One Step Solution to
Creativity…….and Boredom

“The Spontaneous
overflow of powerful emotions recollected in tranquillity” is what
William Wordsworth said about poetry.

Creativity does not get
any better than composing a poem. It involves deep processing of a
thought, experience and emotion and its expression in such a way that
it not only strikes a cord in the reader but does it in a musical
melodious way..

Most creativity actually
fulfils all these criteria of beauty and usefulness.

And as it happens with
most important things in life, creativity is a much abused word. You
hear it spread across billboards, advertisements, boardrooms, school
classrooms even coaching classes !

I have attended some
talks and workshops on creativity, read a lot of stuff about it and
talked to many creative people in various walks of life like science,
sports, music, arts and cinema, business, homemaking, medicine even
accountants ! There is a lot written about this process of creativity
by some poets and authors. To name a few in my mother tongue,
Marathi, – Pu La Deshpande, Padgaonkar, Shantabai Shelke and of
course “poet” Borkar ( Bakibab). Even companies like Google do a
lot of creativity facilitation in their workplaces and have developed
strategies for it.

What I present now is a
synthesis of all this with special attention to our children-

Creative process has a
few pre-conditions. It requires gathering of information,
experimental data, processing time, uncritical environment where
these experiments can be discussed – a good sounding board and
freedom to do all this- autonomy !

Processing this further,
I have realized that it requires-

  1. A long process of
    just looking around, exploring, thinking, gradually getting curious
    about something and exploring it further.

  2. During these
    explorations the child must have the freedom to experiment, break
    things, use them in a non-conventional way. – Autonomy

  3. Show this off to
    interested people and soak in their admiration and encouragement.

  4. Continue this
    process over and over again….infinite number of times….develop
    this into a lifelong habit.

You must have realised
quickly that this a long process and it is not outcome oriented but
process oriented. So it will take lot of time and space. Immediate
outcomes will be focussed attention, curiosity, exclusion of
distractions, enthusiasm, happiness and creative frustration. Long
term outcomes are – an active mind that looks at the world in a
curious way and finds normal life experiences exciting. This mind can
look for unusual solution to common problems and simple solutions to
complicated issues, a process of innovation. This mind will have a
very high frustration tolerance and low need for superficial

This will require time
and one most important thing –

when we think, mull over
things and let our mental processes work, we need peace – from our
eyes and ears – visual and auditory stimulation, if it happens
early on in the creative process, will destroy the process. Familiar
music does not have destructive influence but rapid changing visuals
are very destructive. All creative people have repeated this many
times – they need time away from passive visual stimulation like
TV, video games, internet,etc. This kind of visual stimulation takes
up huge amount of procession space in brain and suspends everything
else. Imagine a child watching TV and you have an example of what I
am trying to express.

This does not mean that
children should sit with closed eyes, it means that kids should have
quiet time away from rapidly changing visuals. Looking out of the
window, just staring at something absent-mindedly of listening to
familiar music while going about experimenting with things provides
just the right kind soothing trance that a creative process needs. It
is bit like meditation, you give your mind a nonsensical, low
stimulation toy to play with repeatedly so that large part of your
brain can be protected from distractions and go to work on creative

Now back to the problem
of real life and our kids-

some steps that I can
think of-

  1. From earliest days
    of life, leave kids alone to play. They are not our toys and source
    of entertainment. Let them get used to spending time by themselves,
    preferably alone in the room or if that is not feasible then with
    non-intruding adult in the same room. Babies as young as 10 days can
    spend up to 30 Min playing by themselves, if allowed by adults.

  2. Do not instruct
    children on “proper” way of playing. If you stop instructing,
    they will use the same play material in may different ways to
    generate many plays.

  3. Let them tell you
    stories and tales without interruption, instructions and do not get
    too curious about themes in their mind. Even violent and destructive
    fantasies are healthy and necessary.

  4. Take them on walks
    whenever you can. Just let them run around, explore and ask
    questions without bombarding them with “knowledge”.

  5. When they come up
    with solutions to their problems, let them try out, even if you
    totally disagree with the solution. This will help them develop a
    self evaluation process – most important skill in life.

As you can see, this will
not increase your child’s marks in exam but it will make them
independent thinkers, courageous solution finders and will help them
live a life that is not filled with need of constant stimulation,
novelty. Their idea of having a good time will extend beyond visiting
malls and playing computer games.

( This piece of writing
was inspired by a you tube video ( )suggested by my creative
businessman friend Ameya Navathe. I also found some inspiration from
a book “A Good Enough Parent” by Bruno Bettelheim.)

Basic Rules of Discipline

Recently I read a book – “Supernanny” by Jo Frost.

Jo Frost did a great show on Channel Four in the UK few years ago. I happend to see it and was impressed by her warm yet no nonsense approach to disciplining kids.

You should buy her book if you are one of the troubled parent. But remember, badly behaved children mostly are oucome of some issue in parenting, so be prepared to look at yourself and other adults in the house before you point a finger at kids.


