Theme of the week

Issue XV (15.05.2011)


Values Making Home A Sweet Home
Author : Dr. Jyotsna D. Mehta

The basic foundation stone of human existence is human values. An individual can neither sustain alone nor can he make a meaningful group if people do not follow certain values. The other side of the story is that whenever human existence is threatened, it has been primarily because of violation of basic values.
The main source of learning human values is a family. Family works as a training centre for the children to learn human values and it becomes a live laboratory for adults to test the functionality and impact of values which they learnt earlier.
We require human values when people interact with each other and family is the basic unit of human interaction. Members of a family are naturally attached to each other and thus a family becomes an anchor that roots us. It is also gives us the confidence to reach for the stars. Thus it gives us both Roots to hold and Wings to fly. It is not surprising that children who grow up in happy families are more successful and well-adjusted in life.
Family relations can give us strength to face the world. How wonderful it feels to return to a happy home after a hard day at work? Our family can be our sounding board to bounce off creative ideas, our greatest supporter during adversity and the source of unconditional love.
Now imagine a situation where there are very unpleasant relations at home…. bitter fights, jealousies and the blame game being played out! A person would actually hate going home to such an oppressive atmosphere.
It goes without saying that creating a happy and harmonious atmosphere at home is of vital importance. Though in today’s world it is no easy task- as families drift apart, separated with varying interests and distractions, and torn by selfish needs and petty interests and hard pressed for time to spend together. It is not impossible however, if we invest some time and energy in this direction and hold on to the basic values.
Bringing up children in a Harmonious Environment
Bringing up children in a harmonious environment is one of the most important functions that a family can be said to perform. Unlike the basic physical needs of food, sleep and shelter which are clear to all, a child's mental and emotional needs may not be obvious. This makes it all the more essential for parents to acknowledge that a child's mental health is as important as his physical health.

Ideally, a child who is mentally and emotionally stable is able to think clearly and positively, learn new skills, is self-confident, and has a healthy emotional outlook on life. He is also able to adapt to new situations easily. To develop into emotionally stable individuals, children need unconditional love, opportunities to develop self-confidence and play with their peer group. They also need encouragement from teachers and caretakers, a safe and secure living environment and appropriate guidance and discipline. Let us examine how children can be helped with each of these.

Love, security and acceptance should be at the heart of family life. A child needs to know that your love does not depend on his or her accomplishments and that love will be given for what he or she is and not for what has been achieved. This means that mistakes and failures should be expected and accepted.

Children need help to develop a healthy sense of self. For this:
• Praise and encourage them to explore. Reassure them by smiling and talking to them often.
• Be an active participant in their activities. Your attention helps build their self-confidence and self-esteem.
• Set realistic goals for them that match ambitions with abilities.
• Be honest. Do not hide your failures from children. Let them know that we all make mistakes and that adult are also not perfect.
• Avoid sarcastic remarks. If a child is not doing well, find out how he or she feels about the situation. Children may get discouraged and need constant encouragement. Later, when they are ready, talk and offer reassurance.
• Encourage them to not only strive to do their best, but also to enjoy the process. Encourage children to try new activities.
Playtime is as important to children's development as food and good care. Playtime helps children be creative, learn problem-solving skills, have better social interactions and learn self-control. Good, hardy play, which includes running and yelling, is not only fun, but helps children be physically and mentally healthy as well.
Playtime also enables children to spend time with their peers. During this time, they discover their own strengths and weaknesses, develop a sense of belonging, and learn how to get along with others.
Parents can be great playmates too. Playing and participating in play with your child will give you an opportunity to share ideas and spend some relaxed quality time with him or her. It also allows for a special bonding and kinship to develop between you and your child.
Help children understand that while playing, winning is not as important as enjoying the activity. Ask them: ''Did you have fun?'' and not: ''Did you win?'' In our goal-oriented society, we often acknowledge only success and winning. This attitude can be discouraging and frustrating to children who are learning and experimenting with new activities. It's more important for children to participate and enjoy themselves than to have winning as a focus.
Children need the opportunity to explore and develop new skills and independence. At the same time, they also need to learn that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they are responsible for the consequences of their actions.
As members of a family, children need to learn the rules of the family unit. They will take these social skills and rules of conduct to their school and eventually to the workplace.
Offer fair and consistent guidance and discipline to children by:

