As I read an article sent by a friend on how to help our children grow as leaders, I wondered what “leader” means? What would a world full of “leaders” look like? What about inspiring our children to “simply” grow human (and this is not simple), and find a place among other humans, and that not growing into a “leader” does not mean they have failed, and they deserve as much love and attention whatever their place in society. The balance of a group relies on the diversity of its components; isn’t it the caring connections between us all that make a society stronger. Western education emphasises individual development. But from the very first cells that make us on the first second of our life, we are the result of connections, to the relations with our parents, siblings, relatives, neighbours, friends, colleagues… we come into being by meeting with others. What personality would one have if born and “self-raised” on a desert island?
To the seven points in the article, here are a few others, which may help parents:
- Respect: your children are not “small you”. They are human beings – equal to you. You don’t have a “right” to “have” a child – there is no possession relationship. But you have a duty to nurture and support the beings who come into your care. From that duty they will learn accountability. All children are different, value your children for who they are, not for who you would have liked them to be- parenting is a two-way relationship where parents discover themselves too and keep growing. How many of us are grateful for our children helping us to grow? Be careful with (positive or negative) words that lock your child like “she is a fast-learner” or “he is shy”: 1) character traits can be changed and worked on. 2) you just teach to judge people from a few facts. Comment on facts and deeds, not people. Talk to your children as responsible adults, even very young. You will be impressed by the quality and depth of their response. Don’t say lie -ever, keep silent or say you don’t know. They will value truth, and words, and nurture trust. Don’t compare siblings and ask teachers to avoid comparing them.
- Humility: sit outside with your children and look at the stars – feel how small we are in the universe. And hug them to feel loved in the middle of this immensity. Make them know our connection to the universe: some elements in our bones are the same as those found in far away stars. That’s a great opportunity to encourage them to inquire – search for facts and double check the sources and the reasoning behind, and nurture their curiosity and critical thinking. Tell them when you don’t know. Make them feel the ocean of knowledge that is to be explored, and that you too are part of the journey of life, with a bit more experience, but an enquirer and hiker, walking like your child on the path of life.
- Mix with others: have diverse friends. Tolerance is not an intellectual concept; it has to be experienced, worked on, lived. As we grow as individuals, we construct our identity by building barriers and doors – affirming our differences and finding similarities. Keeping doors open to those who are different requires some effort. Parents are there to nudge and seed opportunities, else we all grow as closed towers without bridges between us. Probably our school system too should contribute: what about an overall class grading for everyone reaching a certain level in the class, instead of an individual grade system pushing for competition as the only value?
- Go outside: observe animal behaviours and plants; they offer incredible lessons and help us work on our humility and wonderment. Children can learn patience with growing vegetables and fruit and compassion and intelligence with animals. When they deeply feel part of Nature, and experience it on a daily basis, they will safeguard Nature, and what is left of it, after centuries of human destructive arrogance and contempt to where we belong.
- Being vs. having: nothing can replace parents’ presence, a real one, not just physical, but emotional, (i.e…. without a device in the hand ;)); read books to them, hike with them, play with them. This does not exclude telling your children you need time for yourself too, as they need time for themselves. Let them grow bored and tap in their imagination to find what to do next. Don’t fill their space and time with stuff: that will also help them build a healthy relationship with money and nurture gratitude vs. greed. Don’t define “success” for your children and without them, and don’t define “success” in terms of bank accounts and material things. Give them silence, and time to reflect, on their own.
- Connect them with the past: visit historic places, inquire with them on the history of the place you are, ask grandparents to tell their life; link them to the chain of humans, know what they come from and not grow as short term people who have forgotten any lessons from the past.
- Speak of death and how short life is. Help them focus on what matters – and let them help us focus on what matters.
Help children find their place in the world – as dwellers of the Earth, a planet in a universe, by connecting them to the stars- a place in our family by building a strong connection with them built on respect and empathy, a connection to other human fellows, past and present, a place to our planet. a sense of real connection – without undo and logging off, whether leader or not.