Last year, for Onam, our apartment complex had a ‘Pookolam‘ contest. Lil D and her friend were eager participants. They planned the design well in advance, decided which colours they were going to use, asked me to purchase the requisite quantity of flowers, and were, in general, very confident.
The actual outcome was, of course, quite different from expectations. The design came out crooked, the flowers were not enough, and they were not exactly happy with the color scheme they could manage. Needless to say, they did not win any prize, and their confidence took a beating.
A few days ago, my mother and I had an interesting discussion on this. My mother felt that I should have stepped in and guided them. She pointed out that when participating in a competition, it is always a huge boost to the self-confidence if one wins or does very well. She also felt that if we didn’t correct the little mistakes as and when they happened, it would be more difficult to correct them at a later stage.
Though I could see where she was coming from, I had a different point of view. I felt that the contest was a “safe” arena for them to experience several things, such as planning (they were meticulous about charting out their design and deciding the colours), tweaking the plan when things didn’t go according to expectations (they changed the colour scheme when the flowers proved insufficient, but could not straighten the design), and experiencing failure. This gave them some invaluable experience in becoming more independent.
Moreover, Pookolam, according to me, was art, and art is all about freedom of expression. If I had stepped in and guided them, I felt that
(a) I would be hijacking their expression and replacing it with my own
(b) they would begin to turn to me and depend on me at every stage (aunty, should I do this? aunty, should I do that?), and therefore, their independent thinking would be curtailed
(c) they would not learn how it feels to fail or how to face failure and learn from it
Finally, after a long and intense discussion, we agreed to disagree. I agree with my mom’s approach of stepping in, but only when the child is in some danger or the actions could affect its entire life. Otherwise, I see no harm in allowing the child to exercise independent thinking, make his/her own mistakes, and (hopefully) learn from them.
What do you think?