Healthy Parent = HAPPIE Child

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Thought Series : Raising a HAPPIE Toddler

Day 1

This week, we’re focusing on the most basic and fundamental human need : Health / Physical well-being.

Note that I said ‘human’ need, and not just ‘toddler’ need.

After caring for our infant for a year, we have become experts in judging and providing for our child’s physical needs like hunger, thirst, sleep, sickness, teething, need to pee/ poop, need to be clean after pee/poop … an endless list.

Our expertise continued even as our infant turned into a toddler, and we can still effortlessly identify and fulfill their physical needs.

But, during the 1 year of infancy, we also progressively lost the ability to sense & care for our OWN physical needs –

  • Losing sleep for several nights back to back
  • Skipping meals to make space for our kids needs, needs of everyone else in the family, office work and household chores
  • ME-time is non-existent
  • Working at full potential even during our own sickness & weakness.

These are just a few scenarios where we’ve so easily forgotten to cater to our OWN need for PHYSICAL WELL-BEING, while ensuring that for our child and family members.

I know, we feel good about being able to do so much for our loved ones; but:

  • How many times have you felt sorry for being so self-sacrificial?
  • How many times have you missed your long-forgotten hobbies?
  • How many times have you wished you had some more time to yourself?
  • Worst of all, how many times have you lost it (because of stress / tiredness) and taken out your frustration on your child by yelling / hitting, and then feeling guilty about it?

Here’s what we need to remember :

When a needy person comes to us for help, can we help that person if our own pockets are empty?

When your child becomes clingy / throws a tantrum – that’s your child asking for help. But if you are completely drained mentally, physically & emotionally – will you be able to offer help to your child in a meaningful way?

THOUGHT for TODAY

  1. Are you WELL – physically / mentally / emotionally – everyday, so that you can cater to your child’s needs in your BEST capacity?
  2. If not, how do you think it’s affecting the way you care for your child, and deal with his/her needs?
  3. Tell us, ONE thing that you’d like to do – which takes only 15 mins – DAILY – that can help you stay WELL – physically, mentally, emotionally.

TOMORROW

How you can fulfill your child’s needs better – by making A HABIT of self-love and self-care – (Point 3 above), so that your child experiences the BEST of you – EVERYDAY!

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Access Previous Days In This Series:

Day 0

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Raising a HAPPIE Toddler

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DAY 0

Hello & Welcome to my Thought Series on ‘Raising a HAPPIE Toddler’.

Starting today, we embark on a journey to understand our toddler’s unsaid needs and learn how to fulfill them consistently, in the best way possible.

All humans have a set of needs. As long as these needs are met, we feel content. However, if a crucial need remains unfulfilled for a reasonable period of time – we will SEEK to fulfil the need, by hook or by crook.

As parents, we never realized how our little baby who was content as long as his need for food, water, sleep, warmth (& a clean diaper) was met, turned into a little ‘human’, soon after her 1st birthday. We never realized how his needs expanded much beyond the physical realm. Well, even if we did, it was difficult to know for sure what our little tot was ‘SEEKING’.

This series is to help every parent here – understand your toddler’s unsaid needs, so that she does not have to SEEK them through negative / undesirable behavior.

Unmet needs lead to undesirable behavior.

As a Toddler Mom myself, I decided to delve deeper into understanding ‘UNIVERSAL HUMAN NEEDS’ and finally arrived at SIX of them.

Health | Attention (Connection) | Power | Predictability | Inclusion (Participation) | Evolution (Progress)

Fulfilling these needs consistently, makes a Toddler HAPPIE!

(I have seen that 1st hand)

How did I arrive at these SIX out of a massive list of documented ‘Universal Human Needs’?

  • These SIX are relevant to a Toddler’s life.
  • These SIX encompass several other smaller needs from the ‘Universal list’.
  • Parents report behavioral issues when one or more of these needs are unmet for reasonably long periods, often because they never realized the need.

Today, I want you to mull over this list of ‘UNIVERSAL HUMAN NEEDS’ – image below:

THOUGHT for TODAY

Do you think there are more needs from this list that are relevant for a toddler – other than:

Health | Attention (Connection) | Power | Predictability | Inclusion (Participation) | Evolution (Progress)

TOMORROW:

We begin with the 1st need : Health / Physical well being, and explore how it is relevant & valuable for both the parent & the child.

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9 mistakes to avoid if your toddler (Year 1-3) hits/ bites/ throws/ kicks/ pushes / pulls hair

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Every parent has been witness or subject to a toddler’s aggression at some point in time. When it happens for the first time, we might be taken by surprise. When our toddler is aggressive in public or with others, it can be very embarrassing!

As a parent, initially you might have reacted impulsively; but when you notice this behavior repeating, it’s turns into a grave concern. If you’re someone like me, you might have devoured every possible article on Google or asked in your trusted FB or Whatsapp groups about how to tackle this.

Being a toddler’s parent and a parenting coach who speaks with Moms daily, I’ve realized that parents often tend to make things worse when they’re dealing with aggression in a toddler.

By the end of this blogpost,

  • You will be able to clearly identify the mistakes you’ve been making while handling your toddler when and after he hits/bites/throws/kicks/pulls hair.
  • You will be able to understand why your current reactions aren’t helping in curbing your child’s aggressive behaviors by giving your child the wrong message.
  • And then, I will direct you to well-researched resources that will help you with the exact action plan & strategies to help you and your child overcome aggressive behavior peacefully. 

WARNING: If you’re new to the concept of Gentle Parenting, a lot of my suggestions below might raise your eyebrows. These are my learnings from great teachers of peaceful parenting methods that are based on scientific evidence and that have been proved to work in raising the next generation.

If you’re ready, let’s dive in.

Here are 9 mistakes every parent must avoid while dealing with their toddler if and when he’s physically aggressive towards you / others.

1. Hitting back

So, the first time your child hits you / another person in your presence, your natural instinct might be to hit back. That’s your brain’s Fight-mode in action. So, you can forgive yourself if you hit back as an impulse. But, if you’ve been hitting back to teach your child a lesson that “He should not hit” – it’s easy to see what an irony that is.

The message your child gets: It’s ok to hit if you are bigger and stronger than the opposite person.

