Someone had once asked me “Did you not always want to be a queen?” I replied “I did not even want to be class monitor.”
Being queen or any sort of authoritarian figure (politician, manager etc), is not my cup of tea. I am not comfortable with telling other people what to do. I believe in live and let live. I try to impose my self on other people as little as possible and expect the same courtesy from them.
But now I am raising two daughters. A mother too is an authoritarian figure. An infant comes in to the world completely helpless. So the live and let live policy can’t really work. To start with we have to do everything for them and while this is not most tactfully expressed, the truth is, that they are almost entirely under our control.
As they grow up, we as parents need to gradually relinquish control and empower them. But how do we do this?
In my opinion, what we teach our children, needs to be broad and applicable no matter what path they choose. It is not for us to choose the destination or the path, but only to equip them for the journey with tools that will serve them best.
Here are the things I believe we need to teach our children to empower them:
When I was pregnant with our first child my husband and I agreed that the really important thing was to teach her to think – Not what to think, but how to think.
Technology and society are evolving at a fast pace. Technology that is cutting edge today, will soon become obsolete. Some social practices that were considered honourable a few decades ago, are considered silly and sometimes even cruel.
As parents, in a rapidly changing world, teaching our kids what to think is neither useful nor prudent. On the other hand, the world is full of people trying to convert individuals to their way of thinking. They use many tricks. We need to teach our kids critical thinking so they are not easily taken advantage of.
Know the assumptions: Some people deceive you by glossing over disagreeable assumptions and harp on the soundness of their logic.
Check the logic: Sometimes an argument sounds logical but has a small fallacy that can be glossed over. So it is important to carefully examine every step.
Correlation studies: Correlation studies are useful tools to gain insight. But spurious correlations can be used to exploit people in to changing their beliefs especially when they are feeling vulnerable. At such times it is important to remember that if the conclusions of a study seem bizarre albeit comforting, they probably are, unless they can be explained by a sound theory.
Beware of statistics: It is fashionable to quote statistical studies to make a claim seem more sound. But in this case it is important to question the reliability of the data, the confidence interval (sigma value) over which the conclusions hold and the sample size of the study. Statistical studies with small sample sizes and low confidence intervals are meaningless.
Look beneath the glitter: It is very important to read between the lines and figure out what you are not being told and why certain things are being emphasized. I remember once seeing a bottle of chocolate syrup prominently labelled to be fat free. It is more or less true of all chocolate syrup so nothing really to harp about. But by harping on it they were hoping people would not look in to the calorie count which comes from the sugar.
Be Open Minded: Even if what you hear upsets you or seems ridiculous, give it a fair and thorough hearing before passing judgement.
If our kids learn critical thinking, they can make their own decisions with confidence and they are less likely to be deceived. Then as parents we can give them the freedom to soar and trust them to make good choices.
Power and is often seen as the control one has over ones environment or other people. But these are just some signs of power, not the root.
Meaningful strength must come from within; from battling insecurities and conquering fears. Introspection, self evaluation and a constant struggle for self-improvement is the key to building strength. Introspection not only helps you know your strengths and weaknesses, but also helps you see the insecurities in those trying to shout you down, so you cease to fear them, or be affected by them.
Knowing what you enjoy and are good at, and pursuing it relentlessly is the path to satisfaction and confidence. With this confidence comes a sense of strength and power. It stays with you even through failure, and helps you rebuild.
Teaching our kids introspection will help them build on their strengths, work on their weaknesses, learn from failure, instead of despairing in it, and empower them to face the world.
Finally, no matter what we undertake, even in pursuing our greatest passions, there will always be some aspects that are tedious. It is essential to have the grit and discipline to get through these aspects to achieve our goals. Discipline is best inculcated early in life so that it becomes a habit.
Teaching our kids discipline will help them get past the essential yet unpleasant parts of their journey to reach their dreams. The holy trinity of critical thinking, introspection and discipline tempered with consideration and empathy should well equip our children to face most of life’s challenges.