While I write this column I am not sure which party would win the General Elections 2019 in India and lead the government. But the picture will be clear by the time this article is published on Sunday. Whosoever wins, what difference does it make to most of us: parents with children? Although we are all citizens of the country and contribute through our daily activities to the growth of the country, do the political activities really concern us or involve us? We might pay attention to all that’s happening in the country, but at the end of the day, we go back to our worries about “Roti, Kapada aur Makaan” as well as the education and well-being of our children.
The reference to any National Leaders like the Prime Ministers, Presidents or the Father of the nation starts for an Indian child with maybe 14 November or the Children’s Day when we dress them up as “Chacha Nehru” for the Fancy Dress Competition and tell them about the first Prime Minister of India: Pt Jawaharlal Nehru. After this the only reference to something as remote as National Leaders may only happen during the celebrations of National Festivals such as Republic Day or Independence Day. Children may witness the Parade or Speech ceremonies on TV or virtually and may hear a passing reference made to the PM/President being saluted or felicitating the brave soldiers.
So how do you connect them with the national leaders? Why think of connecting national leadership with children or vice-versa? In fact, do they need to be connected to the national leaders at such an early age? As discussed earlier also, many would say there is no need to introduce children so early to the bloodbath of democracy. But can they actually escape from the reality or from whatever is happening so close to their homes? Malala could not; neither could all the children who witnessed mass shootings or bomb blasts in their school premises!
If one wants to preserve the innocence of childhood and let peace prevail in the world, it is highly advisable to introduce children to the various styles of Leadership in any country. Some countries may flourish under the regime of Dictators, some others under Monarchs or even Democrats like us. Countrymen may accept these forms of leadership without any regrets or rebel. Children need to understand that leadership is a complex trait: it keeps evolving from different situations and also changes in similar situations with different times and places. Probably this is also one reason that many parents do not want to connect children with national leadership.
But before we move ahead to look at what National Leadership can do to develop children; let us first take a look at what is leadership and the reasons for connecting it with children:
1.Leadership is all about identity. Maybe the leadership capabilities can be professionally developed too. But still it has to start from within.
2.Leadership is about influencing people.
3.Leadership is about responsibility.
4.Leadership is about qualities and values.
5.Leadership is about purpose.
Now aren’t these the qualities that we as parents work upon while parenting? So now that we know the similarities between children and leaders we can go on to cultivate leadership in them. The process of cultivating leadership in children is a process of inquiry, discovery and reflections. Any and every child who is made to believe that s/he can make a difference in the lives of others in any manner can be a potential candidate to become a leader.
But we need to be careful about exposing children to many examples so that tomorrow they decide which one of them were the right examples. Parents expect children to blindly follow in their footsteps. But if we want to create free and fair leadership styles in them we need not to force our political leanings on them. Some qualities that we need to inculcate in them to connect them to national leadership would be:
1.Ability to learn
2.Ability to communicate and reach out to others
3.Readiness to Volunteering for works other than personal
5.Compassion for others
This was all about how parents can work towards connecting children to national leadership. We also need to think about how does leadership connect itself to the children? Talking to them on issues related to their world such as: school life, how to perform in exams, experiments and projects related to their problems and solutions; can only mark the beginning. What can further keep them going is the endeavour to let them peep into each other’s life and live it wholeheartedly.
While the nation waits a new era in Indian Democracy, let’s hope the new government also opens a new chapter in the lives of Indian children.
Sqn Ldr Vidula Abhyankar (retd) A SSC Officer of Indian Air Force, having background of a linguist in English Language (ELT) has worked for last 17 years in the field of education, training and development of Air warriors and their families.