“The greatest burden a child must bear is the unlived life of the parents.” – Carl Jung, Swiss Psychologist (1875-1961)
The “Get Curious” point is supported in two quotes attributed to Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875-1961). The first has long been the subject of debate among educators and family counselors: “The greatest burden a child must bear is the unlived life of the parents.” (Another version of the quote: “Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.”)
Suffice it to say that Jung’s quote goes well beyond Baldwin’s message that actions speak louder than words. In fact, Jung seemed to be saying that inaction speaks louder than both of them!
My sisters and I knew that our parents loved us and made raising us their highest priority, but we also knew that they pursued deep interests that had nothing to do with us. These interests went far beyond those of basic recreation. Our mother voluntarily taught ballet to elementary school children, volunteered at our local hospital, and wrote an awful lot of poetry.
For more than half a century our father has dedicated his life to a B.H.A.G. – Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal. (This term is presented and explained in the book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by James Collins and Jerry Porras – Harper Business Solutions, 1994.) He has never wavered from nor shied away from his lifelong commitment to find a better way to educate all American kids. Through successes and failures, he keeps his eye on the prize. Our parents often told us that no job was more important to them than “raising our kids to be better people than we are.” However, they also showed us that they also had lives of their own.
The second quote by Jung echoes Baldwin’s message: “Children are educated by what the grownup is and not by what he says.” During my career as an educator, I have facilitated more parent-teacher conferences than I could count. While people may be willing to talk about their problems more now than they were when I began in the 70s, one puzzling phenomenon continues to present itself over and over again: a parent talking on-and-on ad infinitum to a teenager who is totally zoned out:
– The parent is thinking: If I can just string together the right combination of words, then the light will go on in my kid’s head and all will be right in the world.
– I’m thinking: 1) You can’t; 2) It won’t.
– The kid is thinking one thing, and one thing only: Whatever.
Baldwin and Jung remind us to be ever mindful in how we prioritize what we say, what we do, and who we are. I like to say, “Never kid a kid.” They will always know what is really important to us. Not only are they watching what we do, Jung tells us that they are also internalizing what we do not do. The best thing we can do is live our own lives to the fullest.
Onward, Malcolm Gauld