To my son Ali

I walked through softly murmuring hospital aisle of Obstetrics department, I went to the reception and asked for my blood test reports. “Name ?”, she asked without looking at me, to shuffle through the tad of reports she had lying on her organized desk. Her skilled, back and forth moving fingers stopped at one. She looked at me and said your case has been transferred to Oncology, please take an appointment to see Oncology Surgeon.

For a moment I did not know what she was talking to me. I opened my reports, those dark bolded numbers had my heart sink into an unknown icy grip. Everything around me blurred out, a dark circle called fear, closed down encircling me. I did not take any appointment neither met my doctor. It was 5 minutes’ walk from my home to hospital but it took me an age to walk back home. The hot dry gale whizzing around was unaware of the gust that was swooshing down in my head.

Three months back I was tested positive for pregnancy. It was joy.

Life plays such crude jokes at a time when its all like a dream it sends a dream-shaker and throws you spiraling down in a reality vault.

I was diagnosed with a large hemorrhagic ovarian cyst which was swaying its tentacles right next to where my baby was growing. If my blood report was anything to go by it was malignant. What we casually call as cancerous. It still had to be ascertained by carrying out number of other tests.

I had two lives growing inside me, one was inter-lacing dreams between his slowly forming fingers and other was spreading its roots to stifle and snuff out every other life. One had to win.

But this is not about my medical history or a recount of each harrowing day I lived through to make it to the day I would see you in my arms. My son Ali, this is about you. If you will ever read this. And I am sure you will read this one day.

That battle was not fought alone by your father or me. You fought that too. You provided me the courage to look into the eye of storm flinging towards me. I don’t know how hard and struggle full was that for you to wriggle into life from just being a clot. It happens all the while, after the crossover from that life to this life. We have to wriggle back to life many a times. When struggles, defeats, disappointments and heartbreaks clamp us down. You know the art of wriggling back to life.

Somebody was calling out my name as if pulling me out from a deep dark hole. I opened my eyes slowly. Surgery was carried out. The cyst was removed. The first thing that I asked doctor was how was the baby inside. “Is he ok ?”. Doctor smiled and said, “Yes, absolutely fine.”

‘Are you ok ?’, remains the most important question till date. It will continue to be so even when I am not around. Its important for me to know how you fared after every scar, every push, every suffocating chamber like situation in life. You should be ok at the end. How you come out of it all will remain important. I would ask you, are you kind now, are you more grateful, are your more insightful and clairvoyant, strongly believe in love and giving out the best of you, are you more caring….are you charging forward and not tired.

When I walked into the hospital, it was decorated with frills and dangling golden and silver stars. A lush green Christmas tree was at the lounge with miniatures candies, shoes, gift boxes hanging along side colorful balls and stars. Yeah! that was the day you were born. Its said that there is light at the end of tunnel. So it was for you and me. Life changes and makes you dwell in two contrasting sides of it. Dark and Light. Defeats and Wins. When you came into my arms swaddled like a cocoon in white piece, you were the most beautiful person I had ever laid my eyes upon. You were way more handsome than your father.

To this day when you are reading this, know you are the handsomest person for me.

I am asking you “Are you wriggling back to life every time it clamps you down?”

And

“Are you ok ?”

Lovingly yours – Mumma

The Frog Prince – retold!

Toony Mum

frog-1591896_960_720When a kid in kindergarten gets work, it’s not the kid who gets the work, it’s we – the parents who get work. It’s our comprehensive ability at test. So when my ‘daughter’ received homework on learning and understanding the moral of the story ‘The Frog Prince’, it was inevitably I at work.

The best I could decipher, I wrote. “It’s a story of a princess who is fooled by a manipulative frog to free him from a curse.”

The next day, I found a red mark slanting deftly across the paragraph I had written with a one liner penned with much annoyance and haste at the bottom of it –

“That which thou hast promised must thou perform.”

With all sincere apologies to Grimm Brothers, I want to retell this story.

Instead of running amok perplexed and letting her father cajole her to give in to the demand of…

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Parenting hacks from Game theory

Games that chuntitledildren play often ends up in fights on -how unfair the other was with her or he got more share than her or she would be the first to start the game …. List is endless but what seem trivial or ‘not so important to adults becomes the matter of utmost prestige and importance to kids. The small things we have to do as parents for kids like sharing, dividing and compromising—become challenge.

We did it as kids and we continue to do this as adults also its just that our games are upgraded. Your colleague getting more bonus than you!

