Tag Archive: smartshrubs

Music, Brain Development & Personality

In the first few years of life, each child’s brain develops complex network of brain structures and schemas that lay the foundation of more mature processes such as emotional development, facilitate decision making and shape the persona. Experiences of children during preadolescence and adolescence greatly impact their later lives,  affected by the architecture of their brains. This also impacts their future learning skills and capacities.

According to a major research by Janet DiPietro (2000), during the years between 9-13, a child’s brain starts a process during which it eliminates unnecessary neural connections and schemas and starts focussing on the maintenance of the associations that it uses. These associations are made very rapidly based on the child’s environment and even small stimuli that a child comes in contact with.Music and Personality development

The importance of music and its role in a child’s brain development and personality development is an important debate in education psychology today. Music is universal and cross-cultural studies show that all children who are given exposuree to music have faster brain development with stronger neural connection and better emotional development. Brain reacts to music to de-stress thus leading to better stress management capabilities and reduces cases of depression and anxiety. Music therapy is an upcoming concept becoming more and more popular and successful in helping children cope with stress and anxiety.

Music and language have always been used as modes of expression. There is music to express any kind of emotion and feelings. Music has the capability to encourage creativity and intellectual development of a child.

Music also activates the right hemisphere of the brain, thus impacting right side processes such as creativity, artistic expression, musical intelligence, intuition, expression of emotions, reading/recognizing other’s emotions, recognizing faces and color etc. Thus, it becomes imperative to add music to children’s routine activities and life, stimulating their brains and intellectual development.

At Smart Shrubs, music, dramatics and aesthetics module focuses on training participants make use of music and aesthetics to cope with stress, stimulate creativity and make it a part of their routine perception, thus shaping their personalities and decision making capabilities.


Feedback To Do’s

We all must have talked about the word ‘feedback’ sometime or the other–be it feedback to our bosses, our subordinates or our relatives–even our kids. But more often than not, it goes wrong or we fail miserably in doing so. Why? The journey of feedback is more important than the end result.

Imagine yourself in a situation wherein you know that something is not right (please pay attention to the words..’something is not right’ & not ‘something is wrong’). Its something you want to talk about, discuss, maybe you perceive it as a problem which needs a solution. But the ‘frustrating’ part is that the other has a completely different outlook. But until you talk about it, you will end up in a vicious circle of thinking and then over thinking about it–but with no solution thus making it a never ending process.

One might feel that its easier to say and advise than be in a situation. Lets take a common situation that parents come across “My kid doesn’t take up any responsibility”. Isn’t it ironic? On one hand you are calling your child a ‘kid’ and on the other you also expect them tFeedbacko take ‘responsibility’. Here, we need to define, what responsibility? Are you expecting your older child to take the responsibility of your younger child? If yes, then that would reflect that you trust their thinking and decision making capacities. If yes, then when you are defining their schedules, asking them to join certain courses, defining their time limits etc. etc. etc. why not include them?

Children have the most amazing thinking capacities. They come up with better solutions than you can imagine! The reason being that their experiences are wider and more open contrary to thought that ‘they don’t know what life is’. The fact that they don’t know much is their strength. They don’t get confounded by the cultural what to do’s and open up their minds to imaginations beyond what is constricting you. Here are a few ‘feedback to do’s’ …

  • Its best to keep the communication channels open with your children. Feedback is a two way communication. If you want to give feedback, then learn & ask to feedback from your children as well.
  • Its best to trust them so that they can trust you.
  • Its best to make them smart but not at the cost of their innocence, imagination or creativity.
  • Let them participate in their own lives. So next time you are building their schedule, please ask them to do it and extend your helping hand instead of telling them.
  • Use certain words like ” I want to discuss something with you” or ” I need your suggestion”; and then participate.
  • Build some communication rules such as neither you nor you children will use gadgets such as phones or ”whatapp” while discussing something with you. Children will leave their phones, but remember YOU also have to leave them for the ten minutes you are spending with them for a good quality discussion.
  • Let them explore and explore with them.
  • Don’t punish yourself or feel guilty. You are as old a parent as your child is. So you are learning along with them. They are born in different times than you so their environment is different. And the different environment is being provided by you only! So learn and grow with them.

The environment that children grow up in greatly affects their personalities. Parents always give it their best. So add one more thing to your ‘to do list’–Open up to share the experiences of your children.




