Sadly, there is no user guide or instruction manual for raising children. Although there are quite a few websites and books offering to teach us how to raise happy children, I doubt if many of us follow their advice. We tend to mostly seek answers from our friends or peers.
Yesterday at lunch one of the mothers I met almost cried when she shared with me her inability to make her children conform to peer expectation. She said that she spends all her time driving her children from one activity to another and yet her children don’t excel at anything. She went on to share that her friends’ children are over-achievers and she feels so let down in comparison, and then feels guilty for not doing her best and blames herself for not being a good mother.
How many of us feel that we are not doing the best for our children? Every time a group of mothers meet, the conversation invariably veers towards children and how to discipline them, nurture them, and also keep them happy.
This particular mother always feels pressured because she is comparing her children with the children of her friends who seem to be excelling at sports and at school. When I asked her why she was comparing her answer was, “ well, we are in the same circles and have similar backgrounds and the children go to the same school and do the same activities, then why are my children not up to speed?”
Children are not iPhones. No one person is like another, in-fact nothing in nature conforms to any kind of regularity. No snowflake is like another, no leaf is like another, and yet we want our children to be like someone else’s children. Children are not factory made unless we bring upon ourselves to have genetically engineered children who will be perfect in all aspects. But, until such time, let us allow our children to be individuals who were born for their own unique purpose and divine path. Let us respect that and allow each flower to bloom as naturally as possible instead of pruning it down right from the start.
This reminds me of a quote by Friedrich Nietzsche “The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.”
Allow your children to be who they are. Allow them to develop their personalities. Allow them to explore new frontiers and to find themselves and discover their own potential. As parents and adults, our role should be to support them as guides and mentors and not whip cracking, comparison-shopping worriers.
I too have been guilty of comparing my daughter with other children. I remember one day I came back home very distraught after I found out that some of my friends’ children had started reading at the age of three and my daughter was not even close to that at age five. Today however she has read almost eight hundred books and I have to snatch the books away from her while she is eating or bathing. Luckily I did not panic much and allowed her to develop at her own pace and now she is doing great.
None of us are perfect, but we are all trying, each on our path of practice in life. Parenting is a wonderful opportunity for us to experience and cultivate sharing love and compassion. Instead of always complaining and looking at yourself coming up short with too many comparisons, next time show yourself some compassion and extend the same compassion towards your children and allow them to become who they are possibly meant to be in their own special way.
Let go of worry and measuring judgment. Life is meant to be happy and full of joy. Allow it to be so.
Editor's note: Shveitta is a life coach and a regular contributor to Buddhistdoor International. Her column is devoted to all that she has learnt about happiness. According to her, happiness is a daily habit. As with any skill, the more we practice, the better we get.
She has interviewed thousands in search of an answer to her personal question: What is happiness? She spoke with psychologists, fortune tellers, mystics, CEO's, university professors, trash collectors, housewives, children, and anyone else who would share their ideas. Today she travels around the world sharing what she learnt.
She has written for other online publications and magazines. She holds regular talks in schools, corporations and universities. Her mission is to be MAD: To Make A Difference by making this world a happier place.
Read Shveitta's blog on happiness here.