Let your children grow into the best version of themselves

Children need just a little encouragement and dollops of patience to discover their true potential

Illustration: Albert Einstein

I remember watching a TV series on bringing up children that showed, among other things, parents being obsessed about their children’s performance in school exams. The series highlighted how parents often give significantly higher importance to their children’s academic performance than their aptitudes.

So many parents push and goad their children to study hard and score as high as possible in their exams. This behaviour stems from the all-pervasive belief that academic performance guarantees a successful career—a belief that leads many parents to want their children to be the next ‘Albert Einstein’. What they probably don’t know is that Einstein himself was a rebel and didn’t follow any of his parents’ plans for him.

Einstein had a deep distaste for enforced learning, and was known to skip many of his college lectures. He often felt that formal education interfered with his natural desire to learn and explore. Indeed, the genius was severely critical of the exam-based education system and once even remarked, “It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry, for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wrack and ruin without fail. It is a grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty”.

While they have the best intentions for their children, many parents forget that learning cannot be imposed

Einstein wasn’t alone in his views about learning. The great physicist Galileo said, “You cannot teach anybody anything. You can only help them discover it within themselves.” And Bertrand Russell, the Nobel Prize winning British philosopher, said, “Children who are forced to eat acquire a loathing for food and children who are forced to learn acquire a loathing for knowledge”.

While they have the best intentions for their children, many parents forget that learning cannot be imposed. By doing so, they may succeed in making their child score high, but at the cost of true learning. It’s worthwhile to remember that Einstein’s monolithic contributions to science were not the result of his gruelling academic pursuit but his intrinsic love for science. The key word here is ‘love’.

As parents, your best efforts are in helping your children discover what they love doing—with patience and encouragement. If you take a leaf from nature, you’ll provide your children with what they need—and then sit back to watch them grow into the best version of themselves.


A version of this article first appeared in the January 2012 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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