2. Forcing an apology

Have you tried getting a SORRY from your child after he has done something wrong, and failed? You are not alone. Even if your child obliges with a Sorry, do you think he has internalized the moral reasons why he should not hurt anyone next time? NO.

The message your child gets: I can do anything, and then just cover it up with a Sorry.

Is there a better approach? YES. I’ll show you how at the end of this article.

3. Pretend crying

While you might think that pretending to cry might convey to your toddler that ‘Hitting hurts’ – you must know that they’re much smarter. If your child sees through your bad acting, he might find it funny and enjoyable, and so might love to repeat it often.

So, it’s best to just be yourself, treat your child as a smart little person who can understand if you calmly just say, “I can’t let you hit, because it hurts.” That conveys more confidence to your child, increasing the chances of him taking you seriously.

The message your child gets: Is Mommy really hurt? Let’s do this again and see.

4. Yelling / Scolding / Punishing / Taking away privileges

Most of us have been brought up by a generation of parents who resorted to scolding, hitting or punishing at the drop of a hat. It’s natural for us to follow these methods, because that’s the only way we’ve seen parenting in action. However, today there’s enough scientific research to prove that such punitive measures might work in the short term and get your child to obey out of FEAR, but they are not effective in the long run. We must adopt approaches that help in building our child’s character where he chooses not to do something because it’s wrong and hurtful, and not to avoid punishment.

The message your child gets: If I do this and get caught, I’ll be punished. Let me try again, and not get caught.

5. Isolating him

Often when all fails, we might take the emotional route where we tell our child, “I will not talk to you if you do this again.” Please don’t put your child through this trauma. A toddler is just a baby with relatively more physical and verbal skills. They love you as much as or more than you love them. Being away from you physically or emotionally is traumatic for them, and it’s vicious to take advantage of that just to make them obey. Let your child have the gift of ‘unconditional love’. (It’s not easy, I know!)

The message your child gets: If I am good, my Mom loves me. If I am bad, she does not!. ☹

6. Distracting too quickly

So, if your toddler hit the nanny, you might take the kid away from the nanny & try to distract him with something else. Well yes, it’s a good tactic to take their minds out of aggressive mode, sometimes. But it does not teach the child anything about his improper behavior, and why he must not repeat it. It’s a good idea to deal with the behavior in the right way (more about it at the end), before you engage your child in something else.

The message your child gets: I can easily get away with this! Let’s try this again!

7. Thinking your child is the only one who behaves like this.

It’s possible that you’ve been worrying about how your child learnt aggressive behavior, when everyone at home is pretty mild and well-mannered. Yes, your child might have seen someone behave aggressively OR it could just be his impulses.

Aggression is a very common form of expression among toddlers. So, don’t look at your toddler like some alien and think, “How could you do this?”. To understand your tot better, and help him overcome his aggression, it helps to know WHY he’s being aggressive.

The message your child gets: I’m a bad kid. I don’t deserve anything good.

8. Imagining your child as a bully 10 years later, and “What will people say?”

Firstly, your child will not become a bully because he’s displaying an aggressive streak at 2 years of age. Of course, if you help your toddler overcome his aggression, he will grow up to be the most well-mannered and respectable person that you want him to be. So, cut out the “What will people say?” Avoid punishing your child for his aggression, just to appease others around you.

9. Blaming your parenting for his behavior

There are no bad parents. All of us have the best intentions in mind as we raise our kids in ways we know and can! But, what makes a great parent is the willingness to learn and grow with your child.

You can help your child overcome his aggression and gain better control over his impulses using gentle and peaceful methods.

And I’d love to tell you how. It’s for parents like you and me that I have put together a COMPREHENSIVE ACTION PLAN for Resolving Toddler Aggression. You can click here to download it for FREE. Thank me later! 😊

If you’d prefer a more personalized solution for your toddler concern, book a consultation with me (FREE for a limited period only) by clicking here.

If you’ve benefitted from this blogpost, and know others whom it can help – Show that you care, and share!!

Follow me @Sharon Mary and my page @Thought Symphony on Facebook.

I’d love to connect with you, and help you if I can!

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Why is my toddler (Yr 1-3) hitting/ biting/ throwing/ kicking/ pulling hair?

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Our 2 year old son seems to be very aggressive – hitting, pushing and biting us and others. It’s embarrassing when he hits others, and it makes me angry when he hits. It’s getting out of control, and we don’t know what to do?

A concerned mother

As a parenting coach, who speaks with Moms daily, the first thing I can assure this mother who’s just as concerned as you, is that – this behavior is very common among toddlers aged 1-3 years.

Parents often complain that their toddler hits one or both parents, or the nanny, or the grandparents. Other complaints include that the child often hits himself, hits his head with hands, or bangs his head against the wall or floor and hits other children “for no reason”. I hear similar complaints about biting and pulling hair, and also that the child is always throwing things or kicking “in anger”. If you’re reading this article, you would have experienced one or more of the above behaviors with your child.

Often as parents, we are taken by surprise when our child hits/bites us for the first time. We feel embarrassed when our child hits someone else in our presence, or when others complain about his hitting behavior. When he throws things at us or pulls another child’s hair – we feel clueless about WHY is he doing this?

We try to deal with the behavior in the best way we know, and yet, when our child continues expressing himself aggressively in socially unacceptable ways – we feel that we’ve failed as parents!

I see you, and I feel you! And I want to assure you that:

  • By the end of this blog post, you will know the WHY behind this behaviour. This knowledge  will help you meet your child where he is, and connect with him deeply before you try to correct his behavior.
  • And then, I will direct you to well-researched resources that will help you with the exact action plan & strategies to help you and your child overcome aggressive behavior peacefully. 

Read on, if you’re ready!

Here are FIVE things every parent needs to know about WHY their child is indulging in aggressive behavior like hitting/ biting/ throwing/ kicking/ pulling hair?

1. It’s not intentional

As much as it might seem that your child is acting this way on purpose, that he’s doing it intentionally, to make you angry – trust me, he’s not. A toddler is a little baby with relatively more physical and verbal skills. That’s all. He’s not cognitively developed enough to pre-meditate, plan and act in ways to manipulate you. So, if you’ve been feeling this way about your child, just strike that out right away. And give your child the benefit of doubt that he deserves.

