What would I role-model for my child?

Let’s start with a small story first. Versions of this story have been attributed to many saints and leaders. As a writer of this blog, I’ll go with my version 😃. One of the great kings of Punjab, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, was petitioned by an old lady. She requested him to tell her grandson to stop eating too much sugar. Apparently, the child would not listen to his grandmother but probably to the authority of the King. The king asked her bring her grandson in a week’s time. When she returned after a week he told her that he needs more time and she should come back a week later. This was repeated a couple of times and she was getting exasperated. Then on fourth or fifth visit, he told the child “Son, stop eating sugar.” The lady was surprised at the brief, direct message. She said “Your majesty, if you had to say just this much why did you wait for so long?” The king replied “I had to stop eating sugar myself before I could tell him to stop doing so. How could I’ve preached something that I did not practice?”

Many of us fret that our kids don’t listen to us. What we don’t realize is that they may not listen to what we say, but they are observing us all the time. They are listening to our actions and behaviors rather than merely words. When there is a dissonance between our actions and our words, guess what will they pick or act upon? That brings me back to the topic how I want to teach my child by being a good role-model, and not just tell, or worse, want him to do things in a certain way. Yes, there would be things that I would like to teach (e.g. math skills) but I’ll strive to impart most of the learning by being a good role-model.

I would also speak a few words on why I want to role-model / show and not focus on “my wants”, my wants as in what I want him to do now / in future. Granted, all of us wish well for our children’s future and want them to succeed in life, but rather than focusing on my wants and/or the end goals I will focus on the process. I would like to show how to make right choices. I firmly believe that we as parents not only pass on our genes to our children which impact how they grow up, but equally significantly, if not more, it’s the environment we provide them which shapes their future being.

For sake of simplicity, I’ll structure this into three buckets — Values, Health and Knowledge. These areas are not necessarily watertight compartments, and have fair degree of overlap. However, a structure is helpful for execution. Few caveats before I dig deeper: Firstly, one can write whole blog on each of these areas/sub-areas but I’ll try to remain succinct on the core idea. Secondly, there is no specific order or degree of importance here. Lastly, I’ve a son so I’ll use “he” often here but no gender differentiation is implied or intended.

1. Values — Of all things I learnt from my parents if something has had most impact on me and my siblings’ lives — it has been the values my parents demonstrated. It’s the demonstration of these values, by living these values day in and day out, that they shaped our belief systems. There are three core themes and you will notice — these are humanistic and not theist values by design. Though many religions preach the same values I’ll refrain from religion and politics here.

  • Honesty — Honesty in all walks of life starting with telling the truth, only taking what is rightfully yours and honesty to self.
  • Hard work — There is an increasing tendency to splurge on our children (some time due to guilt factor, sometimes trying to live our lives through them and many a times due to peer-pressure faced by them). In this world, it’s easy for our children to grow with a sense of entitlement as everything they ask for is made available whether it’s a need or a want.
  • Sharing — There are multiple reasons for picking this value — man is a social animal with high degree of inter-dependence; sharing to me is kind of paying-it-forward where you help a person who needs help now and someone will help you in future; most importantly, I believe that the true growth comes through sharing — more you share (ideas, labor or money) more it will multiply.

2. Health — I’ll practice good habits in three broad areas for a holistic perspective on improving health

  • Healthy eating — First and foremost for the non-travel days I’ll strive to have at least one meal a day with loved ones/family. As regards what we eat, the focus will be on good mix of protein/carb/fibers. Lastly, in today’s multi-screen world, we are practicing “no-screens policy” during eating
  • Physical health — Three (yes, 3 again 😃) focus areas here: physical exercise/sports, good sleeping practices and good posture
  • Mental health — Though fundamental and a key focus area, I realize this will be toughest one to practice. I hope to grow personally through this greatly. I’ll focus on bring calmness (stoicism) in decision making and responding to others. I’ll demonstrate mindfulness by truly being him when I’m with him. A happy mind is a healthy mind and I intend to stay goofy and share good hearty laughs with him.

3. Knowledge — Some of these will be more in “teach” mode vs. demonstration mode. I’m hoping to indulge in discussions and problem-solving to avoid information-download e.g. we often play a troll-at-the-bridge game, where a question needs to be answered/solved before you can pass through.

  • Math — There are three aspects I intend to focus on — firstly, ability to do basic calculations (e.g. addition, subtraction, multiplication, fraction, etc.) mentally; secondly, understanding core/underlying concepts or practical applications (e.g. area under the curve vs. integration); thirdly, understanding the concepts of probability/statistics and its applications (e.g. Bayesian theory)
  • Reasoning (including business and financial) — As mentioned above I’ll try to demonstrate / discuss why and how of the things rather than just input-output of various life-experiences. This will involve inductive as well as deductive reasoning, basic concepts of money (here is an excellent post on teaching your child about money) and business acumen.
  • Language — My conversations with him so far (by design) have been in one language to enable him to adjust better in the world. We are starting to introduce another language, as studies have shown and I believe as well, that children who’ve command over more than one language have better mental acuity. However the focus will not be on writing skills or professional level grammar skills, but to improve ability to express his thoughts well.

I recognize that it’s a tall order and there will be missteps on the way as well. I guess that will be part of the process as well. This is a journey that I’ll undertake along with my son and I hope to improve / develop myself as well. Which of these areas speak to you more than others? What are you doing differently? Tell me what you think.

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