Balancing Extracurricular Activities

Dr Arun Prakash

Parents, first and foremost, it is important to… understand and recognize the activities your child is naturally gravitating towards. It’s important also to ensure that your child likes what he or she is doing. I believe in exposing children to as many hobbies and extracurricular activities as possible.-Legendary Chess Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand

Mrs. Mohina Barua is a highly educated and cultured lady. She was an exceptional student with a keen interest in ancient history. Aspiring to join the civil services, she enrolled in a coaching institute. At a party, she met Dr. Gautam Barua, a young captain in the Army Medical Corps. Their mutual attraction quickly blossomed into love, leading to marriage. Due to Dr. Barua’s military career, the family frequently moved across different parts of the country. Within two years of their marriage, their daughter Medha was born, and time seemed to fly by unnoticed. Consequently, Mohina’s aspirations of contributing to society as a civil servant remained an unrealized dream.

Medha, their 10-year-old daughter, attends a prestigious school . Mohina, a devoted mother, dedicates her full time to nurturing Medha, determined to provide her with every opportunity she herself missed or could not achieve. Mohina meticulously plans every minute of Medha’s schedule with precision.

As their next-door neighbours, we often observe the hustle and bustle of their lives. Medha’s day begins at exactly 5:00 am, when she is gently roused by her mother for a yoga session. Under the watchful guidance of a yoga teacher via Skype, Medha practices yoga from 5:00 to 6:00 am. By 6:50 am, she is ready for school, just in time for the arrival of her school’s well-maintained AC luxury bus.

Medha is a happy child and excels academically, consistently scoring above 90 percent in her classes. Her school offers an array of activities, and Medha participates in nearly all of them, including dance, drama, music, coding, swimming, and various literary and cultural events. Mohina ensures that Medha seizes every opportunity for participation, whether it’s intra-class, inter-house, inter-school competitions, or other events. Mohina closely monitors school notices and announcements to guarantee that Medha misses no such opportunities.

Medha returns home at 3:00 pm, usually not very hungry, thanks to the school-provided lunch. After a light snack, as recommended by their family dietician based in Mumbai, Medha is off to her next activity. At 3:30 pm, Mohina drives Medha to a nearby music school for ballet lessons, a dream Mohina herself could not pursue in her youth. Additionally, Medha learns Bharatanatyam, a classical dance form, at school.

Upon returning home at 4:30 pm, Medha has 30 minutes of screen time, during which she watches carefully curated educational content under Mohina’s supervision. Mohina believes cartoons and games are mere distractions and insists on more meaningful activities.

Every day, from 5:00 to 6:00 pm, Medha attends classical music lessons at the Shankar Mahadevan Academy. Following this, at 6:15 pm, she has piano lessons with a renowned western classical musician, learning compositions from Mozart and Beethoven, much to Mohina’s delight.

Medha’s evenings include health supplements, followed by tuition classes from 7:30 pm. Two tutors, Shuchi Ma’am and Sharma Sir, teach her math, science, social sciences, and literature. By 9:30 pm, Medha finishes her dinner and, promptly at 10:15 pm, she goes to bed.

The weekends are just as structured, with French classes from Dr. Krishnaswamy, chess sessions with Mr. Shashank Das, poetry writing with Mrs. Williams, and art lessons from a renowned artist. Additionally, Medha is expected to read three books a month, ranging from mythology to biographies. Mohina also maintains a personal blog for Medha, showcasing her poems, articles, book reviews, and other creative works.

Mohina is committed to making Medha an all-rounder and even envisions her as a model, given her charm and beauty. She spares no effort in preparing Medha for various competitions, taking pride in her daughter’s achievements. She believes Medha is second to none.

Medha is fortunate to have such a caring and dedicated mother. When Medha is at school, Mohina prepares her assignments, tasks, and practice materials, ensuring everything is ready for her daughter’s return.

The story of Mrs. Mohina Barua and her daughter Medha exemplifies a highly structured and ambitious parenting approach, embodying the aspirations of many mothers who seek to fulfill their own unrealized dreams through their children’s achievements.

 Here are some observations:

  1. High Aspirations and Involvement: Mrs. Mohina’s approach is characterized by her intense involvement in Medha’s life. She has high aspirations for her daughter, reflecting a desire for Medha to seize opportunities she herself missed. This level of involvement can be positive in fostering a range of skills and experiences.
  2. Over-scheduling: Medha’s schedule is extremely packed with various activities, ranging from academic tuition to extracurricular classes like ballet, music, and languages. While these activities are enriching, the sheer volume and intensity could be overwhelming for a child, leaving little time for unstructured play or relaxation.
  3. Academic and Cultural Enrichment: Medha is exposed to a diverse array of cultural and academic experiences, which can be beneficial for her cognitive and social development. However, it’s important to balance these structured activities with free time for creativity and exploration.
  4. Projection of Parental Ambitions: There’s an indication that Mrs. Mohina might be projecting her unfulfilled aspirations onto Medha. While it’s natural for parents to want the best for their children, it’s crucial to ensure that the child’s individual interests and passions are also nurtured.
  5. Physical and Mental Well-being: Medha’s routine includes physical activities and a focus on nutrition, which are positive for her health. However, the high demands and expectations might put pressure on her mental well-being. It’s important for children to also have time for relaxation and activities they personally enjoy.
  6. Parent-Child Bonding: The story suggests a strong bond between Mrs. Mohina and Medha, as Mohina is deeply involved in her daughter’s life. However, the quality of this relationship also depends on whether Medha feels heard and valued for who she is, not just for her achievements.
  7. Preparation for the Future: Mrs. Mohina’s approach is evidently aimed at preparing Medha for future success in various fields. This can be advantageous, but it’s also essential to consider if Medha is given the opportunity to develop skills such as independence, problem-solving, and resilience, which are crucial for long-term success and personal fulfilment.

