By ISABEL TAN
It is built into every parent’s DNA to have expectations for their children because they want what is best for them. However, humans are extremists and are sucked into the pressures surrounding us to compare.
As a result, we tend to overprotect our children by imparting high expectations that hinder and prevent the child’s growth which may fasten with a different approach.
Before trying to groom children to grow up well, we have to also examine ourselves and see if our lives reflect a good example of who we want our children to be. Over the years working as a music therapist, I find that children are very observant and good at modelling behaviour and gestures.
One of the challenges in my line of work is to manage parents’ expectations as some want their child to progress as quickly as possible without addressing the child’s needs.
I have encountered several children learning by following instructions which may lead to children just blindly
imitating without actually understanding the concept behind it.
Hence, I allow some choice and control by choosing favourite songs or actions that complement the goals and objectives of my session. I found that, by doing that, some children learn and improve at a faster rate.
Parents usually consult a music therapist because they find that their child has an interest in music. It’s great that parents are able to identify when their child has a passion.
However, I believe that exposure to different hobbies would also reveal a child’s strengths or interests that would groom them in their growing up phase.
If a child does not do well or does not show any improvement or interest in any skill, it does not mean that they must immediately stop pursuing it.
Neurodiversity teaches us to embrace their identity as a child no matter how different they may be from the majority of society.
All children have varied progress rates which is why we, as caregivers and educators, should support them until they are independent enough to make life decisions.
Dealing with children with special needs, some parents can be a bit more anxious and want to pave the way for their child especially if they are non-verbal.
However, I have observed that even these children are able to speak their own mind and communicate through non-verbal gestures.
Some parents have also trained their child from young to write a journal entry to pen down their thoughts as well as to communicate their wishes and feelings to their parents.
This shows that nothing is impossible if we have the right support and approach in grooming our child. Some space for freedom in creating their own identity would allow them to live more independently and allow them to overcome hardships in life more easily.
We, as educators and parents, need to always have faith and leverage a child’s own strengths, abilities and creativity to explore and learn to live like a child. Allowing mistakes, as long as the child is not harmed in any manner, will also help a child develop.
We need a constant reminder that every human being has their own strengths and gifts that are hidden unless they are explored and discovered freely.
Children are curious beings and like to explore in the initial stages of their lives.
Hence, it is a good sign that children have that instinct to try and use their senses in gaining knowledge of the world.
The world may be dangerous but rest assured, as long as we are there to guide them to the right track, they can always travel different routes to get to the destination.
We just have to do our best, find a balance between their strengths and our acceptance, impart every experience we have learnt and leave the rest to the child.
Isabel Tan is a degree graduate with an extended major in psychology and a minor in music. She took her masters in music therapy at the University of Queensland. She is a formally trained pianist and violinist who also plays the guitar, ukelele, drums and cello. Isabel is now back in Malaysia as a private practitioner for children with special needs and older adults. To connect with her, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org