2. It’s usually experimentative

Toddlers are little scientists who are always in action – creating new experiments, observing the results and archiving their analyses of the situation for future reference. Most of the time, hitting/ biting/ throwing/ kicking/ pulling hair is just to see what happens? As silly as it might sound, this is a serious ‘experiment’ for your child. The way the other person responds is the ‘result’ he’s looking for. And based on that result, they often have the ‘urge’ to repeat the experiment (maybe with the same/different persons) to just see if the results are consistent, or they may decide to move on to something new. 

At times, your toddler might have seen someone hit / push, or might have been hit or pushed by someone. Now, the little scientist is just curious to know how it feels when he does it, how do others react (“so I can do the same when someone hits me!”)

3. When it’s not an experiment, it’s just an impulse

Your toddler’s brain is still developing. Parts of the frontal cortex / higher brain required for impulse control and rational thinking develop gradually through life and are fully developed only when the child reaches adulthood. In simpler terms, your toddler lacks impulse control.

However, the lower brain AKA the reptilian brain is completely developed, and that’s the reason your toddler often acts more like an animal (hitting & biting) rather than a socially sophisticated human being. (No offense intended, it’s just scientifically correct!).

So, make peace with the fact that aggressive behavior arises out of impulse in a toddler, which they cannot control without help from you or another caring elder. (I’ll tell how you can help your child with impulse control – here)

Often parents find that their child hits someone and smiles or laughs, as if he’s deriving some evil pleasure out of this. But experts say that, the smile is usually out of embarrassment or discomfort for not being able to control themselves, thereby unintentionally hurting someone. It’s a sign of their innocence & helplessness.

Some parents complain that their child bit them in the midst of an enjoyable cuddle. That seems very odd and offensive, right!? But it’s just that your little tot had a gush of STRONG (happy) EMOTIONS in his brain, which he could not handle; and the bite was an act by his (immature) brain to release the emotional pressure! So, please be kind! The same is true if he experiences an overwhelming gush of negative emotions, which I explain below.

4. There are TRIGGERS which lead to the impulse to hit, bite, kick, pull or throw

There are 3 alarm systems in your child’s brain which are triggered by Rage / Fear / Pain. So, anything that can cause your child to feel anger, fear or pain will activate these alarm systems, which in turn activates the instinctive & less rational ‘fight-flight-freeze’ responses. Go back and think about those situations where your child acted out aggressively – what was the trigger?

  • You did not give in to their demand
  • You set a limit that they did not like
  • A new situation, too many people around
  • An unexpected change in routine
  • An unmet need – was he hungry, sleepy, tired or overstimulated?
  • Or was it a pent-up frustration of needs that have been unmet for a longer time – like the need for attention, connection, a predictable routine or more power and freedom? You can read more about ‘unmet needs of toddlers’ here.

Remember, it might seem that they hit you or the other child “for no reason”, but there’s always a trigger! Sometimes, the trigger is in the situation, or it could be something pent-up over time. At times, you might be able to identify the trigger and respond accordingly, but many-a-times, you might not be able to pinpoint the trigger. But even in those cases, trust your child – they’re not giving you a hard time, they’re having a hard time.

5. An aggressive breakout is often a CALL for HELP

Dr. Mona Delahooke, a pediatric psychologist, describes disruptive behaviors as “just the tip of the iceberg,”. They are important signals a child may be sending that are symptoms of an underlying issue.

All forms of aggressive behavior among toddlers is the child’s way of saying, “I really don’t know how to handle this, I need HELP.” And here’s where your response matters.

Imagine you’re looking up to someone for help, and they yell at you or punish you or behave as if you’re some alien doing weird things. How would you feel? It’s in your hands to help your child not feel that way.

These out-of-the-blue, sometimes embarrassing moments are great opportunities for you to connect deeply with your child, show him that you love him despite his behavior and that you CAN and WILL help him get through this.

Your perception of the situation and of your child is extremely important for you to help your child effectively. I am confident this blogpost helped you perceive your child as completely normal & human for acting the way he does.

What’s more important is ‘Being Well-Prepared’ to handle these situations effectively, so you can help your child get through this phase, and develop a strong control over his impulses & emotions.

So, to prepare yourself to handle your toddler’s aggression more effectively & peacefully, read on to know the 9 mistakes you must avoid while dealing with aggressive behavior.

Or even better – Download the FREE COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE for Effectively Resolving Aggressive Behavior in your Toddler

If you’d prefer a more personalized solution for your toddler concern, book a consultation with me (FREE for a limited period only) by clicking here.

If you’ve benefited from this blogpost, and know others whom it can help – Show that you care, and share!!

Follow me @Sharon Mary and my page @Thought Symphony on Facebook. I’d love to hear from you!

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The Secret to a Peaceful & HAPPIE toddler

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As a Toddler Mom, I often feel that toddlers are quite misunderstood. The thought of the ‘terrible 2s’ gives many mothers jitters.

But the more I understand my own 2.5 yo daughter, the more I read about toddlers and their brain, the more I help other toddler parents overcome their struggles – the more I realize that the picture of toddlers as little monsters trying to manipulate their parents with their tantrums – must change!

After much deliberation, experience and research, I’ve come to the conclusion that toddlers can be very peaceful, playful and happy, if their needs are met.

Unmet needs lead to disruptive behavior in toddlers.

Well, that’s true of all humans. But what adds to the challenge with toddlers is their inability to communicate as well as adults can.

So, the onus is on the parents to decipher their toddlers needs and provide accordingly, it’s almost like trying to read someone’s mind. And it’s not easy.

To make it a little easier for parents, I’ve put together the top 6 most important needs of a toddler.

The six basic needs of a toddler are:

Health, Attention, Power, Predictability, Inclusion and Evolution.

Fulfilling these needs on a daily basis, make and keep your toddler HAPPIE.

Let me explain these needs in more detail.

Understanding your toddler’s needs

Health:

This aspect relates to the physical well-being of your toddler.

