Author Archive: SmartShrubs

About SmartShrubs

SmartShrubs is a personality development course in Delhi NCR, that is meant for kids between the ages of 11-19 years. The formal education system is just not enough! SmartShrubs aims at providing your kids a holistic mind development. We provide a platform for children to interact, listen, analyze, observe and define their opinions and identify their goals according to their capabilities and interests. IQ is not the only measure of intelligence. Our personality is affected by many factors in our immediate as well as secondary environment. But our personality is affected and defined by our mind. So what factors contribute to our mind development? Self awareness, opinions, society, culture....and the list goes on.... To add to our formal education, SmartShrubs is just the right program for your kid to engage and understand in the following: Communication Self Awareness Dramatics and Aesthetics Emotional Intelligence Relationship Management Self Esteem Happiness and Optimism Morality, Ethics and Justice Problem Solving Creativity Media and Technology Monetary System.......... We use a balance of various discussions, exercises, fun and play to help children go deeper within themselves and become more aware about themselves and the environment around. Mostly our methods are based on Constructionist School of thought which is being widely accepted as the way to teach children in formal schools as well. Like we said, its not a personality development program but a mind development program which is more holistic and complete. It is equip your child with the more creative mind which in turn will make them hundred steps ahead of their peers. To know more about us, please contact us: Stuti Arora Varshney @ 981-869-3155 [email protected]

Self, Identity & Personality

One of the questions that we all ponder upon once in a while is “Who am I?”, “What is my identity?”

While these and many other questions often cross our thoughts, we reflect upon them for a bit and move on with our everyday chores. But these are profound questions and their answers lie within us. Specially in today’s times, when children and adults alike are exposed to varied cultures, the self and environment has far reaching effects on self identity and personality.self identity

Think for a moment all the roles that you play during a single day–A child or a parent, a girl or a boy, a man or a woman, a sibling, a daughter or a son, a student or an employee…the list goes on. If you spend ten minutes with a pen and paper and write down all the roles that you have, the list will be a really long one. Together these constitute the self–the most important one amongst these. That you are a person. You have a Self, an Identity which shapes your thoughts, perceptions, the way you experience situations and other stimuli around you. Personhood is preoccupied with one’s rights and duties while personality is the perception of an individual on the outside, reflecting the traits of that individual and personhood.

In most literature surrounding Indian Psychology and its concepts, we talk about Self as a subject-the ‘I’ and Self as an object called -the “Me”. It becomes important to distinguish between the two and understand the ‘pure ego’ state. Together, all the thoughts, that one can think of constitute the part of empirical ‘Me’ or the self as an object, while the self as subject ‘I’ experiences these thoughts. Every individual has the capacity and possibility of empowerment in the task of self-transformation. The Indian thought towards self, identity and personality, suggests systematic ways of self transformation by selectively dropping off many of the superficial and transient things that one comes across to love and believe in their lives.

Personal Identity refers to the self largely based on representations of the perceiver as an individual person; the self is personal in focus, describes the ‘I’ and ‘Me’ and includes personality traits and individual attributes. It refers to the notion of self as an individual’s special personal identity, based on personal differences from others (Tyler, Kramer, John, 2014).

Thus, the Self (I and Me), the personhood, ego state and self identity are arrays on a single spectrum. Self Identity is a person’s conception and expression of self. Self identity is a complex idea that not only constitutes the different roles that one plays, but also one’s own perceptions, thoughts and feelings. As one comes closer to clarity towards self identity, one realizes the true potential and the possibilities that lie ahead. This in true terms in the achievement of the ultimate answer of the question “Who am I?”

