A recent NYTimes article http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/31/magazine/a-modest-proposal-for-more-back-stabbing-in-preschool.html?emc=eta1 explored the question of how to raise children in an age characterized by competitveness and a “back stabbing” social and economic milieu.
This angst of parenting is a relatively recent social phenomenon. Only one or two generations ago parents of large families were too busy ensuring their basic survival to worry about whether their kids did their homework perfectly or had the appropriate “play dates” or should be schooled in self-defense classes and SAT prep courses. Survival in a competitve world has always existed and will continue to be a reality no matter how carefully and how cautiously parents try to soften the blow of failure, disappointment and rejection.
Parents can offer the wisdom derived from their own life experiences. They can emphasize the possibilities of “success” by virtue of the individual’s determination and desire to achieve what an individual goal. I have often thought about individual personalities and how much of it is an inborn phenomenon. There are naturally driven, ambitious children who are self-motivated to achieve certain goals. This may be associated with a basic intelligence and talent, to be sure, but their inner drive is a quality not easily instilled from the outside. But this is not meant as a condemnation of someone who is more laid-back, less interested in material possessions, noteriety or fame. It is merely a different style of living. Discord and confusion arise when individuals fail to recognize that these patterns of behavior lead to different outcomes.
Also, it is interesting to observe that the “best schools” do not guarrantee the “best outcomes”. For instance, I have observed excellent physicians who failed to achieve admission in American medical schools but who have demonstrated enormous intelligence and drive in their careers. Perhaps they were not great “test takers” or found their “calling” after the traditional pre-med trial by fire passed them by.
It is should also be noted that finding a path in life that seems to align a child’s personal talents and interest may provide the determination and drive to follow their “dream” that could not be imposed from even the intrusive helicopter-parent.
And finally a parent can express an attitude that does not extol aggresssive competitiveness or back-stabbing at all. Life is ultimately NOT a zero-sum game the way it is frequently portrayed. There is always room for another player in any field of endeavor. Individual success and achievement does not have to imply stepping over someone, or demeaming their achievements or attempting to diminish their accomplishments.
Good karma follows good intention. Hard work, drive and ambition do not have to been regarded in any negative sense whatsoever. In fact Darwinian theory extols the virtues of cooperation, collaboration, altruism and kindness as forces for success as well.
Providing a loving, supportive foundation which fosters a child’s realistic (not delusional) self-worth is pretty much all that is necessary. The rest is their own life’s journey, something a parent cannot micromanage anway