I know that people say it’s always good to nurture the ‘child’ within you or that we should be like children when interacting with each other. There is some merit to this statement since children forgive slights quickly, form friendships easily, laugh about anything, have the capacity to build very strong attachments and can also be highly adaptable. As adults, if we possess at least some of these qualities, we are guaranteed to be that much closer to living a happier and fulfilled life. However, there are significant drawbacks to being ‘childish’ and unfortunately, too many adults have taken the more unsavoury behaviour of their formative years into their adulthood. Here are a few examples:
We know these all too well. We’ve been on public transport, at home, on the streets and in restaurants and have seen these little ‘minions’ do an impressive job of disturbing the peace by flailing their hands, screaming at the top of their lungs, thrashing at everything in sight, tearing at their clothes, slapping away reprimanding hands etc. all because they didn’t get what they wanted. It’s not hard to come to a unanimous verdict that this is wholly unacceptable and is a behavioural trait that will lead to a very tumultuous life in adulthood. It’s the typical ‘tit-for-tat’ – If I don’t get what I want, I will exact my revenge by making you unhappy. That’s easy to see right? So why do we tolerate this behaviour in adults? Why do we allow our managers to scream and berate us when we’ve missed a deadline or can’t work another late shift? Why do we allow our family and friends to use emotional blackmail, publicly embarrass us or to physically inconvenience us out of spite? Why do we tolerate the insults of others when our only crime was to not be in agreement with them? Why do we tolerate physical and emotional abuse? As adults we reclassify such behaviour as ‘anger’, ‘stress-related’ or ‘a strong character’ but it really is a temper tantrum, albeit, at varying degrees. If in theory, this should not be tolerated in children, neither should it be tolerated in adults.
Many parents will agree that it was so much nicer BEFORE their children learnt to speak. Why? That’s because when learning to speak, the child not only started to learn how to put words together in a coherent thought, they also started to use this skill to unwittingly become ‘in-house reporters’ of our household affairs. I’ve personally witnessed and also heard outrageous stories of children talking about their parents’ eating habits, conversations, toilet routines, sex life etc. in a gathering of friends, family or even at parties. The embarrassment is real and the parents’ anger, palpable. However, that is understandable. They are children and still have yet to understand boundaries and the difference between ‘private’ and ‘public’ matters. What about adults though? You would think that in their twenties, they would have accumulated enough experience to at least learn the skill of being discrete, right? Among adults, we label this embarrassing trait ‘gossiping’. All of us have had our confidence betrayed at least once by someone who we thought could keep a secret. The best gossips are the ones that have your business half way down the street before you’ve even finished telling them the full story. This ‘vice’ has broken up relationships, made best friends become estranged, damaged trust and even destroyed people’s lives. I find this habit so terrible that it should probably be added to the list of ‘deadly sins’.
This one is my favourite among children because it takes a significant level of imagination and creativity to believe yourself to be immortal, powerful and immune to hurt and pain. As children, their risk perception is hampered by their lack of life experience. So we can only look at them lovingly (and have our first aid kit at hand) as they zip through the living room (with our underwear as a cape) pretending to be Superman or climb on the furniture in their efforts to emulate Spiderman or emphatically bang the table with their ‘righteous’ spoon just the way Thor would do with his hammer. I know we have all had our fair share of hearty laughs watching these children enact crazy and wild imaginations but these are just a few things that make the whole experience of parenthood gratifying. This idea of ‘invincibility’ in adulthood, however, is not so cute. At this stage it becomes ‘recklessness, ‘irresponsibility’ and ‘lack of judgement’ and the consequences easily justify why this is labelled as such. The number of deaths from car accidents because people were driving too quickly or were under the influence of some drug; the deadly games we concoct such as Russian Roulette, the choking game or Power Hour/Centurion; the stupid activities we participate in to get that perfect selfie shot such as ‘planking’ from a balcony etc., are all foolish, unnecessary and could prove lethal. It wouldn’t be as bad if the consequences were limited to the nonsensical adult that initiated the incredibly dangerous activity but, more often than not, someone else always gets hurt.
Blames Others For Mistakes (Or To Hide Mistakes)
This is a very sensitive topic because the problem with this habit is that the implication is far reaching and the effects can be devastating. As a matter of fact, there is always a thin line between blaming people and lying. With children, it can be as simple a case as blaming another sibling for their naughty actions to, more seriously, implicating another in an allegedly heinous act. This habit should neither be nurtured, encouraged nor tolerated in children. However, there are far too many adults that have this habit ingrained in their mental psyche. The most common example of this is in the workplace. I had a CEO’s PA blame me for paperwork that she misplaced so that she could be spared his wrath. That naturally put me in a terrible predicament. There is a deeply entrenched level of selfishness involved in acts such as these because the person only considers protecting themself at the expense of someone else’s reputation or physical and emotional wellbeing. As adults, we may label acts like these as ‘self preservation’ but what it really is, is cowardice. It’s this sort of habit that has caused accidental deaths, wrongful incarcerations or people being vilified without cause. However, most importantly, this also involves a considerable level of self-denial. Until those adults can take responsibility for their actions or identify what part they played in problematic situations, only then can they truly look to becoming a better person.
The Good Side
There is a lot more that could be said about this matter but this would overlook the fact that children are fundamentally innocent and do become products of their environment. I’m always amazed at how severely I could reprimand my nephew but he would still be so forgiving that minutes later he would be chatting away freely about his day at school. That ability to accept discipline yet forgive the uncomfortable way it was administered is something that not even I can do easily. To have a child run into your arms, not because you brought something for them but because you are physically present, is a beautiful demonstration of love and people in relationships could learn a lot from such a simple gesture. Children smile easily, laugh heartily and are an open book. There are no hidden agendas, innuendos or underlying meanings in their interactions. A lot of us, along the way, have become hardened by years of hurt, pain, betrayal and disappointment but we should look to recapture that youthful vigour and optimism that we were all blessed with as children.
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