Thursday, October 21, 2010

Independence or Interdependence

Independence is an American value. We want our children to grow up and be self-reliant, responsible, capable, and independent. We hope they will have work they enjoy and a sense of satisfaction that they can contribute to society, as well. At the same time, we want them to be respectful, kind, cooperative, and be in relationships that are meaningful. Can we expect they will have it all?

A better word for what we want for our children may be interdependence. We want them to be competent and know how to take care of themselves, AND we want them to be compassionate and work together with others comfortably. We are social beings. We aren't meant to be totally self reliant and on our own. We need others, and we want children to share and learn that the world will not rotate around them, catering to their every need.

When infants are born, they have to tell us when they are hungry or bored and we need to respond for their survival's sake. As they get a little older, they learn to wait and we set limits. "I'll be there in just a minute." or "That's your brother's toy, so play with this one instead." By the time children are 3-4, they are learning to share - share toys, share responsibilities, share their parents' time. They don't get it all. And this is reasonable, because everyone on this planet must share in order for there to be enough to go around.

We would all be better served in our families and our nations if we did more to encourage interdependence. We need each other. We need limits. We can learn to live together with peace and compassion. Children will follow our lead.