This week I came across a TED Talk that I would recommend to any parent, whether your child is just learning to walk, is just starting school, or is old enough to have a family of their own. It was a talk by a woman named Jennifer Senior called “For Parents, Happiness is a Very High Bar,” in which she discusses how the aim of the modern day parent is to provide their children with happiness, and how that aim is one that causes stress more than anything else.
(If you’re having trouble watching the video above, you can watch the TED talk here)
This talk struck me particularly because I have never heard anyone who could blame the hardships of parenting on wanting children to be happy. You hear it time and time again, from every parent you meet, even from your own parents: “I just want my kids to be happy.” But Senior questions, what does happiness look like? We can hardly control our own happiness, and yet this elusive state of being is something we take full responsibility of in our children?
And this goal not only puts in parents hands something that is practically impossible, it also means that everyone forms their own judgment about what creating happiness looks like. Our society is full of parents putting down other parents for parenting differently than they do. Married homes look down on single parent homes. Gluten-free homes look down on homes that order pizza on Friday nights. Some homes stress academics over extracurriculars, others the reverse. Everyone achieves happiness in different ways, and so everyone parents differently to pass happiness down to their children.
In Senior’s talk, she comes to the conclusion that rather than pass down happiness in our children, maybe we should pass on decency. Morals. Work ethic. Things that will allow children to find happiness in this world for themselves. I agree with her. I raised my son without consulting thousands of parenting books, and without concern for the judgment of homes that might be raising their children differently than I was.
When we take “happiness” out of the picture and fill that role with something concrete, maybe we can take the judgment out of parenting, take the stress off of parents who feel they aren’t doing their jobs if their children aren’t always 100% happy, and maybe we can even raise children that will be be good, productive, and dare I say it, happy members of our society.
What did you think of Senior’s TED talk? Do you agree or disagree with her stance on parenting? Let me know in the comments!
Recently I came across a TED Talk entitled, “Do Schools Kill Creativity” by Ken Robinson, and was immediately struck by the importance of his message. If you haven’t had a chance to see this talk yet—though it is the most viewed TED talk on at nearly 40 million views—here it is:
I have been an advocate for children’s creativity since starting this blog. After I discovered how important it was to my son’s education that he be able to read and imagine stories, it became clear to me that creativity is something that, as Robinson points out, “is as important in education as literacy.”
What I enjoyed most about this TED talk is his claim that all education systems across the world value certain components of education more than others: sciences and math first, humanities second, and arts third. Children are told to give up the things they love when they aren’t “practical” enough, or if their passions won’t land them a job. But with so many people educated in those highly employable skills, the demand for workers decreases, and people find that they’ve given up their creative sides and passions only to be left unemployed and dissatisfied.
I think the point of this talk wasn’t to shame schools, it was to show that some children and some people excel in areas outside of what schools encourage. Children who are highly intelligent individuals are told they are mediocre students, and won’t carry out the creative, brilliant things they are capable of after being given up on in the academic atmosphere they grew up in.
My only critique of this talk—though I realize these speakers are limited in time—is that he didn’t address what was to be done about this problem. Yes, creativity needs to be encouraged. Yes, schools only push one form of academia. But how do we fix this? With budget constrictions, and altogether limited resources, how do we allow students to learn everything? To explore their creativity, but still take those science and math courses? Should there be more charter schools aimed at students with “alternative” talents?
I don’t have the answers. But I am certainly glad the question has been raised, and that people are paying attention. Creativity shaped the course of my life as an author and a father, and I think our world would benefit in many ways from encouraging more of it, so that people don’t “grow out of creativity” as Robinson put it, but rather continue to grow in their creativity for their entire lives.
What is your stance on this TED talk? Do you think schools are to blame for not encouraging the arts and humanities? Let me know in the comments!