Arjuna Nagendran


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What are the best things to teach our own children?

The way in which different communities think of "teaching" when it comes to their own children varies across communities massively from my experience. From those focussed on acadaemic achievment to those focussed on teaching us self-confidence, altruism and the list goes on..

What do you think are the best things parents can teach their children?

  • Oct 24 2012: Never quit, never settle, and only compromise on opinion, not truth. You can achieve anything you set your heart to with education.
  • Oct 19 2012: I think the title of the ted talk is wrong. The beauty of the Prof. Shocken's work is not that it is  a self organising computer course but that it strips computers or Math to core fundamentals and teaches what is core as opposed to peripheral. Can  someone give me the formal term for such educational fundamentalism as I am interested to learn more about this area.
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      Oct 19 2012: Do you mean "Back to basics?" "Three Rs"?

      I have not yet heard the talk, so I do not know what "core" is in the talk. People have different ideas of what they consider fundamental.
  • Oct 16 2012: Environment conservation should be taught! There's no doubt about that. How? Visit
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    Oct 7 2012: First of all, I must admit that I'm not a parent. Despite that, based on my life experience, I belive that the following (in no special order) are the best things to teach children.

    - The power of choice. As you can imagine, there are adults who are still in the process of learning this. So, I think it's incredibly important to start teaching this to children at a fairly young age. I could go on and on about this one idea.

    - The importance of being themselves. It's OK to be unique or different - despite what others may think.

    - Posessions, status, and money may come and go. At the end of the day, all you really have is your values, principles and beliefs.

    - The strongest person is the person that stands most alone. Not my own idea, but I agree with it.

    - That home will always be their sanctuary. No matter how hard, unfair, tough, or cruel the world can be, children should understand that they will always be accepted and loved at home.

    - It's important to dream. Children should start learning, early on, how to identify and follow their passions.

    - You teach people how to treat you (from the Oprah show, I think :) )

    - You don't GET chances, you TAKE them. With few exceptions, I think that a person who never had a chance, never took a chance. This is not my own idea, I just happen to believe it.

    - There is no substitute for perserverance, determination, and a solid work ethic.

    - The skills they require to be independent, upstanding, well adjusted, contributors to society. At a certain point, children have to start doing what they are capable of doing for themselves. It may be temping to do everything for your children. We don't want them to feel pain, to fail, to make the same mistakes we did, etc. But, in extreme cases, I think that doing everything for your children is harmful. Eventually, they will enter a world that only rewards meaningful contribution. And they need to be ready & able to make such a contribution on their own.
  • Oct 6 2012: 1. Things identified by the scouting program.
    2. The importance of diligence, perseverance and hard work .
    3. Accountability for ones actions
    4. Pride in one's work.
    5. Covey's seven habits
    6. The importance of being positive and how to generate your own positive energy. For example, if you can learn to take pleasure in doing something nice for someone else.
    7. The virtues of deferred gratification in many instances.
    8. The importance in taking care of your body.
    9. How to love and live a happy life.
    10. Adult life survival skills to follow Scout lessons (handling money, cooking, basic maintenance, situational awareness, etc)
    11. How to foster curiosity into a desire to learn.
    12. The importance of family
  • Oct 6 2012: Critical thinking. Nothing is more important than teaching children how to think and how to figure things out. This demands a lot of parents and teachers. Teaching critical thinking and logic themselves is not too difficult, but the child will immediately start USING it in their life. If you haven't put any rational thought into the ways you restrict and regulate their life, you will very soon find the student losing all respect for you (which is only appropriate if you haven't bothered to be rationally rigorous with something so severely important as manipulating the freedom of another person). "Because I said so" has never been, and will never be, an adequate answer to any question. Critical thinking and logic, however, opens the entire world to a child.

