When parents talk about kids having it easy, they’re talking about the fact that they’re not dealing with either money or relationship issues. But to the child their challenges are very real and the emotions they face as a result are the exact same ones we face.
This means terrible disappointment feels like terrible disappointment whether we’re broken up about a divorce, or broken up about the fact that we can’t play at our favourite friend’s house. Relatively speaking, the disappointment is just as big and it’s felt just as strongly and we would do well to remember that.
Another thing worth remembering is the fact that kids are human. We see this all the time. A child is considered to have misbehaved every time they do something other than exactly what the parent wanted. They essentially get scolded for being their age.
Kids learn through interaction. They learn through trial and error. To be scolded for that is to be scolded for being human.
It’s understandable that parents get frustrated when their kids repeatedly drop stuff off their high chair in their attempt to understand concepts like gravity or here and gone—but we put up with it because they’re babies or toddlers.
Notably, as soon as kids can talk they’re treated increasingly more like employees or soldiers. They’re simply supposed to do what they’re told and anything else is classified as misbehaving.
There is a very good reason for a parent to have time sensitivity in the modern world, but there is also a very valid reason that explains why making adult choices about time management are impossible for a kid. These are often days where parents can create teaching moments regarding how to apologize.
There are days where you get a bad sleep. Maybe it was the way your body was positioned. Maybe it was the dreams you had. Or maybe you’re ill and don’t know it. But everyone’s woken up feeling less than ideal and it makes the day a lot harder. Diets can impact our moods as can the various bacteria and virii that compromise much of who we say is “us.”
Again, notably, adults can have those bad days. Kids don’t get bad days. Kids are being bad when they’re disagreeable. They don’t have the luxury of a grumpy day from a rough sleep or through not feeling well. We won’t give them that latitude. If a problem’s not visible, we act as though they are irrelevant.
Kids can’t want something different, they can’t need some time alone. Every disagreement is seen as bad behaviour rather than recognizing that it’s very often just being created by the simple and very real differences between the parent’s personality and the kid’s. In short, a kid isn’t obstinate and difficult—they know who they are and they know what directions feel like theirs.
The fact that society makes demands on them that are unnatural doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with the kid—the concept of society itself is just a subconscious agreement we all make to follow largely silly unnatural patterns. Just because some guy invents the concepts of a clock and a job doesn’t mean that an actual individual human being is wise to live their life according to those two things. (See: Intentional Being Video)
If we want to be truly healthy we have to respect what we are in nature and stop forcing ourselves into the shapes that society demands for conformity. Kids are still wise enough to resist that pressure as unnatural. Adults get subdued into a state of mind where they just follow the patterns and lose all consciousness. And then they wonder why they barely laugh while kids laugh all day.
Yes, kids need to learn society’s systems because those are mostly formalized methods societies have developed to manage large numbers of people, like traffic or the tax system, or how business works. Being able to flow with those things is helpful, but we do not want to do that at the expense of losing our Selves.
Humans are imperfect beings that learn as they go. Because of this, parents must maintain their emotional resilience while their kids test limits and make mistakes. Without that, we steal every individual’s ability to grow.
We all need to avoid an expectation of perfection from kids. We need to start to understand their behaviour not as something that’s not only relative to us and our rules, but as something unto itself. Because that’s what egos do—they assume everything has to do with them. So when a kid has a tantrum in a public place, the kid is making the parent look bad, rather than the kid is having their own very distressing experience.
Do we think back in our tribal history that when we saw a kid freaking out that our reaction was to try to get them to conform so we would look good to our fellow tribesmen? Or do we think we would have watched them in an attempt to understand their actions. Might we then see that the kid is discovering how the world works, or maybe they’re actually noticing something valuable that we’re missing?
Parents will have conflict with their kids when they try to talk them out of a noisy instrument like drums in favour of some musical instrument they have zero interest in. If a kid loves drums and we buy them a guitar because it’s quieter, then the kid isn’t being difficult by not wanting to go to guitar lessons—he or she is just being a drummer.
Largely we spend too much time reciting complaints and shortcomings to kids. We need to stop and ask ourselves if what they’re moving toward is really a problem, or are we creating one by wanting them to do what you expected rather than what was natural for them?
As an example, some people are naturally nighthawks and some people are natural early-risers. An early-rising parent who forces a nighthawk awake is placing a greater value on society’s external rules than on nature. Even their love for and appreciation of the individual that is their child doesn’t overcome that. We may not find that fact convenient but it’s true.
Cities and nations etc. make us conform. We have to surrender who we are to some degree to function smoothly with others. But beyond that a lot of people will still demand changes just to suit them personally. We can’t blame kids for pushing back against any unnecessary restriction–because they’re right. It’s not them that’s wrong; we’re the ones who’ve been brainwashed and convinced to subjugate our own natural impulses just a little too often.
We need to watch ourselves around kids to make sure we’re behaving less as a corrections officer at a prison camp filled with rules, and more as a fellow human being who is co-discovering the world alongside them.
In the jungle there are no bedtimes, no wake times, no school and no rules. There is the world and how it works and after that everyone’s allowed to be who they are. And it works, because that kid in the jungle will know and understand his world far better than any city kid who only sees the world as a set of pre-organized concepts that can only be manipulated in pre-decided ways, like life is a Transformer that can be this or that, rather than it being like Lego where it has the freedom to be anything.
Kids are people first and the children of their parents second. It helps them if we respect them as individuals. Instead of telling them what to do we need to try listening for who they are. What do they place a value on that we don’t?
Maybe no one in our family plays an instrument but our kid sits at every piano he sees. Now that’s a kid to put in music lessons. Maybe we want them to sit still and they can’t. Well maybe they’re a kinetic kid who’s a dancer or an athlete. Maybe our kid likes to be off alone drawing or reading. That’s not anti-social, that’s a dedication to practising something important.
We all need to respect children. They do need our help establishing healthy limits. But we shouldn’t always assume we know best. Yes, for practical daily reasons sometimes they just have to water-ski along behind our days. But whenever possible, we really should do our best to try to see their behaviour as having less to do with us and life’s rules, and more to do with their own individuality and how that meets this great big world.
Ultimately a parent’s job isn’t to teach a child who to become, it’s to stay aware enough to be able to help each child realize who they already are.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.