Just Five Minutes amma!
Ronit never completes his work on time. He has developed the habit of postponing every activity, be it studies, taking bath or eating food. His five minutes never end. Mrs Kataria, Ronit’s mother, is worried with his habit. She has to scream to make Ronit do anything. She starts sweetly but ends up with a harsh voice. She starts saying from the kitchen, “Ronit, switch off the TV.” But he immediately answers back, “five minutes, mamma.” She comes back after half an hour and finds Ronit still viewing T.V. Now she loses her patience and tells that she has to shout. Ronit does not listen! Why does he act like this? Why he spoils his and his mother’s mood? If his mother tells him to go and take bath, he will keep on sitting and again says “five minutes, mamma.” If he is told to clean his almirah, immediately he will say, “five minutes mamma.” When his mother wakes him up from sleep, Ronit’s five minutes are still there. After he comes back from school, his mother has to scream for each work, be it for changing his dress, washing his face, or keeping the bag at its place. For each work, he would say, “I will do mamma. Just five minutes, mamma.” Will his five minutes ever end?
This is a very common scene in most families. Mothers shouting and screaming is a usual phenomenon. Mothers say that they ‘have to’. But do they really ‘have to’? No. Actually screaming is a short-cut which parents have learnt to deal with their children. But this screaming causes more damage than good. The children who can very well read the parents’ minds come to know his boundary. They know how they can extend their boundary from five minutes to two hours or may be more than that. Now very small kids of nursery have learnt to use this “five minutes” policy. They don’t know what five minutes mean but use it 50 times a day.
The reason behind this postponement can be many. The major reason might be that children find regular tasks to be monotonous. They find no interest in the same things. Thinking about those works does not give them any enthusiasm. They want to avoid them. But they know that it is not possible to avoid those tasks completely. So, they find postponement as the best way to deal with this situation. They do not learn to take responsibility for those tasks. They are given punishment in terms of scolding or screaming but no strategy is used to develop their feeling of responsibility. These children like to do what interests them but do not see the long-term disadvantage in not performing certain tasks. They want to be engrossed in what they find interesting at the given moment. Children are the ones who know to live in each moment. Due to this, they do not feel the necessity of doing the tasks which do not give them a moment’s feeling. Many children have learnt that mothers would shout in spite of anything. They found through their insight that mothers do find some or the other reason for screaming and shouting. So, they find no use in troubling in doing the tasks which pleases their mothers. They learnt that even if they tried many a time to please their parents, still they get scolding or harsh treatment. The good behaviour which they have demonstrated consciously had no meaning before their parents’ eyes. So, there was no use making any conscious effort!
Parents need to understand that their children understand even what is unspoken. They can go beyond the words and understand the meaning of any gesture or any behaviour. Ronit had learnt that although his mother tells him to do some work, she does not mean so. This he learnt through his own observation. Initially when Ronit’s mother said, “Ronit, bring your copy”, Ronit replied, “Yes mamma, just bringing within five minutes.” After giving this reply, Ronit managed to be with other games for another 20 minutes. Again his mother says, “Ronit, I have been telling since long to bring your copy.” Ronit still tries his own strategy, “Yes mamma, just five minutes.” After half an hour, his mother comes back and loses her patience. She shouts now. But Ronit found that he managed with 50 minutes. So, he thinks that five minutes is really very useful. Children may or may not be able to estimate the duration of time, but they find magic in five minutes. Sadly parents, due to their own shortcomings, shout at their children. They do not remain firm at the first go. They train children with one method non-verbally and create confusion by verbally training them with another method.
What helped Ronit and his mother?
Ronit was used to living in this manner. But internally he used to feel disturbed when his mother screamed. He mentioned to one of his uncle that his heart beats fast when her mother shouts. Many a time, he asked his mother, “Mamma, can’t you speak politely?” She gives him several explanations which he cannot understand. He simply that when his mother tells him to speak politely, why can’t she?
Days were passing by in this manner. One day Mrs Kataria went to office where she shared her problem with one colleague. Her friend kept on asking questions about her daily routine. Mrs Kataria realised that she gets extremely tired after she reaches home and she cannot be patient with her son. She realised that her son’s habit of postponement can be due to her own faulty behaviour. She does not remain firm initially. She instructs and goes away. She gets involved with her own work. But when she comes back and finds Ronit not over with the work, it irritates her. Her irritation needs a vent out. So, screaming comes as the best solution for her. This habit of shouting is also spoiling her relation with her son. Her friend suggested that she should ask Ronit to finish a work and report to her what all he has completed! Maybe this would develop a sense of responsibility within the child.