Education, Creativity & Personality Development

_DSC0285 (1)I was just watching a Ted Talk by Seth Godin how on schools have been following the decades of training procedures. It is interesting to note that he starts with a simple pleasantry “Good Morning”–something that children all over the world are taught by teachers and trainers alike in all schools–be it a public school, a private institution or a government funded NGO run initiative. While there is nothing wrong in exchanging a simple “good morning”; what Godin very subtly pointed out was that the training and conditioning to follow a structure and a methodology starts right from beginning.

He uses the analogy “industry products” –children across are being taught what different industries expect them to know and learn when they go on to make their careers and take up jobs. They are given an incentive called “salary”, which keeps them motivated enough to follow the instruction. Yet, at the same time, there is also an expectation to do something different and stand out from the crowd. But how do we expect our children to do both? Aren’t we confusing them?  Aren’t we killing their creativity?

No doubt that the most important years of education are the school years. We entrust in schools that they will provide the best of education to our children, make them creative and finally aid in personality development by equipping them with Life skills. These life skills and personality will finally help them achieve and be successful in their professional and personal lives.

At the same time, the very same schools are not providing their students a platform to grow and learn. How much of openness to experience are they taught? How self aware are the students? Aren’t most of the students following a trend instead of setting one? Do they have a will-to-meaning?

Teachers have a very important role to play in student’s personality. They are becoming more aware and realizing that instead of being trainers, they need to become coaches and facilitators. They have to coach students into becoming life long learners, who are not the industry kids but give way to their creativity. Students should be given an opportunity to build something interesting. A great performance in school or grades does not necessarily lead to success and happiness. It is the association with something interesting.

As Godin puts it, children should be coached to connect and not collect. It is this collaboration, connection, interest that will shape their personality into becoming happier and successful.


The Little Scientists : Personality Development

Personality Development “Children think differently than adults”–its a famous quote by Jean Piaget, who mostly influenced the modern thought in cognitive and developmental psychology.

According to Piaget, children go through four key process or changes which spans into adulthood and greatly shapes their cognitive thoughts and thus helps in personality development. Children actively explore the world and environment around them. Therefore, they are little scientists on a voyage of observation and assimilation.

The Sensorimotor stage (from infancy to 2 years): The environment is explored and knowledge is gained by infants through their sensory experiences and manipulation of objects around them.

The Preoperational stage ( from 2 years to 7 years):  At this stage, children learn through ‘free play’. They are aware of the rules of the game but struggle with logical explanations for changing rules and being open to the idea that others can have a different point of view or different opinions

The Concrete Operational stage (from 7 years to 11 years): At this stage, continuing from the previous stage, children find it difficult to change the rules and methodologies. But at the same time, they begin to understand that there are different logical explanations to same experience. The understanding of the abstract and hypothetical starts.

The Formal Operational stage (from adolescence to adulthood): Logic is assimilated and given as an explanation to events and experiences. Children begin to understand the hypothetical and gain the abilities to understand deductive reasonings understanding of abstracts ideas.

Children also acquire important adaptive and cognitive concepts such as schemas, assimilation, accommodation. 

Schemas refer to categories that children form of knowledge and information that help them interpret the environment, objects, people and events. It includes both category of knowledge and process of acquisition of knowledge.

Assimilation is a process taking or adding new information to the set schemas. It is subjective in nature because children modify the information or experience to fit in the already existing schemas.

Accommodation is the process in which children modify or alter the existing schemas because they have received some new/very different information which does not fit any existing schemas.

Equilibration –all children aim to acquire a balance between the process of assimilation and accommodation.

Equilibration is an important concept since children want to strike a balance between using existing knowledge, acquiring new knowledge and forming new schemas. It is the state of equilibration that helps them move from one stage to another.

All children go through these stages naturally. But when given the right training and exposure to right concepts, the schemas they form are more facilitative and broader in quality. This helps enhance their problem solving skills, becoming more creative as well as attaining a higher understanding of logic.

Parents play an important role in this process. A facilitative environment by parents is a must in appropriate acquisition of these stages.

The journey so far!

SmartShrubs is a wonderful journey that the I and the participants take together.