Think:

  • Is she well-fed?
  • Is she well-rested with enough sleep during the day & night?
  • Is she experiencing any kind of physical uneasiness due to teething, indigestion, colic, fatigue, or injury?
  • Is she experiencing enough warmth & comfort from a parent/caregiver?
  • Is she getting enough opportunities to move around & play indoor & outdoor?
  • Is her Sugar intake excessive? Excess sugar is also known to cause aggressive behavior, lack of sleep because of the effect it can have on the brain.

Attention:

All of us crave for attention from our loved ones. For kids, attention means your ‘undivided’ positive time & presence. So, if you are near your child expecting her to play with her toys, while you are glued to your phone – that does not count as attention for them.

When kids feel a lack of positive attention from you, that’s when they knowingly or unknowingly resort to negative behaviour that is sure to get your attention!

So, take time out when you can indulge with your toddler one-to-one personally, give her special time with hugs, cuddles, story time and play. When her cup of attention is full, you will notice her drift away slowly, and she will leave you alone to tend to your own work.

Think:

  • Is she getting enough hugs, cuddles and play with me/other parent during the day?
  • Am I intently listening to her, and making enough eye contact when she speaks?
  • Am I sure that she feels seen, heard and understood by me/other parent?
  • Do I pay ‘real’ attention to what she’s doing and appreciate her efforts & tiny successes?

Power:

When you’re a kid whose life is mostly controlled by an adult, you will at some point feel POWERLESS. As a fact, nobody likes to feel powerless! As parents, we must learn to respect our child’s need for power. Most of us have been raised by authoritarian parents, and so subconsciously we believe that elders know better, and kids are not really capable of doing things themselves, making choices. We feel that if a kid is given too much power or control, they will get spoilt or take us for a ride. Well, ‘too much’ power is bad – but age-appropriate power is necessary for your child.

It is when a child feels powerless, that he tries to snatch the power from you by rolling on the floor wailing at top decibel, forcing you to buy him the lollipop that he demanded!

On the other hand, giving age-appropriate choices is a good way to help your toddler experience power that she can manage. For example, “Do you want to have the lollipop, or do you want us to take you to the park after shopping?” (Give choices where you are fine with whatever your child chooses.)

Creating spaces with the house where your child can explore unrestricted (without you constantly saying, “No, don’t do that!”) also gives the child a sense of positive power.

Think:

  • Is she being restricted with too many ‘No’ during the day?
  • Is she given enough age-appropriate choices to make?
  • Does she feel ‘independent’ in doing age-appropriate tasks like helping you dry clothes, or remove her own pants?

Predictability:

Knowing what will happen in our lives gives us a sense of power, doesn’t it?

The same is true with toddlers. Predictability in their daily schedules, in your responses and reactions gives them a much-needed sense of power, stability, familiarity and calm. That’s why, establishing routines, responding to similar requests or behaviour in a consistent manner helps!

When every next moment is unpredictable, anxiousness is bound to arise – which can easily trigger any of the alarm systems that result in tantrums/aggressive behavior.

A sudden change in routine like a new daycare/playschool, change of residence, change in caregiver will need to be handled with care, by gently preparing the toddler mentally much in advance of the change. Also, try to bring in the change gradually, if possible – For example, instead of starting the 1st day of day care with 4 hours straight, start with just 1 hour.

Transition from one activity to the next can sometimes be difficult, like ending bathtime and getting dressed. So, before end of bathtime, explain to your toddler what will come next, and how much fun that is going to be!

Think:

  • Do we have an established daily routine for day-to-day activities like brushing, bathing, food time, nap time?
  • Can we handle transitions in a more fun way?

Inclusion:

How do we feel when people whom we adore & admire, refuse to include us in their plans? Well, for toddlers, they admire & adore us – they want to be like us. And so, they want to participate in all that we do, they want to feel included.

That’s why, when we constantly keep telling them, “You can’t do this”, or “You can do this when you grow up.”, it reiterates their feeling of smallness/powerlessness. It can be frustrating, which if bottled up can erupt as tantrums.

Do your best to include your toddler in your routine activities, they love to ‘help’.

As long as the activity is safe, find smaller versions of the huge task that they can manage.

Appreciate their ‘efforts’, however avoid praises like ‘You’re such a good boy!”. Such praises tell the child nothing about themselves. Rather a more helpful praise is, “I am happy you helped me dry these clothes. Thank you.” Your toddler will swell with pride, and that’s good for building her self-esteem and confidence.

Think of your toddler as your ‘partner’, they love it! Your work might slow down a bit, but it sure is worthwhile, helping them gain life skills and also connect with you deeply.

Think:

  • How can I include my toddler in daily household activities?
  • Is my child receiving enough appreciation that makes him feel like she’s contributing positively to the family / tasks at hand?

Evolution:

Progress is essential for humankind, and hence it is hardwired within us. There is a dire need within all of us to keep learning, gain mastery, discover new things, explore and evolve.

Likewise, toddlers constantly want to learn, explore and gain mastery. By helping your toddler fulfill this need for constant growth, progress and evolution – you will not only help him hone necessary life-skills, but also build her inner spirit with self-confidence & self-esteem.

Giving your toddler age-appropriate tasks, letting her explore by herself, helping her when she needs or asks for help, encouraging her to try when she fails, and accepting her stance when she does not want to try anymore – are simple ways to fulfill your child’s inner need for progress & mastery.

Think:

  • Is my child constantly learning new things?
  • Does he have enough opportunity to gain mastery at age-appropriate tasks?
  • Is he being encouraged to try when he fails?
  • Is he being unnecessarily pushed even when he does not want to try anymore?

So, the next time, you have an aggressive or unhappy toddler – think what’s making him/her unHAPPIE!!

A side note: If you’re concerned about your toddler’s aggression – hitting / biting / pulling hair / throwing / pushing / kicking – I’d strongly recommend this COMPREHENSIVE ACTION PLAN for Resolving Toddler Aggression. You can click here to download it for FREE. Thank me later! 😊

If you’d prefer a more personalized solution for your toddler concern, book a consultation with me (FREE for a limited period only) by clicking here.

If you’ve benefited from this blogpost, and know others whom it can help – Show that you care, and share!!

Follow me @Sharon Mary and my page @Thought Symphony on Facebook.

I’d love to connect with you, and help you if I can!

