A tale of three children
Being a parent is like putting a small portion of yourself outside of your body. This portion has needs, wants, and tastes different from yours and is becoming an individual in front of your eyes. As a person who strongly believes in books’ power as a personal growth hack, I read many on various aspects of parenthood — and yet, sometimes, I feel like an inadequate parent.
Today we went to the park, and there it happened — My kids misbehaved in the most grieving manner. They failed to see those around them and selfishly thought about their own joyful play. Not paying attention to social norms of waiting in the line (yes, I know we are in Israel, and “Hutzpa” is a virtue here, but red lines were crossed), and more distressingly, not paying attention to the needs of those around them.
It got me thinking about the values I want to pass on to them. What are the most important lessons I want them to learn in their loving family’s safe environment? It reminded me of Simon Snyks work — “start with why.”For me, the Why for my kid’s education is to cultivate them into wholehearted individuals that will be happy in their lives.
To achieve this goal, I first need to define happiness. I searched for a definition I can use as my compass. I found it in Seneca’s view :
” Contrary to the majority’s belief”, says Seneca, “happiness is not attained through pleasures but virtue”. Seneca discusses how there exists no good and evil except a good and an evil mind. A man striving for happiness cherishes honor, accepts his fate, and realizes that he himself creates the greatest good.
One immediate thing to take from this view is that instant pleasure does not cultivate happiness. It is just a moment of joy that will pass. Happiness is obtained by virtue; While this concept sits well with my view on life, it is hard for me to find the right way to educate my children.
In the situation described earlier, the selfishness of their action alarmed me, as I realized it is not the behavior I would like them to demonstrate. The reason they choose to look only at themselves must be rooted in their education. But how did I contribute to it, and what message will make them turn into another direction in similar situations in the future.
A few years ago, I went with my husband to a parenting class. It was evident that many couples struggle with too many boundaries they enforce on their children — demanding respect as their elders while neglecting the relationship. Our main problem was different; I realized I’m pampering my children. Doing things for them, they can do themselves. Whenever im doing that, I am rubbing their sense of ability. I now realize it also has a side effect of making them believe they are the world’s center, that their enjoyment is the central focus. Cultivating the selfish behavior, they demonstrated today.
If our end goal is to grow individuals who are happy in their life, we can use Seneca's view on the importance of virtue over momentary pleasures. Teaching them the values of hard work, virtue, and a realization of meaningful actions. These are things that are learned while challenging them to be better and not selfish. It might sound like I have an answer, but the truth is that I don’t. I wrote this article to lay down and arrange my own thoughts on educating my kids, and I'd be pleased to hear your own opinions.