Dependence, Independence and Interdependence
One of the fundamental principles of Bhartiya shiksha is that children develop ‘viveka,’ or sense of discrimination over a period of time and for it to develop appropriately they need guidance and support from parents, teachers and other adults in their environment. If children grow through panchkosha based education, then, around the age of 16 most of the children with the help of their viveka shakti could see life’s connection and be able to make more balanced decisions. This requires a facilitation of the development of all the 3 faculties in the child- the hand, the heart and the head. While all the 3 dimensions continue to develop in parallel throughout life, each of the faculty needs special focus during different ages. During shishu avastha (0-6yrs) we need to work on the will of the child, during baal avastha (6-12yrs) the feeling and during kishore avastha (12-18yrs), the thinking. We do our children great disservice if we awaken them too early too soon in their head only & it may cause children deep seated fears, lack of confidence, lack of trust in the environment and adults, not to mention taking away the childhood from them.
Parents approach us with a typical concern that their child does not listen to them. “You please tell them and then they will do it- whether it is a particular rhythm to be followed at home or regular practice of kalas or homework to be done. Usually our response is to understand why the child is not listening to its parents and to guide the parents in getting a better handle on the situation at hand. It is unhealthy to have a 6-14 year old child not listening to its parents or taking his/her own decisions or acting out of his/her own accord.
The seed for this is sown at a very young age, when we give our child too many choices or allow them to start making decisions too early in their life, whereas the decision actually should have been taken by the parents or the adult involved. Some of the modern education philosophies propound letting the child decide for him/herself. This foundational pillar is certainly ill founded as it awakens children to experience a sense of independence even before the child has experienced the security and joy in being completely dependent. Feeling dependent on the parents and teachers brings a sense of security and confidence in the child about the adults and about their environment. It also allows young children to continue to operate through their feeling realm more than their head. Today’s young children are so awakened in their head, to the information/data/facts, that they seem like mini-adults walking around. They are allowed to participate in family/adult talk/decisions. Thus, we awaken them to adult thinking patterns and rational thinking too early. They are exposed to media, video games, encyclopedia, competition etc too early, thereby they feel the pressure of performance way too early in life, which further awakens them in their head and weakens their feeling realm. When their feeling realm is weakened, it takes away from them their precious childhood and their carefreeness- such as easily losing track of time while playing; playing for the love of the game etc, in short, being just a child!
Some examples of young children being awakened to head orientation are:
- Giving them food choice on a daily basis and giving in to their tantrums.
- Giving a choice of what dress to wear, choice of footwear etc
- Brand consciousness eg: car & bike models etc
- Over exposure to commercialization of sports eg: football & IPL teams etc
- Big Decision making way too early eg: vacationing decisions; which home to buy etc
- Buying too many toys and stationary for the children & buying everything the child wants. Makes the child feel very heady.
- Adults not confident about their own decision making capabilities. Therefore, involving the children in decision making.
- Not reprimanding or correcting young children (baal avastha) on their bad behaviour or when they do not follow an instruction or when they back answer etc.
This is a representative list and not an exhaustive one. As adults, we need to let the children be relieved of decision making roles at young ages by minimizing their exposures and maximizing our scope of decision making. Saying no or taking decisions in these or similar instances doesn’t mean we are doing so all the time. We must of course agree to and wholeheartedly participate in reasonable and age appropriate requests of the children.
It’s also important not to expose children in baal avastha to mobile phones, internet and social media sites, modern science games, encyclopedia information, books not aligned to bharatiya samskriti, adult discussions as well as the above listed decision making situations. This will ensure that the child’s childhood is preserved. Only a child who has felt dependent can truly taste independence. When a child is around 12 years of age, we need to facilitate development of independence which is grounded in strong feelings and experience they have gathered during their baal avastha. This healthy feeling of independence helps children go deep & intensify their learning and this gives them a lot of confidence. If this phase of adolescence is handled well with balanced and holistic education, around 16-18 years of age children will transition from feeling independent to feeling interdependent and start seeing connections between nature, family, society and God. This is called “viveka”.
Therefore, let us try and take a step back and lift the burden of decision making off our children’s backs, not spoil them for choices or intellectual overload them or subjugate them to competitive pressure early in their childhood. Let us take ownership of being adults in their lives and facilitate their journey of being dependent to being independent to being interdependent.
Wishing you and your families a happy and prosperous Diwali.
In your service