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30+ Resources To Keep Kids Engaged At Home Productively

For every parent who’s wondering how to keep kids engaged while they’re home – here’s a list of 30+ websites that are sure to keep your kids engaged in a productive way, through fun and learning!

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Kids are bored?

Kids are bringing the house down ‘coz they have nothing else to do?

You’re worried about how they’re spending their free time at home?

For every parent who’s wondering how to keep kids engaged while they’re home – here’s a list of 30+ websites that are sure to keep your kids engaged in a productive way, through fun and learning!

This list has been carefully curated by Moms who homeschool, and so you can be assured that almost all of them have educational value.

As a parent, I understand that you might be just as concerned as I am, about excessive screen-time for kids. So, the best way to use this resource is to first go through them personally, then sit with your child and chart out a rough schedule that allots an hour daily (or whatever is mutually agreed) for your child to explore these websites. They will surely want more, because these are really good resources, but try not to give in!

While some of the listed websites are completely about fun things kids can do without any gadgets, some other websites with online content provide ideas for related projects that can be done offline. Encourage your kids to continue their online learning with these offline projects. Wherever the website does not provide any offline projects, nudge your kids to brainstorm ideas and come up with creative work that they can do related to what they’ve learnt!

Here’s a video with the sneak-peek to the list (Click here to download the Free PDF)

So, without further ado, below is the list that I’ve been going ga-ga about! Feel free to explore them at your own pace.

If you’d prefer a more detailed outline that talks about what each website is about, the age-group it is appropriate for, is it free/paid – then head over here to download the free PDF that’s more elaborate to make your work easier!

Learning Made Fun:

  • Khan Academy Kids (App)
  • Turtle Diary
  • Switch Zoo
  • Tynker
  • Creative Bug
  • Beast Academy
  • Science Kids
  • National Geographic
  • Highlight Kids
  • Curiosity Stream
  • Fun English Games
  • Kids Math Games Online

Educational Games:

  • Splash Learn
  • ABCYa
  • Starfall
  • Math Game Time
  • Cool Math 4 Kids

Pure Learning:

  • Khan Academy
  • Scholastic Classroom Magazines
  • All In One Home School
  • Brain Pop
  • Coursera
  • Skillshare
  • Udemy
  • OutSchool

Pure Fun Offline:

Finally, when in doubt, don’t forget the good ol’ indoor games that we played as kids –

  • Snakes & Ladders
  • Ludo
  • Chess
  • Monopoly
  • Card Games – Uno
  • Carrom
  • Hide & Seek!! 😀

When the going gets tough, let the Fun get going!!

[Want a more elaborate version of this list? Click here to download the FREE PDF.]

If you found this useful, I’m sure you’ll enjoy following my Facebook Page for useful resources & insights on Parenting @ Thought Symphony : Between Parent & Child

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11 Parenting Lessons from an Unexpected Source

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Recently, I started reading this book called ‘The Gardener and The Carpenter’ by Alison Gopnik, and she opened my eyes to a different paradigm of parenting.

Somehow, deep inside, I knew there was something amiss with how we approach parenting nowadays – as parents, we are always so concerned, so competitive, so full of guilt – as we constantly try to make our kids smart, independent, empathetic, responsible and successful.

I had started to wonder – are we taking this responsibility of bringing up a child, more seriously than we should. It seemed as if the job was much easier for our parents. Are we really helping our kids by being overly concerned about them and their future? That’s when I struck gold with these words by Alison Gopnik. I quote –

“To Parent – is not actually a verb, not a form of work, and it isn’t and shouldn’t be directed toward the goal of sculpting a child into a particular kind of adult. Instead, to be a parent—to care for a child—is to be part of a profound and unique human relationship, to engage in a particular kind of love. Love doesn’t have goals or benchmarks or blueprints, but it does have a purpose. The purpose is not to change the people we love, but to give them what they need to thrive. Love’s purpose is not to shape our beloved’s destiny, but to help them shape their own. It isn’t to show them the way, but to help them find a path for themselves, even if the path they take isn’t one we would choose ourselves, or even one we would choose for them.”

In simpler words, she says – “Our job as parents is not to make a particular kind of child. Instead, our job is to provide a protected space of love, safety, and stability in which children of many unpredictable kinds can flourish.”

Alison Gopnik

When I read this last line – I couldn’t help but wonder, isn’t that what mothers do when we are pregnant with a little life within us? –  Provide a protected space of Love, Safety and Stability, where the little one can peacefully flourish, the way it is meant to be.

And this little thought snowballed into 11 Parenting Lessons that, I believe, God is giving us through ‘pregnancy’ – because, you know, the internet wasn’t there a million years ago – and God knew these innocent parents would need some lessons!!

As you read through these lessons, I’d urge you to think – are we making our Parenting Journey tougher and more complicated than what it was meant to be?

  1. Replicate the Oath of Pregnancy

The moment any mother realizes that she’s pregnant – she secretly whispers a little oath to the life within her – “I promise to take care of you, keep you safe and provide for you in the best way that I can.” As Alison Gopnik points out, that’s mainly what is expected of you even when the baby is out – to provide a safe space to flourish. Never does a mother proclaim – “Baby, now that I have you, I will make sure you come out as the most successful, confident, empathetic baby ever!”

  1. Replicate the Prayer of Pregnancy

All through those 9 months of pregnancy, every mother has just one prayer – “God, boy or girl, I don’t care much – just let the baby be healthy and perfectly fine.” Beyond the grades, degrees, medals and fancy jobs that you wish your kids will have as they grow, isn’t their physical, mental and emotional health most precious to you!? Let’s not forget that, when we knowingly or unknowingly put the burden of our expectations on our kids.

  1. Resist the urge to micromanage, there’s very little you can do about the final outcome anyway.

During my pregnancy, I used to wonder, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a transparent belly, so we could monitor the baby every moment.” When I finally had my little daughter, I realised what a boon it was to NOT have to monitor your baby every moment. But of course, other than infancy and toddlerhood, where we might want to be more careful than sorry – it is best to slowly release our clutches and resist the urge to micromanage – should I send him for dance or for chess or for both? Should he be doing Commerce or Arts? Because ….

