My 8-year old is my role model: How parents can learn from their children

Article also published on elephant journal. Click here to read.

IMG-20151103-WA0005Children are really our role models and not the other way around!

I think I have waited to be a parent my whole life and have often found myself, quite unconsciously, over-prepared to be one.

I’ve had many big and small ideas about what kind of mother I want to be, and triple that number for what kind of mother I don’t want to be too.

So, all in all, I have taken the responsibility of motherhood fairly seriously in the hope of inspiring my children in their early and formative years and leading a good example for them to follow.

And yet, through the last decade, the older my children got, the more I realised how ambitious I had been in this regard; and how misguided I was to even think that I can come close to being as good a role-model to my kids as they have been to me!

This thought was running through my head, all muddled up, until one day, my 8-year-old daughter came home from school to tell me that in her 3rd Grade classroom, they were starting with a unit of enquiry on role models! They were inviting guest speakers to their class and she wanted me to come and speak.

This was the perfect moment to voice my suspicion about the idea that we adults are not really their role models. Rather, children themselves make excellent role models for their parents!

I wondered how they would take it.

At first they were a bit taken aback by this role reversal and the hidden praise that it came with, but as we went through each of the below points to support my argument and their nods of agreement had a pleased understanding about them, it dawned on me with even greater clarity about how right this train of thought felt.

Let me highlight the main areas that support my viewpoint:

Physical capabilities : We often and invariably teach them to be lazy with our bodies and to take them for granted whereas children, actually, have an enviable physicality. They pick up skills and talents with such grace at amazing speeds. Watch the effortless cartwheel of a young ballerina or the passionate dedication of a young footballer trying to master Messi’s latest move! When a child has been raised in a healthy, active environment, it is truly a delight to see their bodies grow with athletic ability.

Ideas – We use the phrase ‘I don’t have a choice’ in many negotiations with people as valid justifications; thereby limiting our own ‘ideas potential’. Children, more often than not, think outside the box. They always think creatively and have simple solutions to big problems. Have you ever tried discussing an issue at work, or a relationship problem with your child? Just notice the simple and workable solutions they come up with!

Energy – We dissapoint them time and again with our poor energy levels. Their energy is bountiful – with their smiles and enthusiasm, they add colour to our world. They treat every moment as precious and don’t contemplate on the gravity of each moment as it passes them by because they are just so busy living it!

Attitudes– We bicker and complain about others – friends, colleagues and family members before them, letting them see our prejudices. They, on the other hand, settle differences easily, let bygones by bygones and know how to let go and have fun. They know how to fight and make up, how to forgive and forget and most importantly, how to believe in others.

Love for animals – We keep them ‘safe’ from animals. We raise them in urban, sanitised, concrete buildings and entertain them in shopping malls. However, if shown a little bit of encouragement, their compassion and care for animals is genuine and they are carefree about showing it. They hold nothing back and accept animals into their natural surroundings with love and comaraderie.

Love for nature and the environment – We create waste, want the latest things and discard easily and thoughlessly. They learn about recycle, reuse, preserve and conserve and genuinely make an effort. We outwardly pretend to encourage their efforts but can also show them our cynicism of any long term impact they may have.

Technology – We show them our inability to cope with ever-changing technology and therefore with change. They master gadgets and can imagine a tech-driven future like its second nature to them.

Stress – We tell them how stressed we are and we show them what stress-eating looks like in the form of fast, processed and packaged foods that we call convenient meals. Stress is not a word they can relate to easily, if at all.

Balance – We talk about the elusive quality of balance that seems unattainable to us. They are naturally balanced, and should they find themselves falling out of balance, they do the needful to tune back in effortlessly by increasing their rest and relaxation without much need of therapy.

Food – We struggle all our lives with weight loss, weight gain, emotional eating and cravings. They eat food they love and have a healthy, happy relationship with their body.

And yet, instead of enriching our lives through their leadership, we as parents choose to mold them into our cynical ways.

After all this, we then expect them to be inspired by us. And as sad as it is, they emulate us and want to be just like us.

Parents, let’s ask ourselves: Have we attained this adulation from them simply by virtue of being their parents or are we truly deserving of it?

I am not suggesting that we discredit all our parental instincts and learned knowledge on how to raise our kids. As parents, we know best and will continue to do our best for them. However, this generation seems to be born with an inherent awareness and a higher consciousness and to me it seems to to be a great time for us to start learning from them.



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