Parenting in today’s world has become a specialized field. It is not simply bringing up of children in a secure and friendly environment. It is the art of churning out the perfect child, a role model for his peers, a feather in the cap of proud parents. Today’s generation is not satisfied with normal routine for a child. While applying for school admission for a pre-schooler, parents look for schools that have extra-curricular activities to offer, in addition to good education. In their prospectus schools also display and highlight their other activities and programmes for holistic development of the child.
It is healthy for children of today to participate in extra-curricular activities, in the school premises or outside. Such activities help improve their social skills, academic abilities, self-esteem and health. But choosing the right kind of activity is important. Parents have to make this choice for the kids based on their kid’s aptitude and interests. In order to choose the best activity for your children, you should ask them what type of things they are interested in. Remember, the activity is about the child, not you. In the competitive environment, parents with the best of intentions, often forget what will suit their child. Each set of parents want their child to become a wizkid. They dream of an Einstein, a Tiger Woods, a Leander Paes and a Beethoven rolled into one. They want to live their dreams through their children.
It is also interesting to note that a child’s extra classes are a symbol of social status. Among the upper middle class it is expected that a seven or eight-year-old will be joining golf classes or tennis classes at the club or dance classes. As a result, often children are placed in activities they are not interested in. Being in an activity that does not really interest your child can lead to anger and resentment.
While choosing the additional classes the aim of the exercise should be clear, whether the classes are meant for learning professional sport or assisting in future college admission or are for solely recreational purposes.
Another factor to be taken into account before sending your child for extra-curricular activities is to understand your child’s potential. A child can become overwhelmed and tired by too many activities. This could affect his school work. A child cannot be expected to know his limitation. It is the parent who can decide how many additional activities are alright for his child. For this a simple step that can be taken is to sit down with your child at the beginning of a new term in school, go through all his books and understand what is required from him in school during the new session. After you are satisfied that the child has understood his school work, offer him the extra activities that you feel he can do along with his daily work. Encourage him to initially choose one activity rather than many so that he can continue and excel in it. Always assure him that he will not be judged by his performance in the extra classes.
It is important that children learn to stay with the activity they have chosen until it comes to an end. This will teach them responsibility. If the child isn't happy in an activity, talk about it to try to find out where the problem is, and work out a way to resolve it. You will not only be teaching your child how to resolve problems, but you will also be teaching valuable social skills. If there is a legitimate reason for quitting an activity, allow your child to do so, and then encourage him to find another one. Also understand that quitting certain activities does not mean that your child will quit everything in life.
However, simply by enrolling the child in a class is not good enough. Parents have to show their involvement in his activities. By attending events and important meetings of that extra class, you as a parent provide the emotional support the child needs to do that activity.
The new avenues opened for kids of today offer a whole world of knowledge. With modern methodology children are becoming sharper and brighter. Various learning centres are coming up to provide cutting edge to the children. These additional classes have several benefits too. For example, these activities teach kids time management and prioritizing things in life. Such concepts go a long way in helping them juggle different tasks in adult life. Also early exposure to diverse fields of interest builds up a child’s personality. His talents nurtured by these classes raise his self-esteem and confidence.
Social skills of a child are honed by these additional classes as he learns to work and get along with peers. He learns to be responsible in an environment outside school. In a way these activities channelise a child’s energies and discourage him from indulging in wrong habits.
Finally, all the hard work done in childhood pays rich dividends in college life as most colleges not only look at grades, but they take a look at extracurricular activities that students are involved in while they are in school.
Of course, while participating in a few activities is a great idea, there is a point where you need to draw a line. Your kids do not have to be involved in many activities to be a success. It’s important that kids don’t try to "do it all," but that they have a passion and commitment to a few activities, which definitely builds character. Students today are burdened with school and home work. However, a healthy dose of physical exercise and extra curricular activities is beneficial to polish their talents and abilities.
Learning job oriented skills from the additional classes such as English and Mathematics is a primary requirement. Such classes are best return on investment as these skills will help life long. However, if the purpose of choosing such classes is purely recreational, give your child skills he can enjoy for a larger period of time, for example music and less strenuous sports like swimming and golf. These are sports that a man can cherish even in his old age. Never discourage the natural talents of a child. As James Allen beautifully summarises in his book, As You Think, “…composers, sculptors, painters, poets, these are the makers of the after-world, the architects of heaven.”
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