  1. Most kids turn out perfectly fine, all the time.

There are millions of sperms and eggs fertilizing perfectly, dividing and multiplying the way they should to form the head, the fingers, the toes, the heart and the nose – to ultimately deliver a perfectly fine baby at the end of 9 months. Despite the jitters and anxiousness that every pregnant mother experiences, we know, that does not help the final outcome in any way. So, let’s keep unnecessary worries out of parenting too. Just like in pregnancy, periodic checks with necessary corrective measures is usually enough. So, choose your battles, worry only about the choices and decisions that are truly meaningful – that’s a mantra to live by.

  1. Every journey is unique and so is every child.

While I was in labour (which eventually lasted for 36 hours), each time my gynaec would come to check, I would ask, “When will this end?”, and she would say with a straight face – “I can’t really say, every pregnancy is unique.” While at that point in time, I could have smashed her nose – now, I realise how true that is about parenting as well. The sooner you acknowledge that you are on a UNIQUE journey with your UNIQUE children, the easier it will be for you to get out of the trap of unnecessary comparison & competition, and give yourself a whole lot of peace.

  1. The bond you share with your child matters most – ABOVE ALL

You haven’t seen this little being yet, but you ‘know’ her. The moment you laid your eyes on your little baby for the very 1st time, you felt as if you’ve known her for aeons. That’s the BOND you share with your child. While infancy & intimacy go hand in hand – as years progress – the distance between us and our child gradually & sadly increases – physically as well as emotionally. As parents, while we are busy trying to do the best we can for our kids, trying to MAKE them the best – let’s not forget – when all is said and done, what you will cherish is not the accomplishments, but the memories and the relationship you share with your beloved child. Let this end goal govern all your parenting decisions.

  1. There are a million things happening to that little life on a daily basis.

During my pregnancy, I had subscribed for weekly updates on what the baby looks like and its developments. What a joy it was to know about those tiny little fingers and toes developing, just like it was so enjoyable as my little one achieved those milestones every month during the 1st year. If we think deeply though, for all of these visible changes to happen – there has to a million things that are going on inside their little bodies and brains. And it continues for several years after birth till they reach adulthood. Being aware of this fact, will help us have a little more empathy and patience in dealing with our kids through their tantrums, tempers and rebellion.

  1. Your well-being matters a LOT

Every pregnant mother knows that her baby’s health depends a lot on her own health. Not just the physical health, but mothers are also extra careful about their thoughts, actions and emotions during those 9 months. However, as years go by, mothers slowly forget that their physical, mental and emotional well-being still has an impact on their child. If you’ve slept only for 4 hours, haven’t had your lunch, and now your toddler is screaming his lungs out for a candy – most likely, you will end up hitting your child and then feel sorry about it. Self-love and self-care will not only help you be nicer to your kids when they need you most, but it will also set a good example for them when they are in the same position. Just like you’d ask for help if you had to carry a heavy shopping bag in your 9th month, even later in your parenting journey, remember to ask for help, and take all the help you get! It is worthwhile to know ‘there’s no trophy at the end’!

  1. A few slip-ups are OK!

It’s ok if you had a burger in your 4th month, and that you couldn’t resist the pani-puri in your 9th month – your baby still came out fine, the guilt was unnecessary! Similarly, a few missteps, taken unknowingly once in a while, during your parenting journey – can be pardoned. Your child will not hate you all his life, just because you happened to miss his annual day program. Give yourself permission to fail once in a while, we all are learning as we go! Guilt isn’t good for you or your child. You are a good parent, because you are trying your best, everyday!

  1. The ‘kicks’ are a part of the journey

Remember, how those tiny kicks you experienced during the 4th month turned into somersaults by the 9th month? You didn’t complain, did you? Because, you knew those kicks were not only enjoyable, but also a proof of life. In parenthood, let’s say your kids tantrums, mischief and rebellion are the ‘kicks’ – let’s accept them as a part of the package. Let’s cherish them too, because it won’t last for long. Let’s learn how to take those kicks in our stride, just like you had devised ways to sit through those somersaults during pregnancy.

  1. You have to ‘Let Go’ someday

As much as you little baby enjoys the safe space you provided her with for 9 months, she can’t stay there forever. She must enter a new world that awaits with new possibilities, wonders and challenges. And as much as you would want your little baby to grow up, yet remain small enough to fit in your arms – you have to ‘let go’ someday. Like Alison Gopnik says, “Our adult children are and should be foreigners – inhabitants of the future.”

We can pat ourselves for having done a good job as a parent – if our kids grow up to be able to masterfully deal with the inevitable and unpredictable changes that face them in the future. That would be our TROPHY!

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Does praise really help your child?

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A lot of us have grown up hearing, “Good Boy!” or “Good Girl” for every thing we did right as a child. Think about that for a moment, go back to those memories when you were either trying to do things right, so that you could hear those words from your parents again and again, or when you were constantly trying to prove them wrong, a time when those two words felt more like a burden than praise.

Personally, I have been in both situations. For instance, as I was growing up, I remember my Mom would tell people that I was ‘very organised’, my cupboards and shelves were always clean and in order. I guess I felt good about it, and continued the good work till I could. Slowly, life got busier, and cupboards and shelves got messier. And each time, I saw the chaos in my wardrobe, I remember thinking to myself, “How you’ve changed! You are no longer that ‘organised’ girl you were.” Clearly, that ‘title/tag’ which was conferred upon me as ‘praise’ had now become a burden.

Parents love praising their kids, thinking that it makes their child happy and more confident. Parents feel that praising helps reinforce the positive behaviour, but in actuality praise may result in tension and misbehaviour.

The child often looks up to the parent to know more about herself, till the time she feels completely self-aware, which might happen much into adulthood. So, praise that evaluates the child’s character or personality – like “You’re such a good boy, You’re so smart and kind…” – works in 2 ways.

One – the child accepts these words, and tries to live up to it her whole life! If you are someone who did that or is still doing that as an adult today, you know how much pressure that is!