When I start the day with my first batch and meet kids, they are full of enthusiasm and ready for imbibing more skills. Can you ever stop children from learning more and more? The answer is never.  Gradually, they are becoming more aware about their environment. Through tasks that require them to observe, assume and interpret, they are getting to know the world better. Every second of the day, first consciously and then unconsciously, they are absorbing.

It is so satisfactory to see them grow. To be able to make a contribution and see how they are evolving. The first day when they came for the very first class, to the loud laughter and fun they have, and deep down inside they know that they are gaining something and becoming more skilled. The difference I see in their communication patterns between the first day and end of the second week is remarkable! For honesty sakes, I never imagined that they would imbibe so fast.

A mix of exercises–role plays, discussions, debates over topics that would just push them to imagine and create, the rewards to keep them motivated–these are sessions that they look forward to!

Children are much aware nowadays in comparisons to previous generations. Every day, they decide for themselves, from the given choices, what would they like to learn today! And wow! the list is both amazing and satisfactory!

The best part–when participants just never look at their watches and just want the sessions to go on and on and in the end when they ask me to extend the time! This is when I know, that they are following the rule “Never make classes boring” and they truly are enjoying what they are learning.





When asked to define Leadership, Peter Drucker famously said, “management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things”. The most successful leaders have a vision and an insight into the needs of the environment. But what is the right recipe of a successful leader? None. Every child has a unique personality that gives an ability to perceive the environment from a certain vantage point. When we can develop is the self awareness, social awareness and how to make effective use of communication and personality capabilities.

There are many different leadership styles. Each style will be most appropriate for different audiences, followers and situations. The goal is the most important for an effective leader. To achieve the goal successfully, it is as important that the trajectory for the achievement of growth path is right.LEadership

Most recently, researchers have pointed out that while at one end of the spectrum lies having complete authority and control over people and situation, the other end signifies too much of freedom to followers (which often leads to chaos). There needs to be a balance on this spectrum and what is known as command and collaborate style of leadership. Command and collaborate are contradictory terms,  but each leader today needs to engage in both. According to the situation, there must be a flexibility to either become a hard wired, authoritative leader who resolves the problem and presents the solution, collaboration would entail brain storming and being a good listener to reach the most creative solution to any problem and taking the final decision.

Leaders must be consistent with their espoused values and visible traits. Successful leaders need to have a balance EQ, SQ and IQ. A good leader would work on his/her strengths and accept weak points, so that the followers or the group fill the gaps.

Leadership can be learnt and trained. A good leadership is not only needed during corporate situation, but every day life. Communication, collaboration, persistence, commitment, self awareness and motivation are some of the leadership traits that, when acquired at the right age, lead to a more effective leadership personality.

Communication-Transaction Analysis

The model of Transaction Analysis was first given by Eric Berne–a theory for analyzing the interaction between human behavior and communication. While many would believe that its most important implication lies in professional life, but nevertheless, pre-adolescents and -adolescents already show a preference to one kind or way of communication over another.

The assumptions behind the model are:

  • Everyone is both OK
  • Each person should be accepted as they are
  • People take responsibility of self
  • People modify their behavior to seek physical and emotional nurturing from others

According to the PAC model, based on the childhood experiences and role models, personality can have three ego states (ego states are one of the sources of behavior):

  • Parent Ego state (Nurturing Parent Ego State & Critical Parent Ego State)
  • Adult Ego State (Objective, Ethical in character)
  • Child Ego State ( Free Child/Natural Child Ego state & Adaptive Ego State)

Transaction Analysis takes into account the interaction between different ego states in people. There can be multiple ways or types of interactions that determine the behavior.

It is not only verbal, but non verbal or body language (known as ‘strokes’) also that form a part of interaction or communication.

An individual always works from different ego states in a lifespan or in different situations. Being aware about ego states. both of one’s own as well as others, helps determines the relevant mode of ego state communication/interaction to attain the final purpose of communication.

Self Esteem

Self Esteem is the overall emotional evaluation of own worth. The perception one has of self and what she/he is worth. it is a judgement of oneself as well as an attitude towards self. A healthy self esteem is an important aspect of one’s personality because it keeps one emotionally healthy and brings the ability to take risks and achieve set goals and targets. According to Nathaniel Brandon self esteem is “the experience of being competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and being worthy of happiness”.

