Author Archives: Sunita Saldhana

Help! I am the parent of a Teenager!

Get parents to talk about their teenage kids and all you hear is a barrage of complaints. That is exactly what happened at the start of the workshop for parents of teenagers that was held on Sunday.

“They get so angry all the time.” “They just don’t like being told what to do.” “We have to force them to come for a family get together, but the minute a friend calls, they are ready to go out.”

I’m sure all you parents of teenagers out there, can relate to this. But tell me, isn’t there anything you enjoy about your kids when they are in their teens? What is it that you love about the fact that your kid is now an adolescent?

When I asked the parents at the workshop to list down the joys of being a parent of a teenager, they looked at me as if I was crazy. But when I insisted, they started discussing this and a surprisingly long list emerged.

While undoubtedly they were worried about the fact that their children might not be able to say no to peer pressure and that they might be tempted do things they shouldn’t do, or the fact that the kids do not communicate at all, they also realised that their children are now more their friends than their children.

As your kids grow into their teens, they will challenge you to be your best. They criticise and question you so that you have no choice but to keep up with them. They are so idealistic and have great plans to improve the world. Their innocent faith that they will be able to do this is endearing.

Though they may be very moody and irritable, yet they will think nothing of enveloping you in a spontaneous bear hug of affection “just like that”.

As we spoke, we realised how important it is at this stage of our children’s lives, more than ever to be their friends, to accept them for who they are, to be there for them, yet let them walk on their own. We need to allow them to make mistakes, and teach them how to learn from those mistakes. We need to do what schools will not do : teach them how to face life, how to develop skills that will help them grow into happy adults, adults who are capable of facing problems in a proactive way, adults who are solution seekers rather than grumblers and excuse finders. Most of all, we need to teach them to love themselves, to give them the assurance that they do not need to be like anyone else. They are special to us, just the way they are.

Being a positive influence in your child’s life and getting joy out of raising children can always be an acquired skill. But a lot of us don’t think so. Or do we? What do you think?

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Are you growing up with your child? Or are you getting left behind?

Just the other day, a close friend of mine called up. “Sunita,” she  said  hesitantly, “ I want to talk to you about my son, Rohit. He has suddenly changed so much. I don’t know what to do.”  I calmed her down and told her this is something I often hear from parents of adolescents

It is not easy being a parent. And the challenge is much more when our babies turn into teenagers. It seems just yesterday they were holding your hand and learning to walk, and now it seems as if they are challenging every word you say.

You hear things like , “Why do you want me to make my bed? I’ll just sleep in it again tonight.” “MOM! Please don’t embarrass me!”

Your little baby girl is suddenly more interested in chatting with her friends and worrying about nonexistent pimples on her face. Your son is more interested in his friends’ opinion than yours. And don’t talk about mood swings. One day they do not want to talk to you at all and the next they want to tell you every single thing that is happening in their lives.  If you hug them, you will be pushed away and the very next day you will be engulfed in the biggest bear hug in the world.

Yes, being a parent is tough and in today’s environment it is even worse. As parents we are not only responsible to see that our kids grow up with the right values, but we also need to equip them with  the skills that will help them withstand negative influences and keep them safe.

In such a scenario, maybe it is a good idea to learn from the experts as well. People who have been parents, who have been teachers and who have been teachers to parents. That is why, through practise with my own daughters, through a lot of reading, through courses, I have learnt a lot and over a lot of years, what it takes to be a good parent. I have realised through the years that parents of teenagers face some unique challenges.

That is how and why I created my Teenology course. Ping me here or on 9892939062/ 8080825785 to know more about it. You can send me a mail on sunita@shikshapower.com as well. https://www.facebook.com/events/531112666958273/

Letting You Fly

We reached the garden. You saw the gigantic metal giraffe painted in red and yellow and green. Colours designed to attract every little soul who entered the garden. Without warning you left my hand and ran to the giraffe. Before I realised, your feet were on the first rungs of the bars that made it up. And you started climbing. I don’t really know how tall that thing was. But to my fear numbed brain, it seemed at least 10 feet high. And there you were… a tiny little thing, just past your second birthday, trying to climb up as fast as you could.