The other way such evaluative praise works is that the child may totally repel the praise, if it does not match the image and expectation the child has about herself. Parents may often find that just after praising their child for good behaviour, they often start to act wild or misbehave to disprove the praise. For instance, when you say, “You’re such a wonderful daughter.” – your child might feel, “Oh! I am not that great, I’m so far from being wonderful.” If she feels unable to live up to this label, instead of fearfully waiting to be exposed, she may decide to lessen the burden immediately through a tantrum or misbehaviour, just so that you don’t carry such a high opinion of her that is difficult for her to match or live up to.

I am sure, as a parent, you never thought so deeply about the harmless phrase we so often tell our kids!

So then, should we not praise our children?

According to renowned psychologist, Dr. Haim Ginott – the single most important rule is that PRAISE DEAL ONLY WITH CHILDREN’S EFFORTS AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS, not with their character or personality. Words of praise should mirror for the child a realistic picture of her accomplishments, not a distorted image of her personality.

Because I could never explain this better than the psychologist himself, I am including a short excerpt from his book – Between Parent and Child.

Praise consists of two parts: what we say to children and what they in turn say to themselves.

Our words should state clearly what we like and appreciate about their effort, help, work, consideration, creation, or accomplishments. Our words should be framed so that a child will almost inevitably draw from them a realistic conclusion about his / her personality. Our words should be like a magic canvas upon which children cannot help but paint a positive picture of themselves.

Sounds like a lot of work, right! Well, it is until you make it a habit. As parents, we will need to learn a new language if we want to connect meaningfully with our children, and not merely speak. With a little bit of conscious effort and practice, it is not difficult to nail the art of praising our kids in a way that is not burdensome or unknowingly hurtful, but in a way that enhances our child’s perception about him/herself.

Here’s a sample conversation from the book – Between Parent & Child:

Kenny, age eight, helped his father fix up the basement. In the process, he had to move heavy furniture.

Father: The workbench is so heavy. It is hard to move.

Kenny (with pride): But I did it.

Father: It takes a lot of strength.

Kenny (flexing his muscles): I am strong.

Helping our child arrive at such positive ‘I AM’ statements is what our praise much do. In this example, Kenny’s father commented on the difficulty of the task, and Kenny himself arrived at the inference about his personal strength.

On the other hand, had Kenny’s father served the inference on a platter by saying, “Wow, you are so strong!”, it is possible that Kenny would have retorted saying, “Not really, there are so many boys in class who are stronger than me.” Not only would his father’s praise invite an unwanted argument, but it would end up making Kenny feel sad even after what he had accomplished.

Psychologists say that it is not unusual for children who are praised for being smart to become less likely to take on challenging learning tasks since they do not want to risk their high standing. In contrast, when children are praised for their efforts, they become more persistent in difficult tasks.

Well, the book gives a whole bunch of such examples, let me try a few myself –

Instead of saying, “You are such a good painter”, I can say, “It looks like you put a lot of time and effort into making that painting so beautiful.”

Instead of saying, “You are so smart” (after winning a game of chess), I can say, “I really enjoyed watching you think through each move carefully.”

I am determined to slowly hone this skill of praising positively, by being specific and descriptive in my praise, helping my child infer her own capabilities, rather than evaluating and delivering my judgement on her personality and character.

Children do not like to be evaluated (just like adults!). Imagine how you feel during your appraisals at work, you don’t feel loved, do you! Evaluative praise, however unknowingly, feels the same way.

Being specific and descriptive in our praise definitely requires some effort and practice.

To make it simpler, I have been practising 2 simple phrases with my little toddler that does the job!

For every thing she does right, for every instruction she chooses to follow, and every time I have the urge to say, “Good girl”, I just choose to say – VERY GOOD or THANK YOU! That’s how I show her my appreciation for her work, efforts or action. Occasionally then, I describe to her the actions that I so truly appreciate.

For instance, if I ask her to pack all her toys back into the cupboard and she chooses to do it; I first say ‘Thank you’, and then while she is around, I describe to her Dad how she ‘carefully packed all her toys back into the cupboard and helped clean the room’. I feel so good about saying it, I can imagine how proud she must feel herself, hearing me say it!

Well, till the time I master the art of praise that is descriptive of efforts rather than evaluative of character/personality, I’ll manage with these two phrases, and so can you! 😉

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Are we raising kids with these 7 skills needed in the 21st century?

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“85% of jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet and 65% of children starting school now would one day hold jobs that do not exist as of now.”

If you are a parent, does this statistic scare you?

Well, I am a mom to a two-year old and the first time I read this – I felt really tensed. I had heard of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning, and from what I understood the world of the FUTURE is going to be very different from what it is today. Technology is going to develop faster and faster, making the devices and technology of today completely obsolete.

I am not really sure if our schools that haven’t changed their pedagogies since decades, barring a few improvisations in the new curricula like IB, IG, ICSE – can be solely entrusted with this grave task of preparing our kids for the FUTURE. I am not really sure if schools are equipped yet to prepare our kids for THE FUTURE.

All of these thoughts just kept making me more and more worried about what to do. Like every parent, I want the best for my daughter. I want her to become a kind, independent and intelligent person capable of doing things for herself and for the world, as she grows up.

But, can I take things into my own hands, and offer her the education she needs?

That’s when a sea of information gushed across my face – there are so many different approaches to raising kids and educating them – hundreds and thousands of activities that we can do with them to enhance their physical, cognitive, emotional and language skills!! And that’s when I realized what a daunting task, I had taken up for myself!

One day, while I was sitting, thinking about ‘this huge burden’ I had brought upon myself by challenging school education – the words of Stephen Covey struck me –

“Begin with the end in mind”

So, I thought what does the end or the future look like. All I know is that the future of my kids is going to be very different from my present. The circumstances will be very different, which I cannot predict or control. What I can do, however, is to help my daughter develop certain values and skills that will help her survive and prosper in any kind of future. That is, I must work from the inside-out! Now that sounded like a plan, something doable!

But again, what values and skills will prepare her best for the unknown future?

While I was mulling over this conundrum, I came across this amazing video – a TEDx talk by Dr. Laura Jana – And I felt I got my starting point!!

While there’s a whole lot of resources available online to tell you about the milestones our kids must achieve at each age, after watching this video – I was able to gain a more macro-level perspective on what skills I must aim at imbibing in my child so that I know I did my best to prepare her for THE FUTURE.

