Children as our teachers

Much is spoken and written about children. How to parent them, teach them, bring out the best in them and cope with the worst in them, yet consider the fact that children also have to deal with us, the adults. Children need us to be the best versions of ourselves.

We were children too once, though we often act as if we’ve forgotten this. How puzzling adults often were. Their moods, fears and vendettas, joy and sadness mysteriously alternating. Family feuds and workplace struggles.

In the wise words of C.G. Jung in his memoir, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, “children react much less to what grown-ups say than to the imponderables in the surrounding atmosphere”.

So when we lapse into rage or sadness, we need to know we are being watched; that our behaviour and thoughts create the atmosphere in which our children grow up. And it’s not always very nice. My son M used to comment on my “worried face”. “You have got your worried face on” he would say. One day I was driving along, alone in the car, worrying. We had bought a plot of land and were not sure about the next step. The building part. Terrifying and expensive was what I was thinking. I guessed that at that moment I had on the “worried face”, so pulled aside, stopped the car and tipped the rear view mirror towards me to have a good look. It was ghastly. I would not be seen dead in public wearing THAT look. And the person who looked like that was not about to solve any difficulties either.

One child said to me that when his mother is furious with him, he has devised an escape route – while appearing to be looking at her, he shifts his gaze slightly to the side and blurs the image.

Eastern wisdom teaches that “the person in front of you is your teacher”. We would not normally think of our children as our teachers, yet if we want to increase our learning curve, we may as well, since it is children more often than sages in front of us.

The clear, uncluttered gaze of a child can be like a mirror, reflecting back to us without judgement, our inner state, and give us the chance to come into the moment. The present moment. Simple, peaceful, uncluttered. And we will never find a teacher more forgiving, unconditionally loving and patient than a child.

To quote Maria Montessori, “Ever treat the child with the best of good manners and offer him the best you have in yourself and at your disposal.”

Published in: on January 23, 2010 at 12:11 pm  Comments (2)