Morality

“To know the good is to do the good”, as Aristotle put it when referring to Morality and moral identity. Moral Identity is formed through a unity between self and moral goals. When Kohlberg talked about moral development in children, he referred to the stages they undergo to move towards making more moral decisions. Recent researches, however, refer to moral development not only in terms of stages and cognitive development, but a developmental process which is related to positivity and moral acts done out of joy and not as a form of self sacrifice. It is a combination of willpower, moral desires and integrity. Researchers have also concluded that moral identity is an integration between self concept and ideal concept i.e. moral exemplars usually have a reduced gap between their ideal and actual self concept. moral

According to Kochanska (2000), “A “moral” self is fostered by mutually-responsive parenting in childhood. Children with responsive parents develop more empathy, prosociality, a moral self and conscience.” Thus parents play an important role in developing a moral identity in children.

Psychological egoism is a closely related concept. Many researchers believe that the motivation behind morality is psychological egoism. Psychological egoism “is the view that humans are always motivated by self-interest, even in what seem to be acts of altruism. It claims that, when people choose to help others, they do so ultimately because of the personal benefits that they themselves expect to obtain, directly or indirectly, from doing so”

According to Rest (2000), kids moral sensitivity, moral judgement, moral motivation and moral action are important for moral functioning and are greatly dependent upon parenting, education and the general social environment that children have. Parents and teachers need to create a learning environment which fosters a growth mindset and grit, for children to develop morality.

Problem Solving

Problem Solving is a mental process wherein an individual analyzes, interprets a task or a problem at hand and chooses from a pool of possibilities to reach the simplest solution. It involves an individual’s creativity and decision making abilities.problem solving

In most situations, the solutions must be unique and simple at the same time. All kids and adults have their own ways of reaching decisions. While the decision might be same, the journey towards reaching the conclusion or solving a task will be different. And in this process lies maximum learning.

One of the most important ways is to learn from past experiences and gathering as much information as possible about the task at hand. Many individuals are not able to break free from what is called the ‘escalation of commitment’–a process in which an individual does not change the approach even though it might not be working. Thus it becomes important to gather all information at the beginning before one makes a choice to choose one approach over another.

Following steps should be followed while solving a problem:

1. Identifying the problem: It is important to have clarity about what the problem at hand is and what it demands. The resources required to solve the task and the kind of solutions that have been used before and have been successes and failures.

2. Forming a strategy: The approach to solving the problem will depend upon the environment and the available resources. It will differ from individual to individual since they will have their own preferences and set schemas.

3. Organizing Information: As stated before, it is important to gather as much information as possible and organizing it, segregating it to identify the gaps. Whether its a top down approach or a bottom up approach, one should be able to identify the source of the problem.

4. Allocating resources and monitoring the process: Once you know the problem, its source and have organized the information,allocate the resources such as time, money etc, including past experiences and future impacts. For effective solutions, one also needs to monitor the progress of the approach to avoid being caught in the vicious circle of escalation of commitment.

5. Evaluating the Solution: Once the task at hand has been solved, what is its present and future impact? It can be immediate such as solving a math problem or a long term process such as a learning curve.

Effective solutions are applicable and make positive impacts. Problem solving as a skill and a process can be learnt. Of course, the desire is to reach a unique solution that no one has come up with before. The ability to understand what the goal of the problem is and what rules could be applied represent the key to solving the problem. Sometimes the problem requires some abstract thinking and coming up with a creative solution.

Growth Mindset

IQ is not the only measure of intelligence. Many parents, kids, teachers and researchers often question what factors make a difference between success and failure? Is intelligence or environment or a combination of both the only direct causes or is there anything else? growth mindset

While this question will always attract more research, Growth Mindset, as postulated by Carol Dweck, is an important factor along with IQ and environment. It is also important to have grit for long term goals and perseverance to not be let down by failures, but learn from them and continue towards success. Successful children are not always more intelligence, but also more grittier and have an inclination towards achievement. High need for achievement can be a trait that can affect a kid’s growth mindset. According to Dweck, children who are skills oriented or mastery oriented focus on learning strategies and effects in the face of failure instead of trying to prove how smart they are. This helps them build the right mindset to achieve the set skills and be more able over time. By right mindset, one means that kids do not take failures as set backs but as learning opportunities.

