Why are more and more of our children burdened with self-harming tendencies, eating disorders, depression, drugs and various addictions? Why do they finish school and have no direction, no drive, and no self-confidence?
We want the best for our children, right? Best education, self confidence, happiness, health.
The more parents I listen to, the more I realise that they have every good intention. They want to make sure that their children grow up happy and healthy, ready to tackle life’s challenges.
But has our love for our children, our drive to protect them, our desire to raise the "perfect" child and our determination to not repeat what our parents did to us, not to mention the constant pressure to compare them to other’s children, somehow tainted our ability to see what they really need and want from us?
I believe it has a lot to do with ‘us’, the new generation of parents. You can read more about them, ‘us’, in my next blog.
But for now, back to the burning question. How do we get out of this place where our youngsters are lost, in pain, and teach them how to achieve wellbeing and lifelong flourishing?
Everyone knows that children learn through play and having fun. If they are lucky, they have a decent pair of parents raising them for the first few years of their lives and they encounter lovely nurturing and a loving nursery environment where they feel safe, loved and encouraged.
Then they start school. They are open and ready to learn and experience things. They are excited. But this is when they are introduced to the world of GAP. They are being tested and measured by a system that is looking for LACK. Looking for what is missing.
They are encouraged to achieve As and A*s. But we all know, that nobody in the history of mankind has achieved A or A* in everything at all times. We have good days and bad days. We are passionate about different things. And this is how it should be. This is why some people become professors and others become fantastic mechanics, footballers, doctors, teachers. We need to learn to celebrate this in our children. We put them into an old fashioned system that is trying to fit them into a box, regardless of what shape they are. And then trying to encourage them to close the imaginary GAP. But the truth is there is no GAP. We are all different and we should compare ourselves to ourselves and see how we grow and learn and enjoy it to find our passion and what we love, so we can grow, share and enjoy life.
When the school system starts to look for the GAP, it turns into a constant, never ending, lifelong search. The GAP of not being good enough. The GAP between them and others.
And what is the price our children pay?
Teenagers complain bitterly of being too pressured, misunderstood, anxious, angry, sad, and empty. Many come from very affluent families and are given an abundance of material things. They feel there is something wrong with them. They don’t know what it is. They learn this however. They learn not being good enough from a very young age and then it becomes ‘the norm’. They can never relax. The anxiety of never reaching ‘good enough’ starts. Then the demands of schools, teachers and parents continue and expand into the virtual world of competing social media profiles and online bullying.
So parents and teachers call it ‘lacking self confidence’. Of course they do. In a system, where we constantly look for the GAP and the LACK in them, they pay the price. Their self confidence is destroyed. For some more, than others. They don't feel safe to try their wings. They strive to be perfect. To achieve the unachievable. It is a quest that is doomed to fail.
So there are a few questions to answer.
Why do chidren feel so empty in this land of plenty?
What can we do?
Children need to feel safe and loved. They need limits, but they also need to be ranked and measured less. They need to feel safe to try their wings.
As Ken Robinson said “you'll never come up with anything original -- if you're not prepared to be wrong. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong.”
The only reason why I started my career as a teacher was that I love children. No matter where they come from. Children are beautiful. I wanted to help guide them in the quest to find themselves. But before I knew it, I was in a system of ‘MEASURING LACK’ and I had to give them feedback that was based on this. I didn't like it, didn't agree with it. Still don’t. This was almost two decades ago. I could see the anxieties, comparisons and achievement driven focus of parents and teachers even back then.
So I took a different direction with the children I was teaching. I ran meditation classes for them. It was unheard of at the school where I was working, but because I meditated myself, I thought they could try it too. And they loved it. I wanted to guide them in a way that was the best for them, so they can focus on what they were really good at, what they loved and enjoyed doing. And just to feel really good whenever they wanted to.
Children learn from us, our behaviour and attitude. We learnt from other people too. We need to break the pattern of looking for the GAP and the LACK in our own children.
The new generation of parents, grandparents and teachers need to turn the page and open their eyes to look for children’s POTENTIAL. Appreciate the TALENT, the DRIVE in young children. Their OPENNESS to the world. Their ENERGY.
Remember, you are building their subconscious minds and that is incredibly powerful. Look for the positives and praise them, love and accept them so they will love themselves and so their self - confidence strengthens. Research shows that problem solving is our most valuable tool and is a building block for our self esteem, underlying everything we do in life. Children learn by having fun.
So let them have fun, give them challenges, opportunities to work out how they could do things. There is no one answer. Encourage creativity. Guide, not lead them. Let them be the leaders, make their mistakes in a safe environment, with you being there for them as a safety net when they start out. If you do this, they will build resilience and they can fall back on these experiences when the going gets rough in their lives and we cannot be with them.
Give them something useful they can fall back on when they will be in biggest need of these skills.
Remember, the habits we create as children, set our template for a lifetime.
So help them to achieve emotional balance, as it is the ability of the mind and body to maintain equilibrium and flexibility in the face of challenge and change. Emotional balance promotes physical health, and is a prerequisite for personal wellbeing and growth. Their happiness depends on how they perceive and react to life’s events. As Deepak Chopra said “The meaning you give to an event, is the event’”. They need to know that as well as learning from success we also learn from our mistakes.
Watch their behaviour. Remember, behaviour is a signal. It is always being driven by experiences and emotions. If you are worried about your child or you feel you cannot cope, we are here to help.