“Wow..Your son is so clever!!” – Vain Parenting 101

“Kids just want to live life next to us; they don’t want to perform for us”

I picked my son from school the other day – and as we drove off, he chatted incessantly about his day – what he learned, his new “best” friend, what game he played. On our way home, we stopped at the supermarket to pick the usuals. At the checkout counter, the friendly attendant, noticing that my son was in his school uniform, asked him casually, “How was school today?” My son stared at him blankly. He tried again, “What did you learn today?” My son looked flustered, stared at him as if trying to find the right words, then looked away. All this time, I was watching him, wondering what was wrong with him…silently willing him to say something – after all, he had given me this long unprovoked discourse about his day, just a few minutes before!

So, I went into “Super-Mom/teacher/show-off my boy” mode – and for the next few minutes, I tried to get my son to eloquently and effortlessly narrate the events of the day to a stranger at the supermarket counter – as if my entire life, reputation and worth depended on it! Mid-way through the onslaught, I stopped in my tracks as that ‘ka-voice’ in me asked – what exactly are you doing?

Yeah. At that point, I was looking for my own self-validation. I wanted the attendant to know that I am raising a clever boy. I had an insane moment of desperation to hear those words, “Wow he’s so smart! You’ve done such a great job!” from a complete stranger!!!….Yep… I can be vain like that…

Well… you may not relate with this… but here’s some random thoughts that came to my realization:

Our children are a gift to us – they are not something to show off or shine.

Children thrive more when they are encouraged for their character, not their performance.

In a world abuzz with performance-based measures – Performance contracts, school ranking, and gold-medals – it’s an uphill task to separate the performer from the person. We fall into the trap of getting caught up in performance and forget the ‘person’ behind the act.

As a result, our children have perfected the art of performing – before us, teachers, and coaches – without really internalizing values and integrating them into their character.

My job as a parent is to create an environment of  love, affirmation and acceptance. These three will help them thrive beyond their talents and capabilities.

Granted… am training my son to communicate and respond to others with respect. It is a process, and that evening was a teachable moment – not just for my son, but for me.

And so am learning every day to… Relax. Have a plan. And stay focused…. and flexible..

And the journey continues….


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