The right mindset is also the cause and effect of happiness and optimism. Value learning is important. In our education system, too much emphasis is put on grades or ‘obtained marks’ because they help choose a career path. But while one is surrounded by choices, the right choice is the one that makes a child put in sustained efforts over time, to face and like the challenges in the respective field and put emphasis on learning. It is important to have a balance between grades and value learning and challenges.

Thus motivation becomes a very important contributor to growth mindset, grit and thus success. Many successful people were born ordinary but were extraordinarily motivated to achieve the set goals along with the love for learning and challenges. It is important to gift children with motivation to become achievers in the long run.

Grit

Grit–A not so cognitive concept that has in last decade become an important skill to be developed in children. So what is Grit?

Grit is strength of character, the courage and resolve to remain persevere towards a long term goal. A kid might be a top performer but still unhappy with the decisions and choices she/her makes. On the other hand, a kid who is not a top performer, may have the grit to continue following the set goal and thus the hard work and perseverance. It is important to develop grit in children to help them have a growth mindset. Growth Mindset relates to the capacity of an individual to not be deterred by the losses but learn from them, grow over them and continue towards success. Grit

Encouraging children to practice grit in school and at home (by teacher and parents) helps develop a positive personality. The perseverance and hope promotes efforts towards accomplishment of tasks thus increasing the success ratio. for example, choosing the career path. It is important to know that a child is gritty towards achievement of goals such as a career, coupled with interest to be successful and happy.

According to Duckworth (2007), Grit is conceptualized as a stable trait that does not require immediate positive feedback. Individuals high in grit are able to maintain their determination and motivation over long periods despite experiences with failure and adversity. Their passion and commitment towards the long-term objective is the overriding factor that provides the stamina required to “stay the course” amid challenges and setbacks.

Researchers famously compare grit as not winning a sprint but a marathon. For future success, the foundations have to be laid early, thus children need to be made grittier.

Choosing the right career

This is the time, when teens who have just taken their tenth standard examinations are contemplating what ‘stream’ to choose. Parents are equally anxious because they want to take the best decision for their kids. Kids are anxious because suddenly there is too much pressure to choose the right ‘stream’ or combination of subjects because more or less our school education system is as such that they are bound to take the ‘right’ decision which sort of acts as a defining moment for their careers. What if I say this is a WRONG attitude. career

Well not to point the fallacies in the education system–it has ‘produced’ experts in all fields, be it engineering, medicine, even music. But what is common between a successful person in any field and an above average or an average career growth?????? Let me talk about two words–Grit and Skills.

First GRIT–Passion to follow something might seem odd at first to many kids and parents. But thats the biggest key today. If you are not interested in some field, if you do not have the GRIT to follow your long term goals with the perseverance it requires, if you do not have the mental strength to deal with failures and learn from both successes and losses, then no matter how talented you are an ‘A’ grader, you will not be able to put in your hundred percent. A Growth Mindset is important. So parents have to develop grit to make their children grittier.

Secondly SKILLS–Lets say one has the grit, but is not a top performer. A kid wants to follow art–be it music, painting, or anything. But does not have the skills of a musician or a stage actor or a painter. But let me ask you another question here–remember the last time you wanted to learn something as an employee in office and you spent hours undergoing training or for a child, remember your parents wanted you to learn taekwondo and you had to go for classes, whether you wanted to or not? In the end you did learn SOMETHING if not everything.

Now combine both. GRIT and SKILLS. Grit can be developed. At Smart Shrubs, we help participants identify their interests, strengths, and not let their weak areas become hurdles. At the same time, we also identify for each participant, what is their skill level in different areas through different training modules. When we combine both, we get a balanced idea about their biggest potential areas.

In the end, we all want to be happy. Happy in our personal lives, happy in our professional lives and be successful and have the fame that we all deserve and can achieve. We also want to do something creative and innovative which provides us the name in the industry and an intrinsic satisfaction that we are capable of something. But this success comes when we are self aware. And like these all are connected, this self awareness MUST be developed from early years, so that we make responsible decisions and more correct choices. Happiness and Success is what we wish our kids and for ourselves. So lets take a step towards it.

