A constant interest in my life is the edges of things — where things meet becomes an area of change, and anything can happen. Children are edges. For instance, how children are raised supports or modifies cultures. Children learn and grow so fast, it only takes a couple generations to reshape a culture based on what you have taught the child (for better or for worse).
I am fascinated with how children are educated all over the world. There are cultures where children learn naturally from their parents and community how to survive, create art. reach consensus, the everyday crafts of life. There are cultures where children go to school when they are three years old, playing musical instruments, learning other languages, spending hours studying and working on projects with other children. There are cultures where everything is done in a group, and cultures were individualism is prized. Cultures where children learn gender specific and/or gender neutral ways of acting in and dealing with the world, including chores and occupations and expectations.
The United States really is a melting pot of cultures. And that can lead to confusion about how children should be raised. About every decade there are suddenly articles in the paper about how the children in some other country score so much higher on their math or science test scores, and that is why their country is more successful in [insert word here]. Or how people in another country are more relaxed and happy because children were allowed to choose their own interests to follow (but the country is less “successful”). All this creates stress for parents (if they think about it), because they wonder if extra lessons every night of the week and events on the weekends and learning camps during school breaks are helping or harming their children. Throw in the realization that children don’t all learn in the same way, and it is mega confusing!
What does this have to do with being perfect versus being yourself? If a child is raised in a culture (or by a parent) that puts a premium on good grades and everything being done just right, and they don’t measure up in some way, as an adult they will forever be measuring themselves against that internalized yard stick. They may see themselves as being defective and flawed, which can lead to depression, aggression, and a host of other problems. If they are raised in a more permissive culture, perhaps they will not get that extra push that could have helped them achieve more in life, and therefore would have made the culture or country appear more successful. However, I suspect that this is where that adage comes in, “the cream rises to the top.” If they want to know more about music, science, math, language, whatever, and the ability to learn is made available in those areas, they will drive themselves. And in the meantime, they will be much more accepting of themselves and the people around them.
Are we raising our children to be perfect? To make us and/or our culture and/or our country look good? Are we raising them to be the best they can be? Are we raising them to be happy, healthy people?
What do you think is most important?