    Without critical thinking and logic, a child (or adult) is doomed to muddling through life trying to trick themselves into being confident in the things they know. It leaves them guessing and following their gut - some of the best ways to guarantee they will be wrong about everything. Winning an argument or figuring things out seems almost frivolous in our culture. After all, you will be protected from crime, vaccinated against disease, and receive most all of the benefits of the intellectual approach to life that those who came before us were wise enough to create. Knowing how to think, however, is nothing short of a matter of life and death. Thanks to intellectuals, dangerous consequences of irrationality are not close at hand in our society, but living still requires effort. And that effort is wasted when it is not expended rationally. Today the dangers are more personal, and they threaten to leave people depressed, anxious, neurotic, and paranoid - dangers as real as polio or malaria. Critical thought is the toolset that enables anyone, even children, to protect themselves from this. The assurance that anyone can check the correctness of their own thinking is nothing short of life-saving.
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      Oct 7 2012: i agree most of what you said ,and i have some to share with youoh it is a little hurry next time next time i will share .
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      Oct 7 2012: I agree with you that critical thinking is extrremely important. Kids should see their parents doing it by their parents' making their thinking apparent on appropriate issues.
  • Oct 6 2012: Joy of giving, sharing.
  • Oct 6 2012: if i get, i give. if i learn, i teach.
    teach them about gratitude, and enjoy life by sharing.
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    Oct 5 2012: Hi Arjuna,

    Let me quote from my comments on a similar conversation here on TED last year:

    - be proud of being the one who is different. recognize the feeling of "peer pressure", and resist it.
    - take care of a pet. understand that an animal's basic needs (food, water, shelter, love) are simple, and are the same as our basic needs
    - try to correct a wrong instead of just saying "sorry" and doing nothing
    - minimize the use of the words "MY" and "MINE"
    - save your energy for the important fights
    - ask about the world. ask about yourself. ask about the universe

    If you want to take a look at the full conversation here is a link:

  • Oct 5 2012: We should teach our children two things: First, we must teach them to be successful - in a limited way maybe, but it is necessary that they learn to do something right. Next, we should teach them to be happy. The requirement for becoming happy is diametrically opposite to the first one of being successful. But it is highly necessary requirement. What to do with success if it fails to bring happiness?
    For being happy, one has to come to terms with one's limitations. It is important that this `coming to terms' should be such that there is no regret, guilt, or heartburn about the failures and limitations. In our endless pursuit of ever more success, we forget that it is not possible to be successful all the time in everything. Think of President of USA, most powerful person on earth. He may be president but if he regrets that he is not a good musician or a poet or a mathematician, he cannot be happy. So, it is necessary that child learns to be happy. Happiness is the goal, success one of the ingredients required to achieve that goal but is not the entire story.
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      Oct 14 2012: "Happiness is the goal, success one of the ingredients required to achieve that goal..."

      Are you sure you really need to teach your children to be successful? What is the meaning of success that you will teach them? Is this not entirely subjective?

      I would only use "success" in that context as simply learning to understand who you are, and therefore how to make decisions on your life orientated towards your own happiness; happiness being the ultimate goal.
      • Oct 14 2012: By success I mean capability for achievement. No one is born with capacity for achievement; it has to be acquired. Success in Freudian terms is a step when one moves from primary to secondary narcissism. It forms basis for feeling of self worth and self respect.

        Just as happiness, success indeed is subjective, but not fully so. All societies have evolved some useful ways to define success depending on the age of the individual and societal expectations from the individual. At the same time, one can be happy sucking on one's thumb but that happiness is fickle and unsustainable. In a way, the subjectivity of success as well as happiness is controlled when they both are played against each other.
  • Oct 5 2012: Psychology and how the brain works and that they are responsible for the life they want to create.
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    Oct 5 2012: Life is about getting one's priorities right; keeping the main things as the main things.
    Children should be taught never to give up on good things.

    What is a good thing? One might ask.
    It is better for parents to live a life of intergrity and love. Children learn more from their parents life than from hours of lectures on morality and exemplary lifestyle.
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    Oct 5 2012: Life is about getting one's priorities right; keeping the main things as the main things.
    Children should be taught never to give up on good things.

    What is a good thing? One might ask.
    It is better for parents to live a life of intergrity and love. Children learn more from their parents life than from hours of lectures on morality and exemplary lifestyle.
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    Oct 5 2012: Respect, self-worth and belief in themselves, to have an open-mind,and to show them the wonders of the world by experience not by a computer program and to love unconditionally
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    Oct 5 2012: -- just observe their needs and you will see the things
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    Oct 5 2012: By Example