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Inculcating initiative in kids

Initiative essentially is one’s own personal and responsible decision. Simplistically, it is to notice something is required to be done and doing it without being asked to do it. In the background it may or may not require resources, help, and knowledge from others.

Inculcating this winning attitude early in childhood paves the way to a smarter, happier and more successful life ahead. While the description above makes it look like a huge daunting task; the science behind would definitely ease it to a walk in the park. And so that our walk is pleasant, enjoyable and fruitful, the journey has to begin timely with complete knowledge and confidence.With the toddlers and pre-schoolers gaining new abilities every day, they start experimenting and trying out new things. This is the foundation of initiative. And how this initiative is dealt with by the parents at this stage will set the tone for life ahead.

Lil Miss A watches her mother watering the plants every day. One day she decides to water the plants for her mother as she was busy cooking for a festival next day. And well she does quite a good job at it. She made sure all her favourite flowers enjoyed their drink. And in the excitement to share the good job done, she comes home with her shoes full of mud. What will be your response as a mother? (time to reflect..)

Few ideas that help you be a champion:

# Children by default are programmed to do, experiment, try, act, and experience things. What takes this default to the off mode is experiencing “fear”, “disappointment” and “No”. Providing a safe, open and encouraging environment is the first step in preparing the field for developing this winning habit in your kids.

# Give them freedom to choose: The freedom to choose for themselves is cherished equally by my 8 year old and the 2 year old. The idea of choosing their things bring instant ownership and happiness that nothing in the world can get. Thanks to my husband the word “Options” is the favourite word in my household. So whether it’s the breakfast or the dress that the kids want to wear, whether it is deciding their after school classes or fixing their daily schedule, I try to give them options to choose from.

# Make them think: Initiative is directly linked to responsibility. So when my kid comes and asks me “Mom what should I do in a situation S”, that’s when I put my listening ears on and redirect the question to what do you think you should do? Let’s see what options you have? So what would happen if you choose to do X and not Z. And that’s how we decide what should be done.

Be accepting, allow them to fail sometimes: We would not have been what we are if our parents were over protective about us. It’s a good idea to let the children learn from experiences; whether it’s a success or a failure, each one plays an important role in the learning process.

# Like a failure is an opportunity to discuss the wrongs, a success opens the field for discussion about what was done rightly and how to move forward with it. Each failure discussion must end with how it could be done differently and what results would that create. Adorn the hat of a mentor for your kids, always be available on the side lines but never do it for them.

# Children learn by modelling and imitating: The best way to inculcate a habit is by modelling the behaviour yourself. So if they see you doing it, they will do it as well. Also when you are displaying a positive behaviour it’s always a great idea to say it aloud so as to get their attention to the desired behaviour. For example “The screw of the door knob is getting loose, let me get the screw driver and fix it.”

# Listen & help them explore their passions: When my kid comes to me complaining of boredom, whining about what to do. That is the opportunity I use to know what strikes a chord with them. What is it that they want to do or feel strongly about and encourage them to do it. That is the time for me to take the initiative, to show them that I am going an extra mile to make it happen for them, with them.

# Encourage, Encourage and Encourage: Nothing works better than positive reinforcements for bettering behavior. Encourage them for their initiatives. Appreciate them for the person they are. And see your buds bloom into colorful flowers….

Add to your to do list:

Let your kids organize games/activities in family time. Support them with resources. Improvise their ideas. Plan a 1 hour slot every weekend for them to implement their ideas of fun. Once my daughter organised a visual story representation. She needed pics of few characters and I helped her with print outs. She created the background and narrated the whole story with the help of pictures. Rocking fun time for the younger kid who was so excited to assist in the all kids project. Another such initiative was when she organised games for a play date for the younger kid and his friends.

Small post it notes of appreciation when kids show initiative go long way in building confidence and positively reinforcing the behaviour. My 8 year old daughter has kept the wardrobe organized for 6 whole weeks with everything neatly stacked. I put a post it note saying, your cupboard is the neatest one and I love coming back to it again and again… makes me happy and proud. Keep it up, my princess. I tried the same thing for my 2 year old when he used to keep his clothes in the laundry basket after his change. His initiative was always accompanied with a good job from me and one evening I announced his good habit during our family time and we all clapped for him.

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