I see my daughter crying over the red ball that she wanted to play first or she remaining upset for days over who got more chocolates by granny or little sis getting more share of cake. I want to tell her its not such a big deal. Its not so important.  I want to cram my learnings of all these years and present a formula and feed my child!. I want to tell her – life is like this, mostly unfair, know your purpose, shuffle the cards and play your game. The instant challenge to present that instant formula feed for understanding and awareness of a 5-7 years old is how they would process that knowledge. So you need anecdotes, Asop fables and examples from daily life to bring your point home.

I was listening to Simon Sinek addressing leaders and executives and I was thinking if I have to present my 6 years old daughter with an idea of ‘Game theory’ how would I do that. The idea of playing your game. I can not give her example of MicroSoft & Apple and how Microsoft keeps an eye on Apple and how Apple just play its game….the concept of Finite and Infinite players. Though its not a bad idea to let the generation of instant gratification and gadgets know the theories of social interaction.

Game theory is a study of mathematics that aims to analyse the strategies competitive situations where the outcome of a participant’s choice of action depends critically on the actions of other participants. For example, a game of poker or bridge; hence “game” theory.

In a less literal sense, game theory can be applied to economics, and psychology as “the theory of social interactions”

Well, well, well ! that will be too much too soon. So, as parents I have to play my own games and little tricks.

New York Times reported that “researchers found that children as young as 19 months seem to understand the concept of fairness, and appear surprised by scenes of blatant favoritism – such as when one puppet is given toys and another puppet goes without. By age 7, some children will choose to forgo candy rather than get a significantly larger share than others”.

Here, I come across this book The Game Theorist’s Guide to Parenting coauthored by the award-winning journalist and father of five Paul Raeburn and the game theorist Kevin Zollman. They  paired up to highlight tactics from the worlds of economics and business that can help parents break the endless cycle of quarrels and ineffective solutions. “Raeburn and Zollman show that some of the same strategies successfully applied to big business deals and politics—such as the Prisoner’s Dilemma and the Ultimatum Game—can be used to solve such titanic, age-old parenting problems as dividing up toys, keeping the peace on long car rides, and sticking to homework routines.”( Scientific American, 2016)

In the book the author states that parents can divide time, but how can they fairly divide the “first time?” Coin tosses and simple games like rock, paper, scissors are often suggested, but they come with their own set of risks, like older kids taking advantage of their younger siblings. Instead, game theorists propose auctions.

According to the authors, “If you have one item that can’t be divided, you want to assign it to the person who desires it most.”

By using an auction system, kids are expected to announce how much they’d be willing to “pay” for an item or experience — Raeburn and Zollman suggest that payment be in the form of chores.

Another bonus: game theory empowers children to take ownership of their decisions and begin to comprehend the consequences — to themselves and others.

When children are faced with the job of cleaning up a joint mess, suggest “you pick up one, then he picks up one,” said Raeburn. “We had mixed results with Tit for Tat,” he admits. His 9-year-old son was able to manipulate his 6-year-old brother into doing more. “This probably works better with children who are closer in age, or at least both over 7.”

Credible Punishments: In game theory as in parenting, you have to deliver on your threats, like actually turning off the TV if you said you were going to, even if it punishes you too. Joshua Gans, an economist at the University of Toronto and the author of “Parentonomics,” offers advice for gaining a credible reputation at home. When his children were young and would disobey, he would say, “I’m thinking of a punishment.” It’s much easier to pretend to think of a punishment than to come up with a new one every time, he notes—or, worse, to issue a noncredible threat in the heat of the moment. (“That’s it, I’m canceling Christmas!”) Once he earned his credibility, he found that he had only to close his eyes and count to 10, and his children would spring into action.( Wall Street Journal, 2014)

All in all, these tricks are not going to work all the time in the desired fashion. Empathy and perspective as parents will always be needed with a cuddle to just reason out with your little one… if you can !

How to Talk About Death with Children?

talk childLike sex, death is one subject that we try best to steer clear of when asked by children. If coaxed beyond our capacity to resist, we give answers that confuse them. I remember as a kid, I was told that when people die they go to God. For many years I openly feared and secretly hated God for snatching away our loved ones.

There is no denying the fact children have different comprehension levels at different ages. Not all questions about death have easy answers so it is okay to say ‘I don’t know’. There are no perfect answers either. A few tips to take care of while talking with children:

  1. Be honest and gentle
  2. Listen carefully
  3. Don’t overwhelm them with information
  4. Repeat and ensure that they understand you

Often such conversations end with “Will you die too?” Children see death as separation. Never make promises to a child that you cannot keep. Instead, reassure the child that you plan to be with them for a long time, and that they will always be cared for.