Here is a summary of Jo’s ten golden rules as given in her book – SUPERNANNY


Ten Rules



and positive reinforcement are important when it comes to teaching
social skills. Notice good behaviour. Don’t use toys as a treat on a
regular basis.


change or make up rules as you go along. Follow through and make sure
your partner backs you up. Constantly reinforce important rules, like
those about crossing the road safely.


time into schedule for play, indoors and out. Vary play activities
and have special treats or games up your sleeve for days when it is
not possible to go out. Try to get outdoors as much as possible to
let children blow off steam.


clear abut your rules and what you expect in terms of behaviour. Set
limits on TV watching. Teach respect for possessions by keeping chaos
under control. Don’t give into whining and whingeing.


time out / naughty step technique for unacceptable behaviour like
fighting and aggression.


warnings about what is happening next so that your child can prepare.
Don’t interrupt play suddenly and expect your child to move smoothly
onto the next activity. Give warning before disciplining so that
child can correct behaviour himself.


and tell your child how you expect him to behave when it comes to
“grey areas”. Always talk over the reason behind fears and give
plenty of assurance. Teach your children how to play games and how to
play with toys.


buy your child the entire content of the toy shop. Improvised toys
are just as much fun. Practise toy rotation so that everything’s not
out at once. Take control of TV and monitor what your children are


your children how to share and take turns. Don’t always hover over
your kids when they play. Use involvement technique for shopping and
other times when you need to be busy.


your children. Get involved in their play and let then direct it.
Cuddle up with them and read them a story.

Single Mother and a not so single son

Being Single Mother

Varsha (name changed),
visited me thrice in a week. This is not how frequently I see my
patients. Unless there is a very volatile situation, patients need to
see me once in two weeks or once a month.

Varsha has a special
problem. She lost her husband to a sudden and massive heart attack
three years ago. With a young son in tow, she had to shift in with
her in-laws for practical reasons. After initial teething troubles,
they all have settled well together and money is not a huge concern.

As Varsha does not want
to be married again, and is not even looking for a relationship, life
seems calm and quiet.

But, there is a problem.
Aarush (name changed) , Varsha’s 13 year old son is on his own trip.
He has a mobile phone, a bunch of friends and not very high regard
for studies. It is not that he is running around doing nasty things
or getting letters from school all the time. He is just not
interested in behaving the way his mother wants him to.

On the face of it,
Varsha’s expectations are simple. She expects him to study for at
least two hours everyday, play with friends for as much time as he
wants, eat a good square meal that she prepares for him, respect
grand-parents, be aware that money is not unlimited and restrict his
conversations on phone to bare minimum. She also expects him to be
aware of time and mange it with lot of thought and planning. What it
means is that from the time he wakes up, Aarush should not loiter
around, he should be quick on his feet and do things with a zest that
suits a young man of thirteen.

Their relationship is so
affected by this time management issue that they hardly talk to each
nicely. Varsha is forever trying to make him rush through tasks of
the day and Aarush wants to delay everything as much as possible.
Sometimes even missing the school bus or tennis practice ! His
grandparents sympathize with Varsha and understand her motherly
intentions, but they feel helpless in the constant tug of war between
mother and son.

When I started talking
to Varsha, it was clear that she was under tremendous burden to help
help son achieve the best possible things in life. Her husband’s
death had left her with a huge emotional void and she had stopped
thinking about herself completely. It had even affected the way she
dressed and the way she ignored her appearance . Her only goal in
life was to make sure that her son did well in life and she could see
academics as the only way of making that happen. Husband’s untimely
death changed her perception of time as well. This rude realization
that life is very fickle and unpredictable made her take passage of
time very seriously.

According to Varsha,
every moment of life is an opportunity that will never come your way
again. Every moment must be utilised to make your life more
productive and better. Aarush has a very different temperament, even
at the age of 13 he is a person who helps his friends in emotional
problems. He is a source of information, support and advice to his
friends, boys and girls alike. He spends time on phone, giving
counsel to his classmates and he is liked for that by his
schoolmates. There are times when Aarush will even sit with his
mother and talk to her about various things, sharing her worries and
all !

What Aarush can not
understand is his mother’s sense of hurry and constant panic as if
time is running out. His solution to that is to slow everything down,
take life easy and he hope that his mother will learn from his

A family session that
included grandparents with Aarush and Varsha was very helpful to
highlight this issue. Varsha was for the first time in three years
was able to voice openly how much she missed her husband and how deep
her fear and insecurity runs. Fortunately, grandparents rose to the
occasion and pledged to support Varsha emotionally as well. As the
whole family reunited in their desire to live a “normal” life, I
could only hope that now Aarush will get a chance to shed his adult
role and go on to become a lovely child that he is.

Conversation with Aamir Khan

Conversation with Aamir

Yesterday (21/02/2012), I
had a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet Aamir Khan at his
residence. I was invited to talk about the work I do to prevent child
sex abuse. Aamir Khan came to know about my video on youtube (
and developed interest in that work.

