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Are we training our kids to fill a void we see in our lives? Shouldn’t we be instead empowering our children with the tools to make a good life for themselves?
I was recently at a birthday party for one of the boys in my kids’ class. It was in a play area with slides and obstacle courses involving climbing, jumping, sliding and running around. The twins ran away as soon as we entered and I settled myself to chat with a few of the parents.
We were making small talk when I suddenly heard one dad say, “Come on, suck it up, climb higher”. I turned to see a 3 year old trying to climb one of the obstacle courses. The kid tried harder but the height to conquer was a little more than his itty-bitty arms and feet could handle.
The dad’s ‘encouragement’ only grew more emphatic as the kid continued to struggle. The dad then turned to us and proudly claimed, “He is a go-getter, once he wants something, he will get it”.
‘Different strokes for different folks’ is a principle that has served me well so far when it comes to raising kids. This incident however jolted me. The boy was just 3 years old, we were in a place that was meant for kids to enjoy and have fun, and to his utmost credit, the tiny tot was trying his best to climb on to the next platform. I wonder if any child should be expected to ‘suck it up’ at 3 years of age. I also wonder whether the dad’s puffed up pride was for his kid or for himself for raising such a ‘go-getter’ kid.
Over the years, with multiple studies clearly concluding that neither money nor intelligence nor IQ nor physical prowess is a good predictor of long term happiness, I wonder whether we, as parents, are missing out on inculcating that subtle trait that would help our kids be and stay happy.
There ought to be more appropriate ways to characterize ‘success’ than as traditionally interpreted – ‘riches’, ‘1st in class/school’, ‘Ivy league graduate’, ‘best athlete’, ‘most handsome/pretty’ and by far the most ridiculous, ‘my 3 yr old can count to 100′ etc.
If any of those were true, the depression/addiction/suicide rate amongst such categories of people would be very low, which we all know is far from reality.
In a mad rush to chase this nebulous success, we might be raising kids who are merely being trained to fill the voids we feel in our own life. Kids, I feel, very quickly would realize and recognize parents who try to live life a second time around through them. Such a disillusionment, at any age, is bound to have an alienating ramification on their psyche.
Instead of forcing kids to go for what we believe to be right for them, should we not be giving them the tools necessary to dream up, craft and march to, their own tunes? Isn’t it incredibly more important to inculcate in them, the tenacity and self-esteem necessary to tackle the obstacles they would inevitably face in their chosen path? Should we not be giving them the security that we would always be their rock solid emotional backup in the world instead of being an overbearing architect? Should we not be proud of who they are, as a unique individual in our little world, instead of glorifying what they accomplish?
In the big picture, over many decades, with life being the great leveler that it is, climbing on to the next platform even if you pee your pants, barely seems significant. I hope that the dad realizes that once the boy climbs on to the next rung, not only would the kid have taken one step further away physically, unfortunately, he might have also, emotionally.
Meanwhile, in the party, the aforementioned munchkin was dangling, one feet bent and up, the other hanging mid-air, his hands apparently tired from holding on, timidly looking down for some help. The scene, with a bragging father and his hapless kid would have been an excellent comedic juxtaposition if it were not also so disheartening.
Image source: little boy climbing by Shutterstock.
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