Every child throughout the modern ages have been asked the one most important question of their lives:
“What would you like to be when you grow up?”
We expect young kids to know how to visualize themselves 20 years into the future.
We worry that they will not be able to get into a good college to be eligible for a good job with a good company drawing a good salary. So we start pushing them from an early age into various learning programs to get a head start on the long road to success. Failure is not an option. But children start failing along the way.
They fail to enjoy learning.
They fail to see the relevance of their so-called learning.
They fail to live up to the expectations of their parents and teachers.
They fail to discover their true selves.
They fail to BE themselves.
And the process of self-discovery inevitably happens only after a series of failures – from failed dreams to failed marriages – like what Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about in “Eat, Pray, Love”. For many, the process (of self-discovery) never gets started at all.
Being yourself takes a lot of courage because the message that is sent out there in schools and other similar learning institutions is that you absolutely cannot be yourself. Because being yourself will not make you popular.
Being yourself will not make you accepted by the majority.
Being yourself is not cool.
That was the conclusion my daughter Amrita arrived at after attending school for two years in her life so far, before she returned to homeschooling.
But it is absolutely imperative for children to feel comfortable being themselves. Because that is what they are born with – their own unique selves. For parents, this can be a little too difficult to take because children can have a myriad types of personality and not all of them belong to the quiet and easy-to-manage type. So you see the challenge here? If children are allowed to be themselves, they could end up loud and impulsive and….and…irritating! But that is just your fear! You could have kids who are quiet and easy-to-manage and NOT irritating. However, some parents have the opinion that that scenario could only happen when the kids are heavily sedated! After so many decades of researching about children and learning, it can be quite a daunting feeling to know that we still have a long way to go in trying to understand children. Parents throw in the towels with them. Teachers throw the towels (and other flying objects) at them! And the authorities just throw them out of schools when they misbehave!
When kids have less and less opportunities to be themselves – their natural, compassionate and loving selves – they will eventually turn to more aggressive behaviours so evidently reflective of the wild animals of the jungles. This is called the survival of the fittest.
When we turn schools into the Amazonian environment, children will behave in a way that enables them to survive the daily onslaught of verbal and physical threats and abuses. In the absence of this kind of negative environments, and in place of it, we infuse the environment with love and quiet calmness, and see what happens to the behaviour of the same children!
So let kids BE kids. But teach them what is appropriate behaviour and what isn’t. They will learn to be comfortable with themselves and feel comfortable with others.
Let them discover what they have within them and help them bring out their talents without fear.
“You don’t have to be what others want you to be. You just have to BE YOU.”
As John Lennon once sang: Let it BE, let it BE!