All parents are interested in the progress and development of their children and to do it correctly they need pointers to guide them to the right path. Parenting can be pleasurable if it is simple and research based. Just like food is nourishment for the body, parenting is nourishment for the mind, body, and soul. Just like we eat different types of food- Gujarati, Chinese, Italian, Punjabi etc., similarly parenting too can be of different flavors. So how about Italian? Let us Italian your parenting!
Two of the most globally famous early childhood educational practices were born in Italy- Montessori and Reggio Emilia. In Reggio Emilia there is a wonderful poem called ‘The Hundred Languages of Children’. This poem talks about how all children have a hundred languages, but we the people, parents, schools, and society, steal the ninety nine and tell the child that there is only one language. We want all kids to learn, behave, speak, feel, and perform in the same manner. We have lost touch with the concept of individualism. In parenting too we try to ensure that all our kids are the same. They should walk at the same age, look the same, and perform similarly in tests. Let us give them the hundred languages and let them grow as individuals and not clones.
Italy is known as the land of pizza but it should be called the land of the Piazza. Every city is dotted with Piazzas, these are kind of squares in different parts of the city where people sit, chat, drink coffee, tea, or lick ice-cream cones and kids can play, elders can walk and youngsters can cycle. We need these spaces in our cities and homes, little piazzas so that children learn about social development and community spirit face-to-face and not only on Facebook.
We are so obsessed with ‘branded stuff’ and the English language. In fact now many children are made to learn Chinese, Japanese, before they learn their mother tongue. But in Italy and in most European countries, children learn their mother tongue for the first few years. Italian children are proud and confident in their Italian. In India our kids are burdened to learn a foreign language before they even speak their mother tongue. Let us also help our children be proud of their roots before we give them wings. Every street in Italy has Louis Vuitton stores, one of the most expensive and fashionable brands in the world. In India Louis Vuitton has become a ‘class’ symbol whereas in Italy it was a mere fashion statement. Isn’t that how all fashion should be?
Children in Italian schools are given many opportunities to draw, paint, create, and that is indeed natural. After all this is the land of Michael Angelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and many others. This is seen in the architecture and paintings around Italy. You are automatically forced to use words like gigantic, mammoth, awe inspiring, intricate, mind boggling, impressive, as words less than these would fail to describe the architectural genius that you see in the buildings. The presence of fountains in each city helps you understand how architecture was used to create spaces where people can mingle, sit and hear sounds that are soothing and close to nature. I wish today’s architects around the world would get over their obsession with steel and glass. No wonder our children’s vocabulary is limited to tall, shining, and awesome (sic).
Robotics is commonly used in most Italian schools to teach Math, Science and concepts but this has not replaced art education in the schools. Leonardo Da Vinci was a painter and inventor similarly education that we choose for our children should be about the expressive arts and intelligence fused together. It should not be either/or but the best of both that should inspire our children.
Pinocchio, one of the most path breaking stories for young children was also born in Italy. At a basic level, moral learnings are abundant in this wonderful story that every child should be exposed to. If you will tell a lie, your nose will grow longer! What a wonderful way to teach children about moral values and ethics. The Disney version has a song, ‘Let your conscience be your guide’. That should be the anthem of every child. Enjoy Pinocchio with your child today…both the book and the Disney version.
We cringe when we are with our children and see a naked picture of the human body but we swing along with them on vulgar lyrics that ogle and comment on women and sex. We need to give our children a balance. Ancient Italian architecture and paintings help children grow up with a positive concept of the human body. The statue of David is indeed a reminder that children should grow up viewing and revering the naked human body rather than learning about it as vulgar and porn. We have similar sculptures and paintings in India like the Sun Temple at Konark or certain select paintings of Raja Ravi Varma that help us give our children a positive and moral outlook towards our bodies, how babies are born etc.
And here are some great parenting tips from an amazing Professor from Italy, Daniela Lucangeli Padua University. She says children have selective attention. They know what to focus on and when to switch off. Parents are always worried about the fact that their children do not listen to them. Well find out what gets your child’s selective attention, and then use it to ensure that your children listen too and hear you. She spoke about the amygdala in the brain and emotions that accompany learning. So aptly put by her that the emotion that should accompany learning should be curiosity and not fear. So we need to stop threatening children to make them perform or complete their tasks or homework as it is directly affecting their brain development. She quoted Eric Fisher on how rage and fear does not damage learning and creativity as much as boredom does. When we drone on and on with our children, they get bored. When we hold their hands and make them do their homework, they get bored. When we feed them with our hands instead of letting them feed themselves, they get bored. When we make them wear their clothes, tie their shoes, do their beds…they get bored. Their boredom all day long affects their learning and creativity. So if you want your kids to perform better at school, stop boring them!
They say beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. I would like to add that parenting inspirations are in every city and country, if we only look at them from the point of view of children and their hundred languages.