Educator Helle Heckmann says there is no substitute for the time you spend with children

At a time when most new-age parents are running harder and faster to maintain a work-life balance, Danish educator Helle Heckmann says: “Slow Down”. “Children change lives, and the earlier you understand that the better. You cannot do all that you did before. You cannot run faster. You will only end up doing half of everything.”

Helle, 58, knows what she’s talking about. More than three decades ago, the geographist led a similar kind of life in Denmark. When she became a mother, she felt the rat race was just not right. She quit, learnt the Waldorf method of teaching and changed professions. Today, this mother of three and a brand new grandmom is a renowned kindergarten teacher and mentor, author and a consultant who helps people appreciate children and childhood better.

“It was the best change in my life. I was never a guilty mother. I worked, but at my pace,” she says.

The trainer lays great importance on the period from birth till children turn seven. “Everything is a new for children, and they grow so fast. If you don’t take time out for them when they are young, you will regret it. The time will never come back,” she says.

What children remember, Helle says, is the bonding with parents. “A child must feel ‘my parents love me as I am, and not as what they want me to be’.” We create tyrants, says Helle, when we force children to be something they are not; when we manipulate them or put responsibility on them.

Guilty parents make bad parents. “When you buy things to make up, you derive short-term happiness. Long-term happiness comes when you spend time with children. Quantity also matters,” she explains.

If you love your children enough, allow them to grow and do things on their own. Otherwise they will never know how to make an effort, she says

Indian parents face the same issues as others. The biggest casualty is time. “Many forget the freedom they enjoyed as children; that period of absolute non-pressure. If you push kids before they are ready, they will tire out and not enjoy learning,” says Helle.

And, finally, she says, don’t think that by buying things, you are making children happy. “You need the things, not the children. They don’t care if you have a laptop or two; they are happy playing with broken kitchen utensils, and being with their parents.”

KIDS' STUFF

* Structure your day around children. Keep some time exclusively for them. Switch off your cell phone

* Children need adequate sleep to be fit for social life with other kids

* Keep the kids moving. Walk with them, share thoughts

* Never ignore children. That’s when they get naughty to draw your attention

* Keep kids away from television till they are seven. It kills their imagination