Throughout my life I have dealt with children & youngsters in the capacity of a Speaker, Trainer, Coach, Mentor & today as an Online Personality. And it never ceases to surprise me as to impact ones upbringing has on children irrespective of the technology, the modernization, the place, the culture, the religion or the era in which a child was born.
There is always this belief that Social Media or the Internet or the Movies or the Online Games have changed today’s generation. I would beg to differ and say that even though all of the above has had an impact on children — the one factor that has the biggest impact is the role the parent plays on the child.
And over here — it not only comes down to the actions (what the child sees you do) but what you communicate to the child ABOUT the child.
And this is where the most dangerous phrase, compliment or belief is communicated to the child — which not only impacts but sadly puts the child’s future into jeporardy.
Let me give you a few examples.
Whenever I have had parents come to meet me, they have introduced their children with the following statements or phrases:
- My child is so smart and so talented — you will be surprised
- If my child really takes interest and studies, she can ACE the exam easily
- Everyone tells her — she has so much skill, talent and potential but….
- He studies at the last moment and he ace’s the exam. Why doesn’t he….
- I treat my child like an adult….
Now you may wonder what is wrong in stating all of the above? Isn’t it nice for a child to know they are smart? They are talented? He or she can ace an exam if he or she took interest?
In fact, what is wrong in treating the child like an adult?
Let me share with you my logic.
- How many people with exceptional and brilliant talent do you know who have squandered their life being over-confident? taking drugs? alcohol? short-cuts? making wrong financial, emotional or career based decisions?
- How many youngsters with all the talent and skill in the world are unable to even get a decent job and make ends meet?
- How many talented and exceptional brilliants youngsters who shine in their school and college days — vanish into obscurity and amount to just an average life?
- In fact, let me ask you this very important question — how many of our youth today believe that they are entitled to certain benefits? That their parents, the government or the world owes them ‘something?
- Or try this simple experiment — Inform your child you will no longer permit your child to operate his smartphone, have the internet, watch TV, go play with his friends or have the privacy of his room. How do you think he or she will react?
Today’s parents are so busy focusing on trying to make ends meet that there is this incredible vacuum or void that children have to fill in — And that is the void of one’s identity, of one’s values and of one’s character. And because this emptiness is not being filled up by the parents — only when they are free — most of the time it is being filled up ‘selectively’ by children — as they browse through sites, apps, articles and videos of their choice.
And then on top of that — when you, as a parent — with all your good intentions inform them that:
- They are smart
- They are intelligent
- They are ‘adults’
What you are doing is reinforcing the dark unknown secrets they have deep inside — which now starts to become even more stronger, even more powerful and even more dangerous. And those traits — they will never show you — they will keep them locked inside.
Look, I will be honest with you — I am no parent. Neither do I have any experience being a parent. But one thing I do have experience in — is dealing with these youngsters and with problems they would never share with their parents. And some of the confessions they share with me — are not only dark and dangerous — they are outright irreversible.
In fact — let me just tell you one last dark truth.
Think of the worst, the dirtiest, the scariest and most vile thing you can think of — and the chances are your child has already been exposed to that reality — either online, offline or otherwise.
In a world filled with the darkness and dangers that most of us do not wish for children to get exposed to — today the social media and internet landscape has made it impossible to escape. And given that you are not with them 24/7 — you can be rest assured — they are being exposed to everything any anything.
And then, when you do spend time with them that too introducing them to the entire world — what you are directly or indirectly doing — is reinforcing the good, the bad, the ugly and yes — the unknown many times over.
So the next time you think of complimenting your child — championing him or her on how smart, how intelligent and how much of an adult that “child” is…. Step back, Reflect and Ask yourself…. Maybe it is okay to just allow the child to introduce themselves to the world without any feel good statements or compliments or over-the-top adjectives.
For once, let the child be — its own unique signature.