 

Media and Technology

Psychologically managing media and technology to add to mind development

Facebook has 1.23 billion monthly active users; Google has 40,000 search queries every second on average & More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month. Any person’s universe is full of information. In fact there is a slang for it ‘TMI’ referring to ‘too much information’.  We all suffer from it. And when I say suffer, it is about the plethora of choices we have all the time, thus the possibilities and therefore the decision making process that we are engaged in constantly. Of course, with each choice one makes and each possibility one explores, there comes the consequences and thus the responsibility.

So what do we do with ‘too much information’ (TMI) that surrounds pre-adolescents and adolescents? Rather what should they do with so much information? There are various perspectives. Some parents believe that their children should be made aware and ‘tech savy’ right from the beginning and on the other extreme, some parents believe that it shells their kid’s innocence and make them distracted. Media and technology have their own pros and cons like everything else that surrounds you. The awareness lies in building a balance. The way media and technologychild experiences content through media and technology is completely different than an adult, since a child’s brain is developing rapidly.

Media and technology, when used in the right way can help develop your child. I’m sure you all must have come across an advertisement lately which emphasizes booking of a name.com of your child’s name. This is something we have been doing as a part of Smart Shrubs programme since beginning. We give each child their own name domain name with a website and hosting. Now move fifteen year in future…your child will have own name (or the most appropriate matched name) website, which would be fifteen years old, will have trust factor attached to it. Your child will finally stand out in the crowd and come as the first search result on any search engine tool. That is about having an own name domain name.

Let’s say, you have one. Then what? It becomes important to keep updating it. In this comes into play writing. Most people nowadays prefer reading a kindle edition and the paperbacks and hard cover paper books are losing their shine. I personally still love reading a paperback instead of a kindle edition!

Technology that is not passive but actively engages a child’s brain in a positive manner is good technology. Of course, there is violence at times that a child watches and sometimes even some of the cartoon shows they watch can be violent. Children need real time social interactions—more than the time they spend passively with a gadget or watching television shows. Parents play an active role in this. Thus as parents, make your child aware about the part media and technology plays in their future and at the same time keep it neutral.  The more you try to stop your child, the more the curious minds will want to know. Thus communication helps. Build some rules around it and most importantly, make your children aware. You will be amazed how easily children understand perspectives and things that you want to explain to them. In the end, just have an open door policy so that kids and neither do you build communication gaps amongst yourselves.

Leadership Skills

Continuing with our previous discussion on leadership, we talked about ‘command and collaborate’ style of leadership. Though these are contradictory terms, but today’s leader has the skill to be flexible and adapt to the situation to achieve the common goal of the group/followers.

The most important in the list of leadership skills is knowing that there is no leader without followers. Thus remember the followers and the reason why they chose to follow you–was it your charisma? or the commonality between your and their goal? or your leadership style? Remembering your followers will help you be an adept leader.leadership skills

The goal–What was the goal which you set out to achieve? The vision that you built–be it as a student, as a competitor, as a parent, as an employee or as an employer–you should be working towards your goal achievement. While it may also happen that once you’ve achieved a particular goal, your role as a leader diminishes or importance reduces, thus you have to create new common goals as well as keep yourself and others motivated.

The way to achievement. Your actions as a leader set an example for your current and future followers. As they say, the journey is as important as the destination, similarly, the manner in which you achieve your goal is as important as the goal itself.

Become an aware leader. Not everyone can become a successful leader. Good leadership skills include the fact that a leader doesn’t always makes the right choice or decision; but leadership skills include capability to identify and accept whether it was the right or wrong decision for the achievement of the goal.

 

 

Stress Management & Exam Fear

Lets focus on exam fear that most children have. Exams act as precipitating factors making the performance on a particular school subject or grades major stressors. There is a ‘season of examinations’ that most kids fear; just like they look forward to the summer for the vacation or the ‘season of festivals’.

