Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Join your child in Fantasy-Land

When you have to deal with an imaginative child, a child who is forever living in a world of fantasy - there is room for a lot of fun and frustration.

When a child is steeped in play, and is seriously telling her teddy bear that she (the bear) is not doing a good job of looking after her bear cub, how can she possibly hear a mother yelling at her to wash her hands, brush her teeth, eat her food, put on her socks, drink water, and other such non-important tasks? 

When two counters reach "Home" in a game of Ludo, how can a child possibly continue the game without plunging into a world where the red counter invites the blue counter, who is his neighbour now, to his "home" for tea and biscuits?  How can they not chat about the neighbourhood and about the other empty houses around them that are waiting to be filled with green and yellow counters?  The mother is all the while twiddling her thumbs itching to finish the game so that she can go and start preparing dinner - but how can she stop the child, when the mother actually understands the world the child is in?  But stop the child she must, else the red and blue counters will get married and give birth to little counters, and the child will have to go without dinner that day!

When it is late for school and the mother expects the child to put on her shoes herself while she (the mother) gets herself ready, how can the child not stop to make the school shoes say goodbye and see you later to all the other shoes in the shoe stand?  And then the school shoes have to comfort the park shoes who are going to miss the school shoes.  This takes time, you know - who cares that the school bell will ring when such important matters have to be dealt with?  The mother cares, and the mother hurries, but the mother feels so sorry for the child who doesn't even realize that the mother is hurried and harried, so much at peace is she in her own sweet world.

I've learned that the best way to get things done is to get into the game yourself and then speak in words that the child will understand.  I can only give you the example of a father I saw in the park the other day.  His son was on a play instrument, with a "steering wheel."  He was deep into his game, and his concentration was obvious from his furiously furrowed eyebrows - he was honking, and driving to "Mysore".  The father tried once, twice, to tell his son, "Come on, it is 6, let's go home."  But the child could not even hear his father.  Then the father said, "Oh wonderful, we've reached Mysore!  Now, come on, let's look for a parking space - ah look, there between two cars, under the tree.  Can you park there?  You can?  Wonderful.  Come on, now, let's go."

The child "parked" his vehicle immediately, jumped off the platform into his father's waiting arms, and went off happily.  I was really pleased that day.  It is so rare to see someone handling such things without raging against the child.

It works for me too - I usually sit and watch Puttachi's play take its own course - but when it is dinnertime or bedtime or schooltime and things just have to be done before such and such a time, I join in her play and gently nudge it in the direction that I want it to - it works ninety percent of the time.  And I have a happy kid cooperating with me after that.


Arundhati said...

Same here! When the tactic works (which it never fails to do) I am always delighted :)
There are times I do get psyched though - at the beginning of the school holidays P misses his classmates so much, he conducts conversations with half a dozen imaginary friends... it is so real that it is scary!

Anonymous said...

Absolutely so cute! How I envy her imagination!


Adu said... the part about her shoes :)

austere said...

You have a smart kid.

counters,magic shoes and whatnot!

Anonymous said...

I recommend Erik Erikson's work on Child's psycho-social development. Very interesting insight into individual's psycho-socialogical developmental stages, especially seven stages he discusses, and may be you can elaborate on those concepts using your daughter's (and other kids too) developmental stages. Just a suggestion...
You are not only a creative writer, but a psychologist who understands human behavior, especially children. All the best and hope to see some great literary contributions from you in the near future. Also, I suggest you read (if you haven't already!) Anita Rao Badami's novels 'Tamarind Mem' and 'The Heroes Walk'. Her works bring out the essence of Indic culture (especially Kannada culture), and she captures this using English language (like you do...). Anita's writing is an illustration of how any language can be employed to portray any culture (they are not inseparable, as many writers (especially Kannada writers) claim. Good luck with your journey into a child's world of wonderland....

Anonymous said...

hey shruthi,
have you ever made your child sad by your actions? recently I scolded my daughter multiple times the same day and she looked very sad on our drive back from home..... SAD!!! she is barely a year and a half and
she was sad!!!!!! grrr I cant believe I got her in a situation which caused her to be sad.

Shruthi said...

Arundhati, ha ha, you are so right, it is scary at times!

Ano, I know!! I do too!

Adu, I found that LOL funny!

Austere, imaginative, most definitively.

Anon on 11th, thank you so much for your words, and the recommendations. I haven't read Anita Rau Badami, though I've heard quite a bit about her. Will do. And I just love human nature and psychology and why people behave like they do... that's it! :) Oh, and please leave your name!

Anon on 18th, are you sure she was sad? Not hungry, tired, sleepy? Children of that age get over feelings of sadness very quickly, from what I remember. Don't hit yourself too much about it - it does happen. Sometimes, we parents are so stressed that we snap, and our little ones bear the brunt of your anger. I've also hurt my child sometimes. But when you realize that the child is hurt, the best thing you can do is apologize to the child for losing your temper, talking a little about your child's behaviour and yours, and what was right and what was wrong, and then cuddle and kiss and make it all right! :) Do mail me if you have any more queries... it feels a little strange typing so much in the comments section ;)

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