March 5, 2013

A preachy post - I've warned you!

The planet does not need more successful people. It desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds.

I've read this quote a few times before on Facebook. Many people post this on their wall because it resonates with them...the thought that we can actually be something other than "successful"...whatever that means anyway. But the problem is how we convey that message to our children, isn't it?  We want our children to be all of the above but we also want them to be successful in the version of success that we are all familiar where success equals money and financial stability. Maybe a "high-profile job"....something that we can talk to others about, something we can be proud about. Maybe the next hot-shot entrepreneur with the most brilliant idea since sliced bread. Whatever.

And in order to put them on this path to success, we start them off really young too. Extra academics-related classes, competitions, exams outside of school and a host of activities to hone their minds in that singular path towards greatness and spectacular achievement. And we long for them to make us proud, all the while telling ourselves that we are doing it for their benefit. We are exposing them to things that we never had access to. We are making sure that their all-round development is on track...except it's not their chosen track, is it? It's ours! It's our dream for our children and in order to fulfill that dream, we say and do a lot of things to them...for them. We justify to ourselves that the end result is what matters, that our children will thank us some day for what we've invested in them...for what we've put them through.

But what if they don't? What if they felt that we've robbed them of their childhood in so many ways? What if they felt that we failed to expose them to things that matter to them? What if they felt that we forced them to do things that they never wanted to? What if they felt that we didn't listen to them at all? What if they felt that we never bothered to take the time to answer their matter what their questions might have been? What if they felt that the path that they are on, the one that we chose for them, was wrong?

What if they felt that their version of success isn't what we thought it was? Would it be too late?

As much as we can blame the system of education, we must share an equal, if not a greater part of the blame. We are afraid to let children do what they want because we were never allowed to. We are afraid to let them question because we may not have the answers. We are afraid that they might be outcasts in society because they do not conform. We are afraid to let them express themselves because their views might be different from ours. We are afraid to just let them be, learn at their pace, try out new things, make many their lives!

The dearth of peacemakers, restorers, healers, storytellers and lovers is bound to only worsen should we continue down this path...the path that teaches us that smarter is better, that stronger always wins, that richer means control...that success means money and what money can buy.

Imagine that we just let our children be...


LGV said...

This is not a preachy post Reks :)

Anyways, i guess we have a lot of unlearning to do as we only have our childhood experiences as an example (and while we definitely don't want to repeat the negatives, we find ourselves falling into that trap sometimes). But more and more parents are making a conscious choice to break away from this and really want the child to enjoy. Of course for every parent that does this, there are 10 others, if not more, that thrust so many activities at their kid under the pretext of broadening horizons.

Another side of the coin, a devil's advocate, if you will - what if the kid wants to take up multiple activities, wants to conform but the parents want a laid-back lifestyle, don't conform, etc etc, is that still considered letting the child be?

mustirao said...

Agree with most of your thinking.....two scenarios: would you rather have your children cuss you out later in life for providing enough and more activities and exposing them to a life that looking back they didn't care much for OR would you rather have your children cuss you out for not exposing them to enough experiences when they were young, the experiences that would have provided them with some sort of gauge to understand and explore their own aptitudes and pursue these in life?

Sarmishta Mani said...

Thanks Reks, for a thought provoking article. As a mother, I've had my share of expecting my children to conform and perform, looking back, in areas that I decided would serve them well. As a recent psychologist and counsellor, I now have more information on how I could have helped them in the process of becoming 'successful'. All children are born with the instinctive knowledge of where their competence lies- a musically talented child takes to music lessons, a physical activity loving child takes to sports etc. While the extended environment could participate more actively in helping the child to explore its interests,the parent/caregiver has the closest access to watch out for what the child enjoys with a sense of competence. Like you said, parents approach success with a narrow definition. I've had parents discount their child's talent in say art or cooking for e.g. and continue to worry about lukewarm interest in academics. The situation is definitely changing though. There are more role models around us who've broken the stereotype and more parents seeking help to deal with 'their' frustration and anxiety.