Let’s quickly look at some questions related to death that children ask and ways to deal with them.

What is a dead person?

Instead of giving euphemisms like “long sleep,” “going away,” or “passing” may be confusing to children. Let them know a dead person is one who stops breathing, talking, eating, walking. The body does not function anymore. Show them examples of what happens to dead things like birds, computers, birds etc. It easier for children to process hard facts than we think.

When do people die?

The book Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children by Bryan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen. It explains the lifetime of each living creature. It beautifully and gently explains that for each one of us there is a beginning, middle and end. A small excerpt from the book reads:

“Butterflies live as butterflies for only a few weeks. Once they have dried their wings, they flutter and flit from leaf to flower. At first, they are bright and quick, but as time passes they begin to slow down, until finally they can go no further. They rest for a while, and then they die. That is the way butterflies live, and that is their lifetime.”

Will I die too?

All living creatures have a lifetime, eventually we all will die but children are healthy and sturdy and live long lives.

Where do dead people go?

Soul is what makes us special and that’s what exists after body stops its function. To be a special soul we have to do special things in our lives – to love and be loved. Soul lives on long after the body stops functioning. Soul is ‘hope’, a way our loved ones live on in our memories and heart when they are gone.

Overcoming your own fears about death is important before you talk with children. Let them know that death is part of the circle of life and encourage them to live a healthy and happy life.

 

These are the toon characters I would take to psychologist

elsa

 

Case 1: In my neighbourhood live two guys and a girl who are normal people by the day. They go to offices and college respectively, but during the night they become someone else.

Case 2: I know a little boy who frequently slips into his world of dreams and has imaginary friends who come to life to have fun with him when nobody is around.

Case 3. There is a young girl who is suspicious that she may harm others with her powers. So, she has shut the door to the world outside.

You may say that these young boys and girls are in urgent need of visit to the nearest psychiatrist available. Case 1 is the theme of PJ masks, case 2 is Calvin of Calvin & Hobbes series and case 3 our very own Elsa of Frozen fame. Today let’s mute the comical sounds, keep aside the gaudy and garish play of colours on the screen and get down to the messages these toon personalities have to peddle across. The closer you will look at them the more untoward they will appear. Many children are taking them as their role models and copying them in everything they do.

So, let’s examine today, are they good enough to be copied? Are they suffering from any personality disorder? Grave it sounds but it’s a reality that is sprawling its slimy legs in our lives. More and more people are getting affected by emotional and behavioral problems. Health of a child has five dimensions– social, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Social health is how well they establish positive relationship with their peers, family and colleagues. Unlike our time (or rather my time, ‘coz you might be younger than me.   As a child I was deprived of cartoons, cables were something that ‘only Uncle D’ had in the neighbourhood then) cartoons are playing a very influencing role. Our children’s social behaviour is very moulded and sculpted by what they watch.

Let’s see which of our favorite toons have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder): It’s common in children but it may persist through adolescence as well. Its characteristics are inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. Some interesting examples are:

Kalia (Chota Bheem) – Overlooks or misses details, makes careless mistakes. Avoids or dislikes tasks that require sustained mental effort.

Nobita (Doremon) –Does not follow through on instructions, fails to finish schoolwork, or starts tasks but quickly loses focus and gets easily distracted.

Scooby (Scooby -Doo) – Becomes easily distracted by distinct thoughts or stimuli.

Tigger (Winnie the Pooh) – Looking for  “fun, fun, fun, fun” reflects his  ADHD personality which is accelerated by impulses.

Joey, Dee-Dee and Marky (Oggy & the cockroaches) – Running or dashing around or climbing in situations where it is inappropriate, often feeling restless.

Minions (Despicable Me) – They jump from one thing to the next, have difficulty in focusing on one thing for anylength of time. They are easily distracted and often put themselves and others in dangerous situations.

Bart (The Simpsons) – He plays pranks in annoying ways. Being constantly in reckless motion.

Though there is no complete cure of ADHD but if you are concerned that your child displays any or all of these symptoms, you may take the help of a psychologist. The treatment helps reduce the symptoms. ADHD is commonly treated with medication, education or training, therapy, or a combination of treatments.

Cartoons have their own funny-loonyworldwhich is also reflective of the world we live in. It’s not just that they influence us. Their characters are influenced by reality around us. They give us a lead to understand and identify problems.

Oh! About the three cases I mentioned in the beginning.

Case 1: It is a case of Dissociative personality disorder, wherein two or more distinct personalities recurrently take control of an individual’s behaviour.

