I don’t know about you but I’ve not been watching the news lately. Just for the sake of keeping myself current, I listen only to the news headlines over radio and would skim across the headlines of our daily Straits Times subscription (I actually have half a mind to stop newspaper subscription too.) Why?
The world these days is a sad and messed up place. Every piece of news in the media is about atrocities, tragedies, disasters, epidemics, corrupt governments, pet cruelties, infidelities, alternative lifestyles…my goodness! Simple virtues such as ‘Do not lie’, ‘Be kind to others’, ‘Study hard’ seem insufficient to prepare our kids for their future…without us.
With our daughter entering Primary One, we feel it even more acutely that we’ll not be around her 24/7 to shelter her from real-world elements. Yes come January, she has to learn to fend for herself – school bullies, peer pressure, moral dilemmas and all.
Granted, all parents set out to raise happy, healthy kids with positive values and sound character traits. But what are some “superhero qualities” we can imbue in our kids to help them navigate this super-complex world awaiting them? Here’s our take:
1. Resourcefulness: Saving the day is all about problem solving and Superheroes are very resourceful at that. At any one time, there’s always a solution and, better still, alternative solutions! Our kids need to be agile and adept. Not giving up easily but having the creative ability to think of viable solutions when they encounter problems or setbacks instead of focusing on the impossible.
2. Selflessness: This is essential for Superheroes – to have a sense of compassion and empathy, the ability to feel for the ‘common’ man. Being willing to give of their time, effort and for some, risk their lives, for the betterment of mankind. Our kids need to know that the world doesn’t consist of and revolve around them alone. They need to be able to see the needs of others, put themselves in others’ shoes and desire to want to make a positive difference to others.
3. Strive and give of their best: Superheroes never settle for mediocrity, simply because mediocrity requires no effort and derails their mission to save the world. Our children should be focused and give of their best in whatever they set out to do, not just choosing the path of least resistance. Closely related to perseverance, they should leverage on opportunities and give their best to make the best.
4. Gratitude: Superheroes are indebted to their mentors and other significant people who have impacted their lives. They never forget how and where they started. Our children should be loyal and filial to the people (and places) which gave them the grounding to make that head start. This sense of reference is an anchor to their thoughts and values which they can always refer to when making critical life-changing decisions.
5. Humility: We all know the cliche that pride comes before a fall. Superheroes know that too yet some suffered consequences of not heeding good advice and being too full of themselves. All humans have ego and pride, including children. If that is left unchecked, they will not be able to work well with others, will not learn from past mistakes and eventually be too conceited and be alienated from society.
6. Resilience: This, to us, is the 2nd most important Super Power – the ability to fall and pick oneself up; to persevere against all odds in adversity. In Singapore, most kids have a comfortable start to life: with our modern facilities, infrastructure, amenities and rising affluence. While they are good, too much mollycoddling may rob kids from developing resilience. We want our kids to face challenges with a sense of resolve and have the grit and gumption to rise to to their feet again, and again when they fall.
7. Moral Courage: This to us, is the strongest of all the super powers. Superheroes keep a clear head, stick to their convictions and stay true to what they believe in. No point in having all the super strengths above but lacking in the moral courage to exercise all of them. Without moral courage, one cannot establish credibility and no positive change will result.
One of the movies that has impacted my life is the award-winning film, ‘Life is Beautiful‘, directed and starred by Roberto Benigni. It tells the poignant tale of how an Italian Jewish Father tried to mask the horrors of World War 2 by telling his young son that it’s all a game and that the world is better than what he sees, right till his own untimely end under the Nazi regime. I bought a copy of the DVD as a reminder of how important it is for parents to set the right perspectives for our children, right from a young age.
As much as we love our kids and wish to shield them forever, masking real world issues from them is unrealistic. Their perception of the world as a fun and happy place will eventually ebb. In the eyes of children, we (their parents) will always be seen as their “Chief Superhero”. You will be surprised to find that the 7 “superhero qualities” mentioned above really aren’t that spectacular or superhuman at all. Raising little “Superheroes” is not an easy task but we can all start by being more intentional in our parenting.