• Making  expectations firm, but kind and realistic. Children's development depends on your love and encouragement.
• Setting a good example. You cannot expect self-control and self-discipline from a child if you do not practice this yourself.
• Criticize the behavior, not the child. It is best to say: ''That was a bad thing you did,'' rather than: ''You are a bad boy or girl.''
• Avoid nagging, threats and bribery. Children will learn to ignore nagging, and threats and bribes are seldom effective.
• Explain consequences of actions. Give children the reasons why you are disciplining them and what the potential consequences of their actions might be.
• Talk about your feelings. If, for instance, you lose your temper, it is important to talk about what happened and why you are angry. Apologize if you were wrong.

And in all this, remember that the goal is not to control the child, but to help him or her to learn self-control.
Fear and anxieties grow out of experiences that we do not understand. It is natural for children to feel afraid sometimes. If your children have fears that will not go away and affect his or her behavior, the first step is to find out what is frightening them. Love, be patient and reassuring, not critical. Remember that the fear may be very real to the child.
In spite of all that you can do, there are times when you might have to seek professional help to deal with your children's problems. The following must be regarded as warning signals to do so:
• Decline in school performance and poor grades despite dedicated efforts
• Constant anxiety and nightmares
• Repeated refusal to go to school or take part in routine children's activities
• Hyperactivity and fidgety behavior
• Persistent disobedience, aggression or frequent temper tantrums
• Depression, sadness or irritability
A child's mental health and emotional well being cannot be ignored, for by doing so, parents are failing in their most significant duty and responsibility they have towards their children.
By giving a positive environment to children at home, we give them a quality platform where they can develop inner strength and can easily learn human values. The biggest contribution that parents can make in this regard is that they can be a role model for the children by practicing basic values rather than just talking about them.

Before making a beautiful house, we first prepare a solid foundation. Similarly, to have harmony & peace in the whole world (which is what everyone wants ultimately) peace and harmony in our families work as the foundation stone. Friends, peace and harmony are the output which we want and human values and moral values are the input.

To attain the ultimate goal of peace in the whole world, values have to be inculcated at various levels:

  1. Individual Values of maturity, kindness, integrity etc.
  2. Values that help build relationships like cooperation, selflessness, devotion, loyalty etc.
  3. Values that help build a better society like, concern for the environment, concern for social issues like dowry, female foeticide.
  4. Values of Universal brotherhood and peace that help build a better world.

The presence of these values collectively leads to a harmonious world. This is depicted in the figure below:-


Of all the values leading towards a harmonious life the values creating Harmony in the family are the most important as they form the foundation of a harmonious life.


We are reminded here of the story of O. Henry, “The Painting of Jesus”.

The story talks about a painter who wanted to make the painting of kind and innocent Jesus and a Cruel Hunter. He found an orphan boy of eight years whose face gave the looks of innocence and kindness. The painter made this boy his model to make the painting of Jesus. However, in spite of a lot of search, he could not find anyone resembling the hunter.

After fourteen years, the painter met a prisoner whose face gave cruel and angry looks resembling the Hunter. He requested the prisoner to be his model and completed his painting.

When the prisoner saw the painting himself there were tears in his eyes. The painter asked him whether he was hurt that he saw the looks of cruel hunter in his eyes. The prisoner said, “No, I am hurt because you saw the looks of Jesus in my eyes fourteen years back”. I am the same person.

There were tears in the eyes of the painter too.

The story above depicts an extreme aspect of the situation. At the first instance the painter took the eight year boy only as a model and not as a living human being. Perhaps no one else took him as a human being later also and the result is before us. Taking a person as a human being first is the basic human value

We all do the mistake of looking at people as an employee, a maid servant, a doctor, an earning member, a cook, an intelligent son or daughter to feel proud of, a boss, etc. This outlook creates stress. However, if we are able to see a human being behind every character whatever role he or she may be playing for us, life would become much easier.

A Clue for Dealing with Difficult People

One thing which we learn from the story above is that when a person becomes difficult or easily gets angry, we should not react instantly. First we should understand that there is a history behind what we see. By being aware of the present moment we can first manage our hurt. After that, depending on the situation, we can coolly help the other person in being aware of the present moment.  Once we are conscious of the present, the anger, zealously or other low feelings can be easily overcome.