Case 2: It is a case of Schizophrenia where Calvin believes that Hobbes comes to life when no one else is around he hallucinates about adventures with his tiger.

Case 3: It is a case of Agoraphobia. She fears she may harm others with her powers and makes the choice to isolate herself in a castle and she refuses to meet anyone.

Have you observed any such thing in your favourite cartoon? Do contribute to the list here.

A Letter to My Mother

woman-typing-writing-windowsDear Ma,

Saying thanks could be so hard I never knew. Thanks for molding, shaping and sculpting who I am.

The gratitude is for not one event, one chance, one moment but for the life I live, the courage that strengthens me, the hope that brighten me, values that guide me and wisdom that shapes me.

Gratitude for every warp and weft of my wings that you knitted in colors for years, and then willingly cut off from your fingers to let me fly to explore the wonders of the sky. Was it easy for you to cut those twines from your fingers or did you feel the same joy that lapped against the shore of your heart, when the cord was cut between you and me and I was woken to the shimmering shades of life? You rejoiced to see the symphony you composed flailing its limbs and fluttering its eyes lashes at you.

This moment is weighing me down because no matter what all I say it won’t suffice to unburden me. I am sorry and I am thankful. I owe you and I can never repay you.

Here, I am writing this letter, lingering over every word and reliving my childhood, teenage and youth in those pauses. So many emotions ebb together then wash off into the depths of my soul. I feel happy, sad, lost, found, strong and weak – all at the same time.

Let me tell you I feel sorry for the plates of food I left behind while rushing for office. I am sorry for the messy wardrobes. I am sorry for the harsh words. I am sorry for silly moments when I thought that “you don’t understand ”. You know ma, today I think you knew me better than I ever did myself.

Now, when I am thousands of miles away from you I face this world all by myself. In between putting up the show of being strong and independent, and somewhere in the middle of playing roles of a mother, wife, colleague and friend, I break down and feel like crawling back to the warmth of your lap.

When I am misunderstood, I miss you because no words were needed between us… you could read my silence. When my work is not acknowledged, I miss you because you clapped at the doodles I drew on the walls. When I slog through days in fever without anyone noticing, I miss you because you would touch, flip-flap, my forehead even when I was just quiet.

I wish those moments could roll back, the carefree days of my childhood. I wish I could live them again. Or may this be just a dream, I would wake up to your calls to get ready for school.

Ma I love you that is all I can say. You are very special to me.

Happy Mother’s Day

Yours,

Daughter

How to raise children as conscious buyers ?

Consumerism (2)The whining of a child had me turn my head towards a boy, barely 5 years old – lying on his back –erratically flinging his four limbs on the floor. The drama was going on in a supermarket. He was accompanied by two miserable creatures, undoubtedly his parents who were standing by his side and trying to woo him to get up on his legs. After a little tetchy crabby scene by all the characters, Mama finally scooped up the Spiderman toy from the store shelf and shoved it into their trolley. Peace, thus prevailed.

How many times have you witnessed or experienced the same tug-of-war between a child’s relentless persuasion and a parent’s grounded reasoning?

Who won? The little boy? No. The winning trophy belonged to an invisible team of experienced marketing strategists and product designers behind that querulous child’s persuasion. Dr. Dan Cook, Faculty of Advertising and Sociology at the University of Illinois, describes it in the following words:

It is the sound of thousands of hours of market research, of an immense coordination of people, ideas and resources, of decades of social and economic change all rolled into a single, ‘Mommy, pleeease!’

I am no exception. On my daughter’s birthday I bought balloons which had Frozen movie motifs. She wore Elsa’s gown. The cake too had ice flakes and glitters and all pretty shades of blue. But let me bare my heart. I worry a lot about this growing trend that is luring our children into consumerism, leveraging the attachments they have for their favorite cartoons. We casually praise the birthday girl’s dress and admire the twinkle in her tiara. That’s where I worry. Let me explain myself.

I worry that those praises showered on her because of her dress and the crown should not corner her to believe that she is nothing if that crown and dress are taken away. Or on certain occasions my daughter eyes somebody’s toy and pesters me to buy that over expensive toy which is beyond my budget. Isn’t an atmosphere of greed, peer pressure, jealousy and unnecessary spending brewing up? And aren’t we all playing our bits?

Children develop attachments for their favorite cartoon characters, providing marketers a convenient and stealthy way into our purses.

Warner Bros has tied up with about 20 companies in India including retailers such as Tata group, Trent and Primus Retail for selling merchandises of cartoon characters including Batman, Superman, Tom and Jerry and Scooby-Doo. (Source: Financial Express).