As parents, you also get worried about your child’s health especially during competitions and exams. Therefore, you become a part of it. Thus it becomes important that both you and your child deal effectively with it. Keep the following pointers in mind. Make use of a few of these and identify which one works best for you. Devise your own methods since each person reacts differently to stress.examination fear

  • Stress is not bad all the time: There is a concept called ‘EU Stress’. The prefix eu- derives from the greek word meaning “well” or “good.” When attached to the word stress, it literally means “good stress”.Eustress is not defined by the stressor type, but rather how one perceives that stressor. A particular level of stress is important to perform effectively on a given task. This would differ for each, so identify your own. This is not to say that learn to achieve ‘eustress’ but identify the thin line when is it that it gets converted to distress and starts affecting your child negatively.
  • Reaction to stress is different for everyone: Each child, each person reacts differently to stress. As parents, you have to help your child identify what is the most stressful situation/stimuli/environment that leads to distress. Specially during examinations, for example, if you observe that stress levels increase most just the night before the examination and your child is not able to take appropriate amount of sleep, then build a strategy around it, may be put on soothing music, or spend some time counselling your child that its just an exam. This brings us to our next point
  • “It’s just an examination” : Re look & Re visit your own feelings and thoughts about your child’s performance in examinations. Many parents consciously or unconsciously put too much pressure of excellent performance on their children. Thus, its not the exam fear, but the consequences of the performance on a particular exam that acts as a stressor. Believe and help your child believe that its just an examination, just an evaluation and its a normal process.
  • Make it a ‘Fun’ process: Whether its an examination or just a unit paper, make it an easy going, fun process for your child. While the preparation leaves are going on, make sure your child takes enough breaks during studies. This will help build a routine and your child’s mind will get refreshed and enough fuel to prepare more effectively. Do not make it such a big deal that no one is allowed to visit home or you cannot go out “since exams are going on”. Since you are building a routine around preparation time, take your child out to a nice place, give a break and do not make your house a ‘do not disturb’ zone for 24/7. This will help your child take it a little easy and lead to “eustress” which will enhance performance during examination.

Overall, the examination process is just another way to evaluate your child’s learning from books during the year. There are so many more things and experiences that your child learns from that have added to her/his growth. Focus on the overall holistic development of your child. Provide an environment with positive stimulation to your child and evaluate your child’s mind and personality development based on that.

 

Stress Management in Children

Stress Management in Children-Series 2 

Hopefully, you have completed your exercise in which we asked you to identify the most common stressors for your children.

Let us answer why this was important? Stress in general is a state which hampers our daily functioning. This might be minute or major depending upon the trauma and the importance of the stimuli which has triggered stress or the environmental situation that acts as a precipitating factor. A lot of times, you may not see its direct symptoms–this is not to say that stress is missing.stress management in children 2

While thats the negative, there is also a concept known as ‘EU Stress‘–that a little bit of stress helps in increasing the performance (be it in sports, examination, a social situation etc.) But when its persistent and starts interfering with our psychological well being (whether we realize it or not), that is when it starts leading to a state which we all know as ‘burnout’ i.e. all our resources–both physical and psychological have depleted in trying to cope with stress.

In children, you may see symptoms such as stomach ache, headache, lack of concentration, distraction, irritability, mood changes or any other non-regular psychological or physiological changes.

Once you have identified the important stressors for your child, you have to start working towards developing a healthy coping mechanism/strategy. Each child is different, will show different signs, will react differently to different situations and stressors in a given environment.

Spend time with your child and develop this mechanism. For example, if it is always about winning in sports or competitions or getting straight A grades? Then your answer lies in re-visit your parenting style. Are you emphasizing too much on competing? Do you only reward when you child wins and react negatively at losing? Is your child constantly worried about the consequences if she/he is not able to win?

Stress management is really not that difficult or scary if planned properly. An early learning in stress management in children, helps them define and develop their own coping mechanisms. This in turn, leads to effective management and coping with stressors and identifying precipitating factors in adulthood. Start early, even if it is a small situation (which by the way might be big for your child!), for effective personality development.