It’s an old adage that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Yes, indeed, play is as important as work. Sadly, today’s parents (pressurized as they are to provide the best for their children) insist on marks and grades and often force their children to do nothing but study especially during the important school examinations like the matriculation exam, the pre-selection exams for professional colleges, etc.
In the month of January, the girls in the school in front of my house were busy practising marching for the better part of the morning. Today, the playground wears a deserted look at all times of day save when the bells ring at the beginning and end of school. In fact all gardens and building compounds look empty and desolate these days as every child is busy ‘studying’. Mothers have cancelled all entertainment and have cut out dinner parties and picnics and some have even gone to the extent of cutting off TV. Short of cutting the cables and blocking the Internet, the children have literally been told to put their noses to the grindstone and just study.
But does studying 24 x 7 really help?
When I was growing up there was no TV, no Internet and in our house, no telephone. But that didn’t mean that we had no distractions to drive our mothers crazy. We had books ( and horror of horrors COMICS), then we had those “bad children” who wanted to do nothing but play all day and tell us that we shouldn’t listen to our mothers and we also had movies. In fact I grew up watching a weekly movie at the club and a monthly movie at a theatre. Some weeks we watched two movies a week. And watching a movie was far more exciting than playing video games at home or watching DVDs or even being at the “computer” all day long. Going to the movies meant dressing up, walking to the club, eating chips during the break and overall spending a good 2-3 hours. But I loved it as did all my other friends. And we did this right during the exams too!
I am a firm believer that a rested mind works better so when my own children were studying for examinations, I would insist on them taking a movie break. I can never forget their shock when I took them to watch ‘Titanic’ before the elder girl’s ICSE examinations! Similarly, I’ve encouraged them to watch movies on TV during their “rest” between studies.
“You must study 17 hours a day if you want to do Medicine” was the introductory sentence of Mrs. J’s pre-medical classes and for the first week or so, I was amazed to find my daughter actually following her ridiculous advice. How could entrance to Medical College depend on the number of hours a child put in to study? What happened to comprehension and the ability to recall information? Surely, that counts for more than just the time spent on ‘learning or ‘memorizing’ facts and figures.
Unfortunately, even parents believe – the more I study, the more I score and score I must. What they forget is that you don’t have to study more – you have to study smart. And if you, as a parent, really want to motivate your child to study – give him some space to breathe, some down time where he can let his hair down. Take him to the movies, or let him hang out with his friends in the garden. That will reduce his levels of stress and increase his capacity for concentration and remembering facts.
So as this examination season comes upon us, I would urge all parents to release the pressure they put on their children to study. Stop urging them to “go to your books”, “put off the tv”, ‘get off the phone!” Instead encourage them to watch a movie, read a book of no consequence, go for a walk and watch the effect it has on the children’s performance.
As a mother of two thirty-year old daughters and a grandmother of two, Sunita Rajwade has been there and done that. A hands on mom, she has seen two girls grow successfully through babyhood, toddler hood, adolescence and adulthood; solving their maths problems and contributing to their angst of growing up with a mom “who doesn’t understand”. But now as a grandmother, she’s being appreciated for her “wisdom” and “understanding” and would like to share her experiences of this wonderful journey from motherhood to grand-motherhood.