Consider this: Cartoons are on school bags, tiffin boxes, in video games, on blankets – they are everywhere. Cartoons are selling everything to kids who are being tempted towards junk and unhealthy food by using these cartoon character as baits.

How can we raise our children as conscious buyers ?

Let’s tackle this question in two parts

I: The Finance: saving, recycling and conscious buying

II: The Psychology: Things we buy do not define us!

Though many of them will sound too familiar because they are typical Indian style of parenting and many of us were reared on these knacks of ‘great Indian moms’.

 The Finance

  1. Buy them a piggy bank.
  2. Give them pocket money.
  3. Tell them to save ‘now’ to buy something better in ‘future’.
  4. Tell them ‘all that glitters is not gold’. Their favorite cartoon motif does not ensure quality of the product.
  5. Tell them about the traps of advertisements.
  6. Tell them we should ‘buy what we need not what we desire’.
  7. Tell them to make decisions between ‘make’ or ‘buy’.
  8. Involve them in the discussions of house budgeting and spending.
  9. Let them make their buying decision but in a controlled way help them weigh the features, utility and price.
  10. Let them understand the need of recycling and value of refraining from wastage.

The Psychology:

  1. Instill confidence in them by endorsing their good behavior. Put good behavior over branded clothes.
  2. Let them discover their talent and let them take pride in that. Let them wear it as their identity.
  3. Stop them from comparing their things with their peers. Reason out the utility and durability of those things.
  4. Tell them what stays is one’s talent and character.
  5. Tell them about the perils of following the herd.
  6. Tell them to follow what’s right even if they have to walk alone.
  7. Give them examples from the lives of people who made it big with their hard work and surely the brands they had no hand in their success.
  8. Be with them, handhold them through their childhood & adolescence lest they give into peer pressure.
  9. Remember, no present can substitute your presence.
  10. Talk and talk with your kids but make sure you walk the talk first.

Cartoons Which Make Learning Math Fun!

The subject that I dreaded the most was Math. Had it not been my ability to rote the final answer up to decimals, I would have never waded through my academic years. Till very recently, I was a happy soul that my Math-nightmares were over without flunking any year. But my happiness was short lived.

It is again in front of me, staring me in the face, now when my little one looks at me to teach her math. How I squeezed my way through it is not worth recommending to my kids.

In the book ‘The Joy of x’, author Steven Strogatz says “Math is everywhere, if you know where to look. We will spot sine waves in zebra stripes, hear echoes of Euclid in the Declaration of Independence, and recognize signs of negative numbers in the run up of World War -I. And we will see how our lives today are being touched by new kinds of math, as we search for restaurants online and try to understand – not to mention survive – the frightening swings in the stock market.” After reading this, a mist of depression hovered over me and I survived my first heartache. (Can you feel my pain? ) There are people who see so much math around and then there are people who want to close their eyes and sleep at the mere sight of a math book. I’m not proud of being the latter category.

I started looking for cartoons who can teach Math and its fundamentals in an engaging and funny way. I remember one episode of Sesame Street episode which Strogatz also cited in the first Chapter of his book ‘The Joy of x’. The episode was called ‘123, Count with Me’, in which a customer shouts his orders as “Fish, Fish, Fish, Fish, Fish, Fish” instead of saying “6 Fish”. It was such a funny, simple yet innovative way of making preschoolers understand the value of numbers. They are shortcuts to remember things. You see what numbers do – they make our life easier.

The team of writers of The Simpsons  includes mathematicians. Al Jean who is now executive producer, went to Harvard University to study mathematics at the age of just 16. It’s not a surprise that all Simpsons series have serious jokes (yeah, I mean!) about mathematical equations or concepts. The famous character Lisa-Homer and Marge’s daughter, is an expert in trigonometry and algorithms.

Here I go with a list of cartoons that make learning math fun!

1.       NumberJacks: It has some live action too. My 5 year old daughter is very fond of it. It is a squad of 0-9 numbers who lives under a sofa and goes out to solve problems. The best one which helped my daughter to remember ‘which two numbers make ten’ is my favorite too. Do watch “Sphere today gone tomorrow”.

 2.      Team Umizoomi: It has Milli, Geo, Bot and Umicars who go around solving problems. They work on problems which involve preschool mathematical concepts like counting, sequences, shapes, patterns, measurements, and comparisons. The recommended age group is 3-7 years.