It has been found that there is a solution to every problem. We need to tune our mind to the solution. Mrs Kataria’s mind is now tuned in towards solution. Many other things floated in her mind. She was sure that she would succeed in her mission to make her son responsible. Will Mrs Kataria’s mission be successful? It’s not an easy job. Mrs Kataria had lots of hopes. She just took a seat on the sofa to relax herself. Ronit came slowly with a glass of water for his mamma. This is Ronit’s daily job for which he is never appreciated. But the day he misses this work, his parents never miss to comment on Ronit’s lack of concern towards them. This time Mrs Kataria was feeling a lot of affection towards Ronit. She took her son close to her and hugged him. Ronit felt very cozy in his mother’s arm. Mrs Kataria thanked Ronit for the glass of water. She said, “It makes me feel so good when you give me a glass of water whenever I come from outside.” Ronit looked towards his mother. His looks indicated as if he wants to check whether it is his same mother.
Now Mrs Kataria stopped listing out what Ronit needed to do. She said very calmly, “Ronit, let me see how much work you finish and by when. You complete one task and let me know about what you have done.” Ronit was surprised. He asked, “But what do I need to do?” Mrs Kataria calmly replied, “Ronit, I know you are very intelligent and you know your own work.” Ronit thought for a while and said, “O.K.” Ronit went to his study room. Within 20 minutes he came to his mother and said, “Mamma, I have finished my homework, see.” Ronit handed over his maths copy to his mother. It was a shock to Mrs Kataria. She hugged Ronit and shared her happiness. Ronit was excited today. He rushed to his room and kept on reporting about his various works: polishing his shoes, keeping his uniform ready, packing his bag for next day. It was very surprising for Ronit’s mother. She only had to say, “Ronit, one work is still left!” Although she meant filling up the bottle, Ronit listed out four works for himself. Mrs Kataria felt relieved as she did not have to give stress on her memory. She felt like screaming out due to her well-formed habit. But she controlled herself. She strictly followed the new way. She even gave a reward by playing with Ronit. Ronit loved to play chess which she did frequently as a token of appreciation.
She followed this for one month consciously and it became her habit. Now, Ronit knows what he has to do. If sometimes, Ronit tried to throw his own strategy, very patiently Mrs Kataria tells, “I don’t have any problem. You need to do some extra work.” Ronit hated this punishment. It was easier for him to hear his mother screaming. But he knows that his mother means what she tells now. He knows that his mother has become both positive and firm. Although many times, he does not like this firmness; still he loves her positive behaviour. Ronit learnt what he cannot avoid. He also learnt that postponement brings many additional works. So, he even learnt to finish his work on time.
To develop this habit of Ronit, Mrs Kataria had to switch off the gas and stand in front of Ronit to make sure that he does not avoid. Whenever Ronit mentions about his ‘5 minutes’, Mrs Kataria reminds him of 5 additional works. Mrs. Kataria did all these slowly and steadily so that it did not create any pressure on Ronit.
Now, Ronit is more responsible. Even when he went to his grandparents’ home during summer vacation, all were able to see the difference in him. This was a great appreciation for both Ronit and Mrs Kataria.
Postponement is a common behaviour in many children. Parents need to check whether they also practise the same behaviour pattern. If mother or father uses the word ‘5 minutes’ and manages to escape a work for sometime, the child also learns the same. Children learn fast by observing their parents. If the parents show enjoyment in the work they do and then, shares the sense of achievement in accomplishing these regular works, the child would also learn to feel the same sense of achievement from his regular work. Parents need to give strokes of appreciation now and then, maybe by saying, “Is it? Great! You did your work so fast!” This gives meaning to the regular tasks. Rather than screaming or shouting, it is better to stand in front of the child and say with a firm voice, “I am waiting for you to get up and do your work.” When he/she continues doing the work, appreciate the progress. Do not wait for the final work to give appreciation. Motivation is required in between the tasks. Parents might say, “I am feeling good that you have started your work.” These things would help the child to learn to do his/her work without tendency to avoid things. If he/she does any work without anyone telling him to do so, it is always required to appreciate, maybe by saying, “Wow! It’s so nice that you did your work on your own. You have such wonderful memory.” But parents should not crib if children do not remember. Just give them a clue or ask them about the tasks they need to do. Parents would be surprised by their memory. Children know all they need to do. Just that screaming gave them a chance to avoid. Once parents stop screaming, children learn new and positive ways soon. Children are fast to unlearn and then to re-learn in a new way.