Developing Skills in Children -- What Parents Should Know

Most parents believe that life is like a rat race and running madly for winning is the goal of one and all. They believe that the world is savagely competitive and they genuinely want their off springs to outsmart other children in competitions and excel in everything – be it studies, sports, elocution, drawing, singing, dancing, acting, karate, learning English, discarding mother tongue(!) and what not.

And unfortunately, many parents genuinely don’t know what excellence means. Excellence means being truly superior in something. And that superior state comes through several channels. These channels include availability of inborn skills, basic and genuine interest in the activity, right and experienced coaching, dedication and hard work, regular practice, commitment to achieving high degree of quality etc.

Out of all these, what is extremely predominant is inborn skills – skills and qualities that come in the blood, through genes or through divine grace. Especially activities related to fine arts (like music, drawing, dancing, playing of musical instruments etc) in children are very dependent on inborn skills. Of course in young age, through effective teaching and training some amount of these skills can be taught to the children. But excelling? That would be difficult in the absence of inborn skills.

A boy or girl with inborn skill in say, drawing and painting would automatically know many nuances of sketching, coloring, shading etc without the need of a systematic teaching. If such a boy is given the right coaching by a genuinely knowledgeable teacher, the rate at which he can pick up skills and excel would be at amazing proportions in comparison with another who is not gifted with inborn skills.

Natural or acquired skill?
Natural or acquired skill? | Source

Unfortunately, many parents don’t know or understand this simple and fundamental fact, but want their children to somehow excel in something.

Going one step further, if the parents themselves are hopelessly ignorant about what excellence genuinely means in an activity of skill that they forcefully want their children to excel, the parents indeed are doing damage to their children through their blind attachment. They are indeed contributing negatively in the life of their children and they themselves get trapped into disappointment.

Parents who cannot differentiate between a suswaram and abhaswaram (right note and off-key note) or simply between good singing and bad singing, may insistently train their child having little taste or inborn skill in Carnatic music.

The child may go through learning this music mechanically even for years. He or she may sing like a parrot whatever learned, with the soul of the music missing or with least awareness about what is right or wrong in the singing. The parents may display extreme pride in the singing of their child! But to what avail? They get disappointed when their child does not win in music competitions. They themselves cannot understand nor guide their child to appreciate a truly superior singer in the class who always wins competitions. They end up sowing the seeds of envy, hatred etc in their children; they may even pave the way for some sort of complex in their children.

Years ago when my little daughter was studying in elementary school and also learning carnatic music, the following incidence happened.

Girl singing Carnatic music
Girl singing Carnatic music | Source

A music competition for young children was arranged by a Music Sabha near our house. My daughter participated it. Normally I don’t show much interest in such competitions and since the Sabha was at a stone-throw distance, I decided to drop by and witness the goings on. I saw one young boy from another school singing extraordinarily well and the moment I heard it, it was clear as crystal that he is the one going to bag the price. If I remember right, my daughter too could recognize it as she had some good music sense in her and both she and my wife left the place much before the results were announced.

I perhaps didn't have any work that day and I stayed back for a while to see how other children were faring. The greatest surprise to me was that so many parents of children who sang horribly were waiting eagerly to know the announcement of results and many were very visibly disappointed when the result was announced!

As the crowd dispersed, I could overhear some parents murmuring that there was "partiality" in the award of winners and some selections were predetermined!

Which school can ever teach to change such mindsets of parents?

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