#SaraChats “Parents YOU are society. You set the expectations,” with Nivedita, a multifaceted teenager and TedEd speaker
Sara: You say, “Learning never exhausts the mind. Grades certainly do.” With limited time on their hands and a lot depending on the outcome of their grades, how do you think youngsters can make space for learning, not bothered about whether it is in the syllabus or not.
Nivedita: In an education system that stresses so deeply upon the syllabus, it might seem difficult to focus on any other forms of learning. But if you focus on the journey rather the destination, focus on what knowledge you are acquiring rather than the result on the report card, you always find a way to make your learning richer and more holistic.
Everything becomes easier when you start loving what you do, so reading up a little extra about second world war or organic chemistry, even though it’s in not your syllabus, doesn’t seem like an added burden, it is rather added knowledge. It’s all about how you look at what you’re doing. Change the narrative from “I have to” to “I want to”.
Sara: What about the constant pressure this generation is growing up with to see who is more ‘likeable’, courtesy social media? What would you like to say to youngsters your age about that?
Nivedita: I think this whole race for more followers and likes on social media can get really toxic. These notifications consume us gradually when you start checking your phone every other second for the likes or start comparing your posts to your friends. Don’t give so much importance to something as little as notification, because you’re more than that. We as humans have started defining ourselves by numbers, numbers of likes on our pages, the amount of money in our wallets, the numbers on the weighing scale, the number of calories.
We are so much more than just numbers. Mere numbers cant ever equate to your talent and beauty.
And when you realize this, you stop seeking validation from others because how much you like yourself is all that matters.
Sara: I love your point about stereotypes setting expectations for our kids. Even baby clothes for 3-year-olds draw out that contrast- Girls clothes saying ‘I am sweet’ while boys saying ‘born wild.’ How can well-meaning parents keep their kids secure from the expectations of the outside world?
Nivedita: We are raising our little boys and girls to fit into the outside world and the societal norms. But for a 3-year-old girl, her parents are her outside world. What they think and expect from her is all that matters. Parents want their children to “fit into society” because “society has some expectations” and “society is judgemental” but let me tell you, you and I, we are society. When that 5-year-old girl chooses pink over blue, it is because you stereotyped and classified two beautiful colours as feminine and masculine. When that 12-year-old girl, grows up thinking that she is not like other girls just because she is strong and bold, it’s only because you made her believe that other girls are weak and fragile.
Parents, you are society. You are the outside world. You define the expectations you are trying to secure your child from. Define them well.
Sara: If you could ask parents to change one thing in their dealing with their kid, what would that be?
Nivedita: One way I would like parents to deal differently with teenagers is by giving them an emotionally safe space like you’ve given them the physical safe space. Provide for them emotionally by allowing them to freely feel. Don’t invalidate their feelings and emotions just because they are kids with little or no experience and expertise as compared to yours. You won’t ever understand what goes on in that little mind of ours until you acknowledge the simplicity in our complex thoughts. You can’t possibly have a conversation with us if you belittle us for feeling what we feel. You can’t possibly expect us to open up to you if you don’t give us an emotionally safe and free space to.
Nivedita is a class 12 student of humanities, lover of sunsets, folk-pop music, dried flowers and the sea; counts happiness in the number of donuts eaten and paintings made. She is a multi-faceted teenager active in all school events with a strong academic record. She was selected by TED-Ed to attend a student conference in the TED headquarters in New York for her talk ‘When I Stopped Competing For Marks’. In her second TED-Ed talk she talked about the unconscious gender stereotypes and the tags that we assign to little girls and boys from a very early age. Feminist to the core, she thrives in chaos and finds beauty in the imperfect.