Well, the title of this post should be self-explanatory. I feel like I have nothing at all to add. So, let me tell you a story.
I see on the beach a 2-year-old playing with sand. She’s joyfully picking up the sand and letting it slip through her fingers. The parent rushes over, “No, no, no, that’s not how you run sand through your fingers. Do it like this!” She does. The parent claps, screams, “Good job!!”
I am curious. After a little conversation, it comes up that the parent believes learning the “right way” gets her ahead.
Ahead of what? Ahead of others.
At 2, she learns to sacrifice creativity, enjoyment, and autonomy, for “ahead of others.”
Another story. A father tells me that it is not about the points even though his child is a high-scoring hockey player, and he wants his son to develop into a 360-degree human being. He “doesn’t mean to brag, but” posts on social media that his child got 15 goals. He is the top scorer in the tournament. He has 2 assists. Who else wants to bet that his father would tell you that his son did make passes but his teammates weren’t good enough to capitalize?
Not even half way through elementary school, he’s learning that getting more goals than anyone is the one thing that matters. He is learning that, even if he didn’t make any passes, his father will make it that he did make great many passes that others failed to step up on.
Showing the kids what makes us the grown-ups celebrate, compliment, and feel happy is the most powerful tool to teach kids values. What are we teaching them?
If you raise kids on the values of “above” and “ahead,” which are relative references, can you blame them for bullying other kids? It is natural and completely innate to establish “hierarchy” by inflicting physical distress, isn’t it? The pecking order, mounting, humping, monkeys biting, deadly fights between lions, rams charging at each other. Why wouldn’t a child who’s been taught “ahead” and “above” and “best” inflict pain on others to show that he is?
How about those bullies who aren’t ahead, above, or best? This one’s easy to explain. If the child is behind, does not feel like s/he’ll win, or does not want to try hard to win, s/he has another option as far as the values are relative references: Drag the rest down below them.
Bullying gives no satisfaction when being equals is an indisputable fact. The principle no one dares to challenge. We are equals no matter what we do, we own, we can do, no matter how hard we try. Someone might be better at math than I am. Someone might jump higher than I am. Someone might be more popular than I am. Someone might be more “ahead” in career or finances than I am. Someone might be the bully and I might be the bullied. We are still equals. So no pecking is necessary.
But isn’t teaching to be ahead and to be the best necessary to raise a child who expresses at their highest potential? you say. It is contrary. “Ahead” and “best” are relative references: words that refer to the “rest.” It teaches kids to evaluate themselves against the rest, not evaluate themselves against their potential. I, for one, stopped when I was the best. I knew I was better than that, but my goal was met.
A child can be taught the amount of effort to put forth. A child can be taught to challenge their potential. Isn’t that what you said earlier anyway – to express at the highest potential?
*** For the purpose of debate, the author omits references to bullying derived from other underlying causes such as anger, mental health issues, and feeling of not being in control.***