Imagine an innocent young boy. He's inventive, open, durable, passionate, and friendly. He does well in school, art class, and athletics. Things come naturally to the boy; he has some ups and downs, but for the most part life is simple and carefree.
Yet as he grows, loved ones, teachers, and coaches start to teach him right from wrong, good from bad. They tell him who to trust, to wear a jacket when chilly, how to hold a pencil or paintbrush, that money has value, and the proper way to throw a ball. They also insist that he stand up for himself when someone makes him feel bad. And they make sure he apologizes when he makes others feel the same way.
Soon, the boy's level of wonder and efficiency starts to decline. He becomes temperamental, blameful, and defensive. Often, his confidence appears shaken. Most of all, however, he just doesn't seem happy.
This scenario is much more common than you might think. Indeed, every young child starts with the innate capacity to live freely and contentedly, to adjust to people and situations, and to self-correct when troubled. Then at some point, and to varying degrees, they lose these inherent gifts.
Why does this happen? Children are taught something that, deep down, they know is not true. They're taught that a situation on the outside can affect how a person feels on the inside. And as children grow and additional outside-in directives are thrown their way, they become dazed and confused. Next stop: the diagnoses of an attention-deficit (or mental) disorder and the prescription of therapy and/or medication. This only adds more excuses and information into heads that now have way too much noise. The system gets jammed.
Grownups: When is enough going to be enough? When are we going to wake up?
You were once one of these children, so look around. Are you consistently cheerful? Passionate? Productive? Do you give back to others? What about the world we live in: Why is there hate? Why is there war? The reason is that the overwhelming majority of us have it wrong: One's feelings cannot come from another person or situation. When a person's head is clear, he feels good; when it's cluttered, he doesn't. Outside circumstances have no power over us. Our feelings come from the inside.
That's the lesson we don't teach our children. That's why we lose the purity of our youth, and our natural propensity for peace of mind, compassion, and generosity. That's also why, I believe, we must stop filling our children with personal judgments and opinions about how to conquer life. We're creating victims and jeopardizing innate resilience. We're thwarting our children's free will and instincts. Guidance is far different than control; love beats discipline every time. If we don't stop cramming the heads of our kids with external analysis and advice (thinking), they'll end up just like us.
Here's a different idea about what we can do: Let's start setting examples of clarity and rising above. No, you can't control your own level of anxiety, anger, or fear when they creep in -- but you can reconsider the source of these sensations. Look inside to the degree your head is filled with thought at any given moment, carry on, and allow your mind to change. All of us (me too) need to stop buying into the false perceptions and judgments that spawn from a bound-up disposition, and acting -- including preaching to our kids -- when we feel this way. Children intuitively grasp that they feel their thinking and nothing external. When we tell them otherwise, or lash out at the world in order to manage our self-created insecurity in their presence, we confound and bind them to the point that they, too, are not capable.
Isn't it time to admit that the current way of thinking just doesn't work? Isn't it time we stopped making outward excuses for how we feel on the inside, then coping, bullying, and forcing in order to feel better? The time has finally come to grasp it and then live it: Life works one way -- from the inside-out. Remember, our children are watching.