So, if I had to share in a nutshell what Dr. Laura Jana so powerfully yet simply shares in her TEDx talk – here’s what it is:

skills kids need in 21st century

The Skills our kids will need in the 21st century along with a few thoughts for us to ponder upon:

ME skills: these skills are everything our kids will need for Self-management like self-awareness, self-regulation, self-control over their emotions & behaviour, attention, focus.

In our times of excess and abundance, how can we best inculcate self-control and self-regulation in our kids? In this age of Youtube, Google and Social Media, when our own attention spans have reduced to a few minutes, what can we do to help our kids have better attention & focus?

WE skills: These are the people skills that allows kids to understand, share and “play well” with others using their language, empathy, listening.

These skills will be necessary for effective communication, collaboration and teamwork just like we see in our own workplaces today.

WHY skills: Most of us who’ve been close to kids when they’re around 3-5 years of age, know that this is the time when they question everything – much to the displeasure of poor adults who are expected to be equipped with all the answers.

This tells us that kids are wired for questioning, curiosity and inquisitiveness – skills which will be required to solve the problems of the future, let’s not beat that out of kids with our efforts to educate and discipline them.

WHAT IF skills: Coupled with WHY skills which help kids understand how the world works, WHAT IF skills encompass imagination, and creativity that allows them to envision how the world could be.

Can we join our kids in cooking up imaginative alternate worlds with superheroes where anything is possible?

WILL skills: As parents, we can do all we can but ultimately, self-motivation and drive including a can-do attitude, determination, persistence and perseverance is what will help our kids create and live their own future.

My grand-dad had a favourite quote – You can take the horse to the water but you cannot force it to drink.

WIGGLE skills: Physical and intellectual restlessness which has been shown as one of the key characteristics of all great men of our times, make up the WIGGLE skills.

Now, that’s good reason for us to let our kids be a little restless, and not tie them down to the chair or get them checked for ADD.

WOBBLE skills: We’ve seen those toys that wobble when hit, but they don’t fall down. Wobble skills stand for resilience, adaptability and the ability to face, overcome, and learn from failure.

As parents, rather than trying to protect our kids from every fall or failure, how can we learn to trust ourselves and our kids’ ability to fall and yet rise and move forward?

Now, think about this statistic again – “85% of jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet and 65% of children starting school now would one day hold jobs that do not exist as of now.”

And let’s rewind to the time when we were kids. If you were born between 1980 – 1990, did some of today’s in-demand jobs exist back then? Let’s say – Social Media Strategist, Digital Marketer, Programmer/ Coder. No, right. The computer itself was such a new thing, and in our computer classes in school, we would learn ‘Paint’! Haven’t we survived and thrived?

When you think about these skills required for the 21st century – are they any different from the skills we are expected to have as a part of today’s workforce? Not really! These are the skills that I know, (as a Soft Skills Trainer myself) are being programmed into today’s working professionals and entrepreneurs too.

The only difference between us and our kids will be that – our kids will have the advantage of being prepared before-hand, if we as parents take the initiative to imbibe these skills in them from early childhood. They won’t grapple with developing these skills as adults, like we are trying to cope today.

I am sure these skills will be the sum and result of many tiny actions me & my daughter take on a daily basis, and not some sudden phenomenon.

Well, I am glad I’ve got my starting point – my journey of exploration and experimentation begins here and my goal is to have some concrete ideas on the HOW.

As parents of toddlers and young kids what can we do? What tiny actions can we take daily to imbibe these essential skills and values in our kids and help them be prepared for their FUTURE.

Any ideas to begin with?

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How one word changed everything for my little daughter?

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“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice”

– Peggy O’mara
Effective communication in Parenting

My little one will turn 2 in a month. She is learning to speak while also achieving so many other physical milestones. How amazing it is to see her grow a little bit more every second! Like most kids, her strategy to converse with us is to often repeat what we’re saying. And undoubtedly therefore, the most common word she uses is ‘NO’!

Every time I hear her say ‘No’ to my instructions, I regret telling her ‘No’ for so many of her requests and adventurous pursuits. Thankfully, this has made me even more conscious about the words I use with her now.

Often, she would ask to do some things independently, like wear her shoes, or comb her hair, or every other task that I do. So to discourage her, I would say, (in our mother tongue) “No, Babykya pattathilla” which means, “No Baby, you can’t do this.”

Then I noticed that, each time, she tried doing something on her own, she would give up within a few seconds and say, “pattathilla (I can’t)”. When I heard her say this a few times in a few situations is when this quote by Peggy O’mara struck me hard!

“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice” – Peggy O’mara

And for a second, I was taken aback by the power of these words. I could immediately relate this to my own experiences from the past – when I didn’t give something a shot, or I gave up too quickly, or when I tried to be the best or perfect in everything. I realized how true this quote is.

When we are faced with challenging situations, or may be even routine situations in daily life – if we listen closely, the very first voices we hear are either our Dad’s words or our Mom’s or some authority figure we are really close to.

Sometimes, these words encourage us. But at times, those voices discourage us from taking some of the best risks. Can’t blame them though – as a parent now, I know that the synonym of ‘overprotective’ is ‘parents’!!

What I have learnt though, is that at times, those very first voices we are programmed to hear must be over-ridden so that we only regret the mistakes we made, and not the risks we never took! A lot of times, those risks pay off really beautifully.

And so, in an attempt, to test Peggy O’mara’s thought in reality – I tried to ‘reprogram’ my little baby with the change of a single word.

Each time, she would ask me to do something that I think she can’t but is safe enough for her to try, I would say something like, “Baby try cheithe, Pattum which means “Try it Baby, you can!” Or if it was something that she definitely should not try now, rather than saying she can’t, I would say, “Once you grow up, you can” that is “Baby vellitha aakumbol, Pattum”.

And to my surprise (or no surprise), she picked it up!

She has been learning to remove her shoes herself. While earlier, she would try and give up pretty quickly – after this little change I made – I hear her say,”Pattum (I can)” and trying hard before she calls me for help.

As I write this, she has now kind of mastered the skill which could also be because she’s grown by a few months from the time she started trying, but what stays with me is her word,”Pattum.”

A word good enough to help me remember what kind of voice I want to be for her!

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