Teaching kids to work hard
Way back in early 80s when I was in my primary school, my parents had tough time teaching me numbers and alphabets. They often complained I didn't pay attention to anything they taught me. When I got tired of all their complains, I decided to pay attention to what they were saying. I wanted to stop their complains once for all.
The first hurdle was learning to read & write efficiently. I was confident that I can work hard and do what my parents told me. Somehow I managed to find the books of my earlier grades and revised everything there was. I became confident that reading & writing were not that difficult. Then I focused on the books of my class, I read the books repeatedly. Then I told my parents, I have read everything there was for me. I did not follow much of what I read. But the point was, I was able to read & write fast. My parents told me the kids of your age read comics, you should also read them. I collected comic books from wherever I could find them in our village. I read them all in the very afternoon. I told my mom, I am done reading those books, what should I do next. She told me you probably don't understand what you read. Re-read them several times. Re-reading the comic books started making sense. Now I could related to my elder brother's gossip about Billu, Patlu, Sabu & Chacha Choudhari. These were pretty popular comic figures when Door Darshan was the only channel available on TV.
My image was still of a dumb dude back then. But the negative comments made me work harder. One day I asked my mom, everyone tells me I am not smart. What should I do? She read me the famous poem of Sant Kabir Das:
करत करत अभ्यास के जड़मति होत सुजान
रसरी आवत जात ही सिल पर पड़त निसान
A dumb-head can become smart with repeated practice. Even a hard stone laid on the edge of a water well gets circular mark through the repeated movements of rope used to pull water-bucket off the well.
The example given by Kabir Das ji made a perfect sense to me because we did have a well on our house and I always noticed the circular edges on the stone.
Since we only have tube wells now a days, this example may not make any sense to a lot of folks. But the message is still relevant. Repeated practice can turn a not-so-smart student to a bright kid.
This poem gave me a tremendous confidence because I was not afraid of practice. I thought I could level myself up with the smarter kids in my class & neighbourhood.
My curious brain started learning to organize the information more efficiently and I could easily memorize stuff that mattered.
Soon learning became fun. I started doing well in my class and I was regarded as a hard working student in my school. However, people still wondered if I could do well in science & maths in higher classes. By the time I was in high school, my study habits were more mature & evolved and it did not matter if the subject was arts, science or maths, learning became natural & I excelled in all subjects with ease.
So the last time when my parents asked me to study was in class 4th. After that I was only told to take it easy, you have worked hard.
Moral of the story? Just teach your kids to work as hard as they can. Everything else comes naturally.