 3.      Peg+cat: Peg, a young girl along with her indigo cat, who is her best friend goes out to solve problems that have mathematical solutions. The episodes which I also enjoyed are: ‘The Three Bears Problem” and “ The Tree Problem”. It is a good watch for kids under 6.

 4.      Brain Pop: Tim and Moby talk of different concepts including a wide range of subjects – English, Science, Math, History, Art and Computing. In fact, Brain Pop is shown in many schools to assist learning and understanding of children. Their episodes on math are worth watching with your kids.

 5.      Blaze and the Monster Machines: AJ is an 8-year-old techie who drives a monster-truck Blaze. The two go on adventures that have them taking on problems involving science and math. It’s educational, delightful and fun to watch.

 6.      Cyber ChaseA bad man wants to control the world. Cyber kids spoil his attempts by solving math puzzles. 6-12 years will find it funny and interesting.

 This is not a comprehensive list. This is what all I have seen and could remember. It would be fun to add to the list here, do share what’s your favorite cartoon that can aid learning math.

Toony Mum’s Tip – Don’t forget to screen them before you watch them with your cubs! 😊

 Peg-cat

How I Finally Got Success In Limiting The Screen Time Of My Overindulgent Daughter?

Much to my chagrin, my husband bought an iPad for my daughter on her second birthday. As if the non-stop cartoon network wasn’t enough! I was then working in a 9 to 6 job and my daughter was taken care of by her grandparents – who, if you know Indian grandparents – were raining their mushy slushy love for their grandchild by allowing her to do things ‘her’ way. My weekends were usually spent on running errands. The end result was that my 2-year-old was becoming an expert in video games and a walking encyclopedia on cartoons.

I swear I’m not exaggerating. I’ve had several moments of uneasiness listening to her impeccable knowledge on cartoon genealogy when I wouldn’t even know my great grandfather’s name. My smiles at her gaming feats would diffuse into thin air when she would throw tantrums and make a terrible racket as soon as the TV was switched off or her iPad was taken away at the behest of providing some respite to the poor electronic soul. I was worried it was affecting her behavior. I was worried it would affect her eyes. And I just didn’t have the time to think of what to do.

Although everyone was worried in the family, including my husband – who for the record, was on the screen himself all the time. I could let him off for the sole excuse that his job and commitments and some ‘me’ time were the reasons it was difficult to unwire himself. So basically, he was not qualified for the job of luring his daughter to limit the screen time.

The hot potato was passed on to me. I was thinking hard on this when by a stroke of luck, my sister made a plan to visit us with her two daughters. The three cousins got along with my kid like a house on fire! My baby girl was finally distracted and found real games to play with her gang! They left soon after and my pint-sized rubber ball was about to bounce back to her usual routine when I decided to use that disruption to my advantage. I encouraged her to make her time table and set goals – thanks to my decade long training as HR. I was not sure it would work. But it did. Children are more logical being than grown-ups. You can take my signature on this.

I set a time limit for her screen time. I encouraged her grandpa and grandma to watch cartoons with her and as soon as the time was over, to switch it off. We used to encourage her to switch it off herself by reminding her of the fact that she had set the time herself on the time table she made. (How manipulative! Bwahaha!). Initially there were some tantrums but they too subsided gradually. She was taken to parks regularly and I bought some educational activities for her which she started to enjoy. I learnt one thing in the process: when she was left to do things on her own she would cringe back to the TV screen, but if she had company to play, her interest would last longer. Things were getting under control. But the ‘elixir of life’ was yet to come and it came when we shifted to Middle East as a nuclear family.

We were putting the nest bit by bit in a new land. There was no TV for us. My daughter used to miss her screen time. I started downloading her favorite cartoons on her iPad. It was a good time to use my censorship rights and filter out the cartoons which I despised because of their language and/or behavior. I never dared to plug them off because my little dictator loved them. It was the most opportune time to eliminate them from my life. I downloaded some educational cartoon episodes of one hour duration only and saved them in a different folder. I introduced one episode a day to my daughter, handing her the tablet only after ensuring that it was on flight mode lest she should get an uninterrupted supply of cartoons or by any chance wander in the forbidden land. Putting the iPad on flight mode also saved her from unnecessary radiations. Slowly, but surely it became her habit. Now she is 5 and she is conditioned to watch cartoons on her iPad for one hour only. She has learnt that TV is for news and football matches. I changed myself too. I had to unwire myself first to get her out of overindulgence. Things are better now. Everything comes with some boon and some bane. Prudence lies in using the boon wisely. Cutting off completely and hiding in a cave is not the answer. Let’s act smart.  Kindly note the ingredients for unwiring your kids carefully –

One Disruption

Some Friends

One solid Time Table

A few Activities

Per day Unwired parent time

Some lies (Honey there is no Wi-Fi!)