I was seriously impressed
by his “normal” home, a study cluttered with lots of DVDs, books
and papers and of course two majestic cats. The Bentley standing in
his garage looked completely out of place with the normality in his

While we were chatting
about issues related to children and modern age, discussion turned to
cellphones. Some of the members of Aamir Khan Productions have
teenage kids and Aamir has three kids. Everybody was talking about
how cellphones are taking over their relationship with kids.
Everybody complained that all discussions with kids turn into
negotiations around what next phone to buy, what bill amount is okay,
should the phone be switched off at all, should internet access be
allowed on the phone, etc.

I am of the opinion ( I
am in a serious minority here, I know) that kids should not be given
phones at all till they finish 12th STD ( ideally, till
they earn to buy their phone and pay bills). All children use phone
to keep in touch with their friends, listen to music, swap video
files and surf internet. All this can be achieved by using home
computer !

I was surprised to find
Aamir Khan on the same side of fence as me ! He said that his son
Junaid, was given a mobile phone only after he turned 18 ! with the
same token, daughter will be given one when she is 18 ! as older
brother did not receive a phone before 18 she has no room to complain
and argue !

I am seriously impressed
with Mr. Aamir Khan’s fatherly instincts !

Many of us will argue
that our kids need phone for emergencies and to contact us. Aamir’s
kids probably drove around in chauffeur driven cars and may be had
bodyguards ! And the accompanying staff must have phones with them.
That is possibly true.

Now just think about last
6 months – how many times did your kid use a cellphone in a real
emergency? ( “mom, I forgot my geography book, please bring it to
school.” is not emergency, it is one lazy kid that can not be
bothered to be organised and one anxious mom who will run to help at
the drop of a hat !)

All kids have set
timetables, transport and some amount of money in their pocket. Why
do they need phones? In case they need help on the streets, they must
have enough social skills to get that help from passers by. To expect
daddy and mummy to run for every tiny little thing is going to make
them seriously socially inept.

Lot of parents use kids’
cellphones as a mobile tracking device. ” where are you?” and ”
what are you doing?” are the commonest opening questions in phone
conversations. Kids usually tell a lie in answer to these question
and you get a false sense of security. Some kids routinely switch off
phones, sending their hapless parents into panic.

Not having a phone means
your kids learn to plan their day and meetings, they learn to
communicate with people in advance, they even sleep much better at
night because their is no phone to receive text messages from
insomniac friends in the middle of the night.

Children who sleep
better, are taller, healthier and can concentrate better.

If you still think that
their are emergencies that your kids can not face with out a
cellphone, get help from a good counsellor
about your anxiety !

I rest my case !


Will you allow me a

Have you ever had a
secret? Known to just you and nobody else. How did that make you
feel? Proud, naughty, scared, ashamed or nice?

Had you a secret known
only to a bunch of close friends and not shared with any
“outsider”? It must have strengthened the bond of friendship.
Must have given you a sense of belonging, togetherness.

Children as young as 2-3
years start enjoying secrets. They tell you something silly as secret
( that too in a very loud whisper) and then tell it to everyone with
same serious air of secret. It seems very cute at the time. It is a
very important stage of personality development, the child is
developing “ego-boundary,” a sense of “self” and “others”.

Sometimes parents too
recruit their kids in this. “don’t tell this to your father/
mother/ teacher/ brother/ neighbour/ etc.” is a frequent opener of
such conversations. Thus from early age kids learn that it is okay to
hide information from certain person if you can justify it somehow.

And then kids grow up,
their world expands beyond family. So does their sense of identity,
privacy and secrets.

This is a difficult
transition for most parents. Those parents, who see kids as an
extension of themselves, find it almost insulting when kids don’t
share “everything” with them. Their goal to be their kids “best
friend” is seriously thretened when kids start hiding information
from them. Mostly this information is very trivial but if parents get
worried about it and make a meal out of it then it can lead to rapid
escalation of tension.

Many parents take this
as a serious security risk. They believe that as parent they must
know every thing in their child’s life. They even want to know their
kids’ most personal moments and thoughts, going through their
diaries, blogs, chat records, rooms, drilling their friends for
information and what not !

Kids usually react by
being more secretive, aloof and sometimes outright rude. This sets a
vicious cycle of parents becoming more suspicious and panicky and
kids always staying one step ahead. This may ultimately result in a
strained feeling in the relationship. Some kids will go to the extent
of shutting parents out of their lives and getting into trouble for

It is very important
that parents should be vigilant about kids’ activities and they must
do this with a healthy respect for a growing child’s need for privacy
and a sense of autonomy. Having secrets is a part of healthy
personality development. It is an important task of development of
identity. Without a strong sense of identity and a feeling of
uniqueness, children start looking up-to idols and fanatical ideas as
young adults and can not grow out of it.

Respecting your child’s
need for privacy and acknowledging it makes them realize that they
are loved and trusted. They grow to become trustworthy ( with a few
slips and accidents on the way) and independent. Parents’ respect is
the fuel on which children develop their self-esteem, the most
important human quality.