best friends place, she wanted one too. It cost a little over Rs 3,000. Rina explained to Mehr that she could play with the doll house at her friend’s place occasionally and use the money to buy games and books instead. Mehr agreed.

Both Harmeet and Rina come from humble backgrounds and are very grounded. “We live simply, without insisting on brands,” Rina says. “We buy everything we need and don’t compromise on quality, but we don’t replace anything unless needed. We talk to Mehr about spending money on useful things such as books and board games.”

Rina is also inculcating social awareness by telling her about the lives of orphans and street children so that she values what she has. Instead of having a lavish birthday party, she offered Mehr a visit to an orphanage. “I want to celebrate my birthday there,” says Mehr. “I will treat only close friends instead of having a big party.”

First Published: Jun 16, 2011 01:19 IST