Mrs. Mohina’s parenting style is marked by dedication and a desire to provide the best for Medha, it’s important to balance these aspirations with Medha’s individual needs, interests, and well-being. Every child is unique, and the most effective parenting approach is one that supports their overall development while respecting their individuality.

Balancing parental aspirations with a child’s individual needs, interests, and well-being is crucial for several reasons:

  1. Fostering Individuality: Children are unique individuals with their own passions and abilities. Overemphasis on parental aspirations can overshadow a child’s personal interests, potentially stifling their individual growth and self-discovery.
  2. Promoting Mental and Emotional Health: A highly structured and achievement-focused upbringing can create undue stress and pressure. Balancing this with attention to the child’s emotional and mental well-being helps in nurturing a more rounded, confident, and happy individual.
  3. Building Self-Efficacy: When children are encouraged to pursue their own interests and make some decisions for themselves, they develop a sense of autonomy and self-efficacy. This is crucial for their confidence and ability to navigate life’s challenges.
  4. Ensuring Long-term Success and Happiness: Success and happiness in life are not solely determined by academic or extracurricular achievements. Skills like resilience, adaptability, empathy, and the ability to form healthy relationships are equally important.

To strike a balance and raise a child who becomes a responsible, successful citizen, and lives life beautifully, consider the following aspects:

  1. Recognize the Child’s Individuality: Acknowledge and respect the child’s unique talents, interests, and personality. Encourage them to explore and pursue their passions, even if they differ from your own aspirations for them.
  2. Provide Support Without Overbearing Control: Be supportive and involved in your child’s life, but avoid micromanaging. Give them space to make choices, learn from mistakes, and develop independence.
  3. Encourage a Love of Learning: Instead of focusing solely on grades or victories, cultivate a genuine love of learning. Encourage curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking, which are invaluable in any field.
  4. Balance Structure with Free Time: While structured activities are beneficial, children also need unstructured time for play, relaxation, and socializing. This helps in developing social skills, creativity, and a sense of self.
  5. Emphasize Values and Character Development: Teach values such as kindness, empathy, responsibility, and integrity. Model these values in your own behavior, as children learn a lot through observation.
  6. Promote Physical and Mental Health: Encourage a healthy lifestyle, including balanced nutrition, physical activity, and adequate sleep. Also, be attentive to their mental health, providing support or seeking professional help if necessary.
  7. Foster Resilience and Problem-Solving Skills: Teach children to face challenges, cope with setbacks, and solve problems independently. This builds resilience, a key trait for lifelong success and adaptability.
  8. Open Communication: Maintain an open line of communication. Listen to their thoughts and feelings without judgment. This helps in building trust and understanding.
  9. Community Involvement: Encourage involvement in community activities. This fosters a sense of social responsibility and connectedness.
  10. Encourage a Broad Perspective: Expose them to diverse cultures, ideas, and experiences. This broadens their perspective, fostering tolerance and a deeper understanding of the world.

Remember, the goal of parenting is not just to prepare a child for success in the traditional sense but to nurture a well-rounded individual who can lead a fulfilling life and contributing positively to society.

Here I want to Highlight a critical aspect of parenting that aligns perfectly with the principles of nurturing a child’s individuality and ensuring their happiness and fulfilment. Let’s break down this approach:

  1. Recognizing Natural Inclinations: Every child is unique, with specific interests and talents. Observing and understanding these natural inclinations is essential. When children show a keen interest or particular skill in an area, it’s a strong indicator of where their passions lie. Encouraging these interests helps in their overall development and self-esteem.
  2. Enjoyment is Key: It’s vital that children enjoy their activities. Engagement in hobbies or extracurricular activities should not feel like a chore or an obligation. When children find joy in what they do, they are more likely to be motivated, perform well, and develop a deeper understanding and love for the activity.
  3. Exposure to Diverse Activities: As Viswanathan Anand suggests, exposing children to a variety of fields is beneficial. This exposure allows them to explore different options, discover new interests, and make informed choices about what they truly enjoy and want to pursue further.
  4. Valuing the Child’s Choices: While it’s important to present children with options, their preferences should be a priority. This approach respects the child as an individual with their own dreams, aspirations, and choices, different from those of their parents.
  5. Avoiding Projection of Parental Desires: Parents should be cautious not to project their own unfulfilled dreams or aspirations onto their children. Children should be allowed to chart their own paths, even if these differ from what their parents envisioned for them.
  6. Balancing Aspirations with Child’s Preferences: While it’s natural for parents to aspire for their children, these should be balanced with the child’s interests. This balance is crucial for the child’s mental and emotional well-being.
  7. Making Reasonable Adjustments: While prioritizing the child’s interests, it’s also necessary to adjust based on practical considerations like the child’s age, the feasibility of the activity, and family circumstances.

The parenting approach should be one of guidance and support, rather than control. It’s about nurturing the child’s innate talents and interests, and helping them develop into confident, independent, and fulfilled individuals. This philosophy aligns well with the themes of child-cantered education and parenting, emphasizing the importance of recognizing and nurturing each child’s unique potential.

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