25 May 2016

you are the best parents for your child(ren): raising children to contribute

Do you feel like you need a break? Do you ever wonder if your children are wishing (or they may have told you) that they want a break?

Is breathlessness, sleeplessness, even a sense of pointlessness pervading our souls?

The last post on Beating Competition brought in this story from reader Kenneth:

"I grew up in a loving and close-knit family, with parents who cared deeply about my well-being and my future. I have two sisters, one a year younger than me, and another fourteen years younger. Growing up, I was always in competition with the first sister. My parents spurred us on by pitting us against each other in our grades, and it also didn't help that my sister was taller than me all the way until Junior College! 

Not only was I competing with my sister, I was competing with many of my classmates in school. Parents would share their children's test scores with one another, keeping track of everyone's performance. It stressed me out immensely, but in the end I achieved the consistent good results that my parents hoped for. So did my sister, who consistently did better than me each year! For me at least, it was almost entirely because of the competitive environment and the tireless pushing from my parents that I achieved the academic success of my youth. 

Fast forward many years - I was awarded an overseas scholarship and studied at a good university in the States. But after completing my bond of seven and a half years in a stable corporate environment, I resigned - with great relief...."
relief   rɪˈliːf/
  1.  noun. a feeling of reassurance and relaxation following release from anxiety or distress.

We need relief when we feel held, strained, pressed: I am guessing that's too many of us. 

And relief comes when we dare to see it. Kenneth did.

This young man blessedly met, loved and married a beautiful lady and shares ~
"...the moment we got married, we realized the utter pointlessness of living a life in constant competition with man. Experiencing love convinced us that life was too precious to be spent chasing something that seemed to have little purpose beyond being a means to satisfy the dream of eventual happiness, something that we could already enjoy in our love for each other. And as we grew in our understanding of God's love for us, it made us even more bewildered about our previous desires to become richer, smarter, or better looking than the people around us.
So we have both left our "promising" careers behind, satisfied that we no longer have any desire for what they promised."

Thanks to Scotsman Adam Smith (died 1790), our economies are built on the basic premise that everything proceeds and is governed by self-interest and competition; that is, we act for our own gains and we improve what we do because we don't want to lose the ability to work/sell/buy...it is the survival of the fittest in economic terms - except - by now, we must come to realise that while he isn't totally wrong; competition favours those with resources to begin with.

One of Singapore's core values is meritocracy; and many of us are children of this wonderful value that has allowed us to become socially and economically mobile. But as a nation, we realise too that we no longer begin at the same starting line these days. While disparity and inequality has always existed, the gap is so large these days, it's as if we hark back to feudal days of dismal poverty versus extreme displays of wealth.

We were watching TV the other night and CNA ran two adverts back to back: India's Stolen Generation showed a young lady speaking of rape, images of children being herded while an activist declares that child disappearances are a daily occurrence. Immediately after that came an advertisement about a travel show, the hosts hamming it up and plying the good life. I muttered to my mighty teen, "this doesn't feel right", and she replied, "this is the world what".
As it had been a particularly hot day, we turned on the aircon - aware that we are living under the shadow of looming global crises that can no longer be sorted with simple measures.

Findings from other fields also highlight to us how interconnected and interdependent we really are. Certainly, instability that arises from disenchantment, anger, and a sense of futility upsets everyone - and is a key cause for religious radicalization.

When we scratch the surface, it's easy to see that our current systems predicates upon selfishness and greed -- and look where that has led us.

So perhaps it is time for a new paradigm; and it may not need to come from a thinker. It can come from us - who raise and shape the coming generations.

Let's hear the rest of Kenneth's story:
"I decided to join my wife in our small pottery business*, with a total family income of less than half my original individual salary. We have spend the past year creating works of ceramic art that are, although lacking in technical mastery, reflective of our new journey of faith and joy. As we share this journey with our pottery workshop participants, our lives present an alternative for their consideration. The local ceramics market is very small... but we plan our work to avoid  competition with fellow artists; instead seeing them as collaborators in the push for a more vibrant local art culture. We continue to study under Mr Lim Kim Hui, one of the established local potters in Singapore, because we admire his love for the art form and his willingness to share his vast experience with his students.

I'm only 34, and with only 8 years of working experience mainly in a competitive corporate environment ....  But what I know is that all the years of being a successful student and professional has never once delivered on its promise of happiness. But every ceramic vessel I have made; every moment I spend helping our workshop participants make theirs; every time I see the smile on my wife's face, gives me the kind of joy that no amount of academic, financial or material achievement can give."

 But it isn't easy, at all.

Just take the matter of household chores. I am guessing your kids are not jumping at the chance to do them, much notice things that need a little tidying, neatening, care....and take the initiative to do them?

Recently, I am troubled afresh that my children's lives revolve around themselves; specifically since school is so demanding. I have met so many parents who serve their children: chauffeuring, cooking, planning, studying alongside... the mantra is"the poor kids are so stressed already, they can't do anything else". This leads them to a lifestyle that basically revolves around them surviving a system and finding relief through entertainment and vacation.

It's all good if their hardwork pays off. But not all enjoy academic success. And do we really want our children's lives to be all about study (and resting from it)? Many of them find it rather pointless too!

I remember being told when I was young that doing well in school would bring us a better future. I wanted that better future. My parents were struggling to make ends meet. The entire family shared one wardrobe. Everything was scarce. A better future with more food, clothes, and options was good and needful. But today, what do our children aspire towards? Parents tell me they are raising children who want to become Youtube sensations!

I don't think we want our children to inherit a world marked by more strife.

Rather, we want them to learn to contribute, to collaborate, to problem-solve, to make a difference by using their gifts and pursuing their interests. We want them to be mission-al, not adrift. We want them to have hope, not feel and learn helplessness. We want them to study and shape the systems of society not extract what they can and leave others lagging behind. We want them to have friends, know laughter, and manage losses with an upbeat spirit.

We know it's a bitter life when we compete. So why foist it upon our children? And how will it turn around in the end? Will we be bitten by a system that indoctrinates us that each man must be for himself?

The ramifications go way beyond career choice - and - the decisions about the future are always made today.

2 boys find a way to rescue pup

Share your ideas:
How can we help our children not to fear the future, to be future-ready?
What changes must we make to help our children live with a more outward orientation, to see themselves as contributors and not mere consumers?
And, 3 anchors to hold us steady 

So much thanks & shout out to Kenneth & Huiwen {what a beautiful couple right?} 

must check out their amazing pottery here -} Asobi

1 comment:

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and heart here, and helping to to build a real, faith-full community together!