I wanted to shout and call you back down, when I caught your father’s eye and he just shook his head to stop me. I understood what he meant. We had made a pact that we would never stop you from exploring, from learning by doing. We had promised ourselves that we would give you the freedom to grow, to fly, to touch the sky. And now that it seemed that you were actually trying to reach for the sky, I could only stand there paralysed with fear, watching you as you climbed higher and higher. And as you reached higher, all that I could think of was that it was a longer way to fall. I had visions of broken bones and worse.

Dad in the meantime positioned himself beneath the monster, encouraging you and telling you where to place your feet. His presence there gave you the confidence to go right to the very top, secure in the knowledge that Daddy was there to catch you if you fell. You finally reached the top and squealed with delighted laughter. I could not help but laugh with you, as tears streamed down my face.

You climbed back down with Dad guiding you and the minute you reached the ground, I swooped you up into a hug that hid all my anxiety. And then so sweetly and innocently you asked me, “Mamma, why are you crying?” I answered you with what I now realise was the truth, “Because I am so proud of you.”

Where fountains sneeze and watches snore

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I just love my Sunday mornings, especially the ones when I have my Poetry Sundays, where I meet about a dozen kids between the age group eight to 14 at “Just Book clc” at Hiranandani Meadows, Thane every fortnight.

These Poetry Sundays are special because they are such fun! There is so much learning and there is a lot of joy! Here the children learn to express their feelings, thoughts and ideas through the medium of poetry and then gain the confidence to share these ideas and emotions when they read out their poems to others.

This week we were looking at personification as a tool to enhance our poems. As part of the exercises, we got the kids to match nouns with words that were randomly picked from a box. The results were hilarious and laughter filled the library as children looked at combinations like waves sleeping and the sun crying.

What was amazing is that not one of the kids questioned how clocks could snore or fountains would sneeze. Instead the conversations went something like this.

Yash: How and why will dragons run?

Shrushti: Maybe they are baby dragons and they are running to the edge of the cliff in a race and they will go whoooosh off the edge and fly.

Sunil: What could make the sun stand in one place?

Srikant: Because it was noon and he had already reached the top of the sky. He was tired and wanted to rest?

Shrushti: Okay, then why would the sun cry?

Janice: Because he was eclipsed

And thus did mini stories emerge about how the clock was so tired of waking up the child in the morning, that it too went back to sleep and snored and how it was so cold that the chilled water made the fountain sneeze.

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The writer in me, the writer in you!

Ever since I can remember, I have been fascinated with stories, all kinds of stories. It didn’t matter whether it was a short story or a novel or a poem. I can still remember my mother reading out the poem, “The evening is coming “out of this big colourful book that she had. As she read, the pictures in the book came to life and I was transported into another beautiful world.

As I grew, I became fascinated by how the stories evolved. I wondered: How did the author think of creating this character? Did he or she dream the story? How did he see the place in his mind’s eye? How did he or she know what would happen next in the story?  How could he or she make the story come alive for so many people? Can I also do the same?

It was the book “Little Women” which finally made me start writing. I so fell in love with Jo and so totally related to her character that in my mind we were the same and so writing was something I just had to do.

I still remember the first poem I wrote. I was just 12 then and I wrote a poem for my little sister who was just two. To my surprise, everyone liked it and praised it. And I was addicted!

Being a writer is not difficult at all. In fact it is a lot of fun. All you need to do is to let go of your fear. Let go of your fears about whether you can write or not. Let go of your fear of what people will say. Just let go and write!

Write for yourself! Write what you like! Write from your heart! It’s okay to write silly stuff and make mistakes, you will get better, but only if you keep writing. Today I squirm at the first few poems I wrote.  Even the little seven year olds who come to my creative writing class write better than that!