Sufficient Stored (snipped) games/cartoon series (instead of non-stop TV with inappropriate commercial breaks)

The congruous mix of all the above may work wonders. Trust me.how i got success

Why Should You Watch Your Children’s Favorite Cartoon with Them?

The little Red Riding hood almost came under the sparkly claw of a wicked wolf because she did not pay heed to her mother’s advice about “Do not talk to strangers”.

It may sound bizarre, but if you step back and think, we have a window in our homes – the sweet “telly” – through which strangers of all kinds sneak into the minds of our children. They are intensely hued, have sweet tones and innocuous eyes. Cartoons are ubiquitous motifs, from the school bottle to the furrowed folds of diapers. Children cuddle them during bed time as soft toys and even want to eat junkies in anticipation of little toys that are offered with ‘kids meal’.

Children are so surreptitiously surrounded by umpteen unrealistic cartoon characters that there is no way to escape. Many of us see those cartoons reflecting in the way kids talk and behave; often we laugh it off and continue with the business of the day.

Many parents, and I am no exception to this, slide smartphones towards their children to stop their interruptions or to afford ourselves a break – because unfortunately, we don’t have a switch off button above the hip bone of our children. What should we do? We can neither cut TV /internet connection (it’s equivalent to cutting off oxygen supply!) nor can we leave them in the hands of these apparently harmless manipulators called toons. Leaving children completely to make sense out of what’s being shown is like allowing oneself to be fed anything and everything. You may not like that your child is fed sex, violence, bullying and cheating by being lured through those adorable animated little funny sketches.

So, let’s face them, sit by our child’s side and filter the things that reach his pliant mind, deflect what is not appropriate for him/her and bring the interiors to the fore by scraping off the garish and giddy exteriors. There are many benefits if you start sharing the fun of watching cartoons with your children. Instead of allowing toons to make their way into your child’s sponge-like mind, use them as a medium to benefit your child in making better sense of the world around.

  1. Screen time – best bonding time: Use screen time with children as a bonding time. Smartphones, tablets and TV are drifting us away to seclusion which is also responsible for why everybody feels so depressed and overwhelmed in spite of feeling “connected” all the time. There is less communication between parents and children. Watching cartoon together can bring up lots of topics to discuss about.
  2. Travel along in fantasy worlds, hold on to realism too: Elves and fairies with magic wands, gadgets to quickly raze any problem to the ground sets some unrealistic expectations in children and makes them look out for people and things to solve their problems instead of depending on hard work and acumen. The naïve mind of children aged between 3-6 cannot differentiate between real and unreal. We can save them from slipping into an unrealistic world and having unrealistic expectations by helping them understand what is ‘for the sake of creativity and fun’. The joy would be double if you travel with your kid in their fantasy world. Taking up the conversation later during meal time or play time is a good idea!
  3. Educate and increase awareness: There are many times during a course of an episode when a child’s curiosity is evoked. That’s the best time to educate them because they are more likely to connect and remember stuff. I remember there is an episode of ‘Octonauts’ where explorers and rescuer critters save a sea creature from mangroves. Later we did lots of research to learn about ‘mangroves’.
  4. Manage Screen time: It’s very important to set screen time which ideally should not be more than one hour per day. When you become a partner of your children, it becomes easy for you to manage their screen time. They look forward to the time when you are home from office to share the fun with them. Switching off the TV when you are watching together is easier than shouting from the kitchen or office area ‘ stop now’. When you don’t watch it with them they negotiate ‘half an hour more/one hour more’ or they stop listening to you altogether. Ah! Sad sides of parenting.
  5. 2 Positives and 1 negative: There is hardly any cartoon series which is enriched with goodness and positive messages only. Often our heckles are raised amid bouts of hilarity while watching them. For example: ‘Peppa pig’ is a nice, educational cartoon in many ways but the tantrums she shows and how she answers back to her parents is something I will not like to percolate down deep in my child’s behavioral anatomy. While watching, it is important to differentiate between right and wrong. You may say ‘I like Peppa is a curious little pig but I don’t appreciate the way she talks back at her parents.’

