Raising Wealthy Children

“The greatest reward for my efforts is what I become.” (source unknown)

Observe a child responding to music – if the child liked the song she/he soon tries to do something with it. The child either dances to it, sings it aloud, or talks about it to others. For the child, entertainment is not in receiving but in doing something with it!

But, that’s not necessarily true with all of us today. Many of us need to be constantly entertained or given something to enjoy. In fact, today’s world feeds us continuously – food is fed, entertainment is fed, thoughts are fed, dreams are fed, and most importantly learning is fed (by us teachers).Children often complain of boredom – which I believe means that they want to be fed something else. Soon after infanthood, children are used to being consumers. As they grow, they demand more of it. Somehow, we as teachers and parents assume that our job is to feed our perennially hungry children. Hence, teachers try to make learning fun and interesting for them, while parents run from TV to movies, toy stores, entertainment zones to activity centers. Phew! The idea is to somehow keep the children busy.

As a child, I do not remember my parents entertaining me. We had so much to do; always some game or activity lined up; we were either running or jumping or catching or climbing or rocking or if nothing else, just rolling over making all kinds of weird sounds.

Kids today too are intrinsically the same. On a Sunday, my wife and I gathered four of our friends’ kids and took them to Cubbon Park in Bengaluru. For the next few hours, we just sat in a corner while the children busied themselves in various kinds of activities. Not a child came to us and asked us what to do – they just had so much to do.

However, the moment the parents came to pick up their kids, the children started demanding. It was as if, for some time, the children had forgotten that they had actually been trained to be consumers. Why does this happen? Why is this generation bored so easily? Why is that we as parents feel up-the-wire as soon as the children have holidays?

We’ve a pet theory based on concepts of financial wealth. The theory is simple – if I consume more than I produce I am doomed to poverty. However, if I produce more than I consume then I build wealth – in our case, intellectual wealth. The higher my produce is, as compared to consumption, the higher is my net worth!

One of the surest signs of successful people is that they are in the habit of producing – producing dreams, producing ideas, producing work, producing results! It is the same with knowledge – if I am just going to receive knowledge – I may score in tests. But if I also start using knowledge (productively), then I know how to score in life.

Let me give you a simple test – all of us have studied triangles, geometry, and trigonometry. How can you find the height of a tall tree by using justa six inch scale? Think over this before you move on.

My favorite term for our brain is LAZY SLAVE. If you do not give it work – it is lazy – it will do nothing. But if you give it work, it is a dutiful slave. The most effective way to give our brains work is to challenge it. The most effective way to challenging it is to make it produce.

Production or creation of any kind requires complex and higher order thinking skills at multiple levels. This not only encompasses both the right and left hemispheres of the brain, but also develops more interconnections among the neurons of our brains, leading to richer cognitive development. The result is a ‘mentally wealthy’ child for you!

If your child has been watching TV – the child has been consuming. Here is how to make him produce: Let the child act like the character(s). Let the child make a speech on the show. Let the child make art based on the cartoons. Let him make puppets and enact the whole show. Let him create his own story with the same characters. Let him create the same story with different characters. Let him re-create the whole scene through clay models. Let him make a new song based on what he heard. And so on.

Can children create their own textbooks, lesson plans, homework, assemblies, or tests? Many years ago, I was invited to teach a course to MBA students in a college. Half way through the course, the dean reminded me that I needed to test the students (which I was hitherto clearly avoiding). So in the next class, I announced to the 30 odd students that it was a SURPRISE quiz time. Each one of them had to think of a (short answer) question from what had been covered so far. Then each one had to read out their question and the others had to answer. Further, at the end of the quiz, each student’s notebook was passed on to another student with each marking the other for one question. This way each student answered 29 questions and was assessed by 29 others.

The best part of the whole process was the amount of effort it took for all the students to think, question, then answer, and finally assess each other!

We often suggest to parents, “Teach your children the most essential secret of success – doing, producing”:

• Let your child not just eat – but cook (simple foods, if nothing just arrange biscuits on a plate for everybody).

• Let your child not just listen – but tell (stories, news, opinions, etc.).

• Let your child not just read – but write (her views, feelings, reviews, letters to the editor etc).

• Let your child not just laugh – but make others laugh (tell jokes, show antics, modulate voice, do drama, etc).

• Let your child not just play – but invent (new games, new rules, new ways of doing, etc).

• Let your child not just be entertained – but also entertain (put up shows, create art etc.)

• Let your child not just ask for self – but also give (community service, little gifts, praise).

• Let your child not just buy – but earn.

Children do not need to run a race to become richer, they need to learn to earn wisely.