For children, achievement in school, social experiences with those in the immediate vicinity of the self such as parents, peer, teachers, as well as the overall cultural aspects lead to development of self esteem. A negative self esteem can be a cause of self discouragement as well as mistrust towards towards others and loss of own worthiness. Parenting style is crucial in formation of self esteem. Parents who are caring but not over indulging, allow their children the formation of their own opinions, encourage freedom and responsibility tend to form a healthy self esteem.

A healthy self esteem also acts as a means to deal with failures and errors, since one’s own efficacy in mind and own value is not questioned by oneself. In contrast, a low self esteem or a negative self esteem tends to do the opposite. It can lead to one not being able to fully utilize the intellectual capacities and deprives one of thinking creatively and taking reasonable risks or benefit from one’s own intelligence. Low self esteem also inbuilts a sense a fear in a person of failure or lack of achievement and acceptance.

A psychologically healthy child develops own self esteem through the use of own mind and intellectual capacities and gains an ever increasing sense of control over own existence by choosing values that demand constant growth.

A healthy self esteem helps form a strong, positive sense of personal identity. A positive self esteem in an individual grows contributes in identification of one’s goals, independent actions, and is a self generator & not afraid of responsibility.


Emotional Intelligence

“IQ and emotional intelligence are not opposing competencies, but rather separate ones…. All of us mix IQ and emotional intelligence in varying degrees.” Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence. 

Emotional Intelligence has four fundamentals–Self awareness (the ability to identify your own emotions and their impact); self management (the ability to manage, control your emotions and behavior); social awareness (the ability to recognize and understand other’s emotions and react appropriately),  relationship management (the ability to influence and contact others).brain-20424_640

Emotional Intelligence is a personality trait that can be developed over time with right learning. Recent research shows that higher Emotional Intelligence (EI) is associated with better transition from school to University and improved graduate employability.

Emotional Intelligence is also important in order to have frank discussions and come up with new insights as well as dealing with everyday problems creatively. Researches have found out that people high in EI are better leaders since they are sensitive towards the emotionality of the environment and can communicate their messages accordingly for most apt understanding. A skillful use of EI involves both feelings and thinking.

Emotional Intelligence also plays a role in moral reasoning. Researchers have also found that people with drug abuse and addictions have very low EIs and are less emotionally healthy in comparison to those who are not.

Because of the direct (and indirect) influences of EI on different personality traits such as team work, leadership etc, and the role it plays in problem solving and being in situations dealing with people ( or even self), EI becomes an important part of one’s development. The good news is that unlike IQ which is mostly innate, EI can be developed over time with right training.



Communication definition in its simplest form is transmission of a message from sender to the receiver via a medium. Your message may be affected by large noise during transmission (usually referred to as attenuation), making it imperative to make that the medium for the message is chosen appropriately. Also, for effective communication, it is important that the sender understands the receiver or audience; this is to ensure that the message is understood to the best of capacity and with least distortions or changes in the meaning.Communication

As we all know, communication can be both verbal  and non verbal. Only 30% of our communication is verbal while 70% is non verbal. Thus, if you are verbally giving someone a message which is happy, but the tone is sad or the body language and expressions are some depicting some other feeling/emotion (this by the ways is extremely difficult to do), a person would most likely decipher the message as your non verbal expression/emotion.

Usually 8 Cs are referred to for effective verbal communication.

  • Clear.
  • Concise.
  • Concrete.
  • Correct.
  • Coherent.
  • Complete.
  • Credible
  • Creative

For your message, it is extremely important that the information is well researched, correct, concise and is remembered. A creative medium chosen to transmit the message will also help to remember it.

It is also extremely important to practice and master controlling non verbal communication. Most people only think of it as body language, but it also includes, expressions such as the tone, pitch, voice modulation etc. Scientific research on nonverbal communication and behavior began with the 1872 publication of Charles Darwin’s The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.  Since then, there has been ample research on non verbal communication. Mostly, there are 8 ways through which we communicate non verbally

  • Facial Expression
  • Gestures
  • Paralinguistics
  • Body Language and Posture
  • Proxemics (Personal space)
  • Eye Gaze
  • Haptics (communication through touch)
  • Appearance

A closely related area, Emotions, was studied by Paul Ekman in the 60s, He identified six facial expressions that are identified universally–happiness, sadness, anger, fear, disgust and surprise.

To be able to deliver the full impact of message, effective communication skills are important. While it is affected by many factors, communication skills can be improved through learning and practice.