But that was just the start and I have grown and so will you.  So just pick up a pen and write.

And for all of you who want to write that poem, that story that is in your heart and has to be expressed, and don’t know where to start, here is a lovely learning vacation in a lovely location. Check out the residential Creative Writing Power Camp being held by Shiksha Power at Igatpuri on the 24th, 25th and 26th of May, 2013.

We taught ourselves to teach to write so that you can learn too! And for a teensy summer vacation out of the hot city, why not?

Out of the mouths of babes

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I love the summer holidays! I absolutely love them! This is the time when I have my holiday camps for the kids. Every year the kids amaze me! Every year I feel that there is still so much we can do for our kids who have the most amazing minds. There has been so much potential just waiting to be used.

This year, the theme for our Chutti Power Summer fun was “Expressions”. This was especially for kids between the ages of 5 to 11. We encouraged the kids to express themselves through art, dance, drama and creative writing.

Yesterday, we were creating characters in our creative writing session.

I introduced the children to the words “protagonist” and “antagonist”. Before telling them what it meant, I asked them what they thought it meant. The answers were varied.

“It means a person who eats a lot of protein!” Said a little 5 year old.

“I think it means someone who is powerful, like Iron Man,” said another.

“I think it sounds like a mixture of a protractor and an injection” said a third.

It was amazing how they all seemed to link the “P” in the spelling of protagonist to something that started with a “P” – protein, power, protractor.

After explaining who a protagonist is, I asked them to think of someone they would like to create as a protagonist in their story.

The questions were immediate. “Does it have to be a human being?” “Can it be an alien?” “Can it be a monster?” “Can it be an animal?” “Can it be an imaginary creature?”

But the best question was from a little boy named Armesh. He asked, “Don’t you think we should create the antagonist first?”

“Why?” I asked him.

“Because the antagonist causes the problem and the protagonist supplies the solution. The antagonist is the fever and the protagonist is the medicine, the Crocin.”

Oh how I love my summer camps!

The Day I Became a Teacher

I was all of fourteen. It was 5th of September, 1979, Teacher’s Day. I was in the tenth standard and as usual the teachers had gone for a picnic, leaving us, the tenth standard students to run the school.

I was in charge of the kindergarten. I had been told to ensure that all the kids wrote down the alphabets. Everyone complied, except one little girl, Monica, who was just sulkily staring at her note-book. When I asked her why she was not writing, she just shook her head stubbornly, without saying a word.

But the rest of the class yelled out, “She can’t write. She is a dumb head.”

I was shocked to hear these little five-year olds talk like that. “Who says she is a dumb head?” I asked.

“Our teacher, Miss Margaret,” they replied.

I felt an uncontrollable surge of anger towards Miss Margaret. “How can anyone call a baby a dumb head?” I wondered as I looked at little Monica who had hung her head in shame.

I put my arm around her and said, “You are not a dumb head. You are my friend. And so friend, tell me, what do you like to do?”

She looked up at me with eyes round in surprise and not a little fear. Then she whispered, “I like to draw.”

“And what do you like to draw?”

“Houses”, she said.

“Okay”, I told her, “Let’s see. If you can draw your ABC just like I am doing, I will let you draw a picture of a house for me. I will take that picture home and keep it on my fridge. Okay?”

Still full of wonderment, she nodded and “drew” the alphabet neatly in her book. After that she drew a beautiful house and garden for me.

I showed her book around the class and said, “See, Monica is not a dumb head. She is an artist.”

The beatific smile on the child’s face was all the reward in the world.

This was my first experience of how we as teachers can make or break a child. All it needs is a few words to build up someone’s confidence and confidence is a mighty motivator.

I tasted power that day in that kindergarten classroom. I realized that I had the power to change the way a person thinks about himself. I could make people believe in themselves. I could help people succeed.

And in that moment was born my dream. I decided there and then that I would be a teacher… not of academic subjects but a teacher who would teach people to be confident and believe in themselves. I would help people succeed in life.