Disney has produced many stories where parents of the protagonist die early or are already dead. For example Nemo’s mom died, Alladin is an orphan, Little Mermaid’s mom dies and our latest recreation of ‘Beauty And the Beast’, Belle is motherless. The intention was probably to evoke more sympathy but it can also be read this way – “life is more fun and adventure without parents”, this may sound very fatuous but do think about this too.maxresdefault

Toon Bullies: Helping Kids Identify and Deal with Them

You might be reading this from either of the sides. Your kid is either a bully or he is being bullied. Both are equally worrisome. Bullies have existed ever since man walked on the face of the earth. Out of the first two sons of Adam, Cain was a bully. Wow! So, basically, bullies have a long standing. My last post (also my first on Toonymum) was about ‘Beauty and the Beast’, in which Gaston is a classic example of a bully. What is bullying anyway? My daughter was very fond of Doremon cartoon series which is quite a popular cartoon series among children. There is a character called Takeshi Goda aka Gian who is a sturdy guy. He easily gets angry and threatens neighborhood children especially the protagonist Nobita, of dire consequences if they don’t comply with his demands. He snatches away toys. He is a famous bully character and can serve as an example for children to identify a bully.

I never knew small kids can be awesome bullies until I became a mother. Like me, many of my friends who are mothers worry about bullying at schools and parks. Some of them have horrendous stories to tell. Children have friendship struggles and faces social cruelty at the hands of peers and schoolmates. At parks, you may have seen kids blocking the slide and allowing a discretionally chosen few. Or a kid threatening the one who ran faster than him to grab the swing. Or the big kid ostracizing some children from a group. It becomes very important to help our children identify what is bullying, how bad it is and what should be done to tackle it? Here is a short list of the famous bully cartoons.

Tom the he-cat: Tom is a blue/grey short-haired cat in the famous “Tom & Jerry” cartoon series. He sets traps, almost killing Jerry every time. But poor Jerry, who’s not so poor by the way, goes after Tom and digs ditches and bang pans on his head in a hippity-hoppity way.

Nelson muntzNelson is a student and a bully in Simpson series. He beats and terrorizes students and has a mocking laugh ‘Ha-Ha’. He has a dysfunctional family.

BlutoBig Bluto of Popeye series is a bully who annoys Popeye and keeps on creating troubles for him until Popeye eats his can of spinach and beats him black and blue.

Kalia: Big, rotund and strong Kalia of ‘Chota Bheem’ series is one guy who has two accomplices ‘Dholu and Bholu’ whom he bullies as he pleases.

Lotso: Lotso’s looks can be deceiving. He looks warm but he is a dangerous guy who has an army of loyal minions. He rules and orders and threatens everyone who dares do against his wishes.

The children who are bully themselves are struggling with some problem that needs to be identified. Lotso of the Toy Story was once a good bear but he was once lost by his owner and by the time he found his way home he saw another bear had taken his place which devastated him and he turned bitter towards others.

There are many such toon characters Eric Cartman, Jimbo, Pete, the step sisters of Cinderella who are menacing. Most of these bully toons were once good guys in the storyline and at many occasions they exhibit good traits.

Children don’t speak about being bullied but it can affect them damagingly. The little chicken was ridiculed for running amok yelling ‘the sky is falling’. The bespectacled little chicken had lost confidence. Do you know in poultry farms there is always a bully hen who pecks out other hen’s feathers? The bully hen does not allow other hens to drink water or eat grains. To maintain the peace of the coop the bully hen is put in an isolated cage. The solution in human species is a bit more complex. We have to work on unseen enemies like anger, social-deprivation, empathy and low self-esteem. Often bullies are lonely children who themselves were bullied too.

Keep the communication open with your kids. Speak more and ask more about their school and friends. It’s a great idea to watch your kid’s favorite cartoon with him. You will always get leads to talk further on any topic, for example if you watch Latso of Toy Story harassing and threatening others you may ask your child about it. Is it right to bully like Latso? Does he/she know anyone who is like Latso? Never advise your child to do ‘tit for tat’ as it may spin off in violence. Ask him to take help from school staff and hang out with other friends. Tell him it is the bully who is bad and weak, and not him. Restore his confidence through games and activities where he can learn ‘we lose some, we win some’. Assure him you are always there. For me, the mantra of “Connect, Listen and Guide” works brilliantly as a parent. What Mr. Jumbo , mother of Dumbo ( the big ears elephant) did ? She spanked Smitty-the bully. Smitty and his gang make fun of little elephant Dumbo. He called Dumbo ‘Klutzy elephant’ which made Mrs. Jumbo lose her temper and she grabbed him as he tried to run away. Mrs. Jumbo had her own toonish way of protecting Dumbo from bullying. Mum I am sure you will deal with it differently after all you are not mum Mrs. Jumbo.

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