Practical Parenting: the (mis) guiding philosophy of our time

Pragmatism or being practical, seems to be the guiding philosophy of this age. Simply put, everyone wants to be practical about most things in life and many expect their children to be practical too.

So what exactly does it mean to be a pragmatist or being practical? Being practical means to adopt that approach/belief which works for your advantage. If it works for me , I believe it. Simple. And this attitude guides choices and decisions in matters of work, play, love and health.

On the surface this seems so harmless but it’s impact is more far reaching than we know. A Pragmatist normally doesn’t think beyond the immediate consequences of beliefs/choices/ actions. He does not go far enough to define ‘what is good’ and ‘what are the long term consequences of my belief, choice or action on my character’. This thinking is what separates such a practical person from ‘idealists’

For a parent, it’s important to teach children to understand what is good and what are the long term consequences of their actions. Children need to develop an intuition for the good, to value this goodness over immediate experience. This approach stands in contrary to pragmatism, and is called idealism.

An idealist has a clear understanding of the immediate and long term good and chooses to do the right thing rather than the most convenient or advantageous thing. This may require one to go through hardships and inconvenience in the short run, be mocked by many sometimes but he or she chooses what’s good in the long term.

A child brought up with an idealist mindset will seek cure and not a fix, a solution not a workaround, a confrontation not a retreat, strength and not sympathy, respect and not praise, responsibilities not tasks, career not jobs, joy not just fun, journey and not ride.

If we merely teach kids how to take the path of least resistance, of choosing convenient experiences over journeys, they will end up living a shallow life whose meaning is always contextual, relative and changing. They will constantly seek variety as the spice of life and think life is a series of meals to be enjoyed, not realising that we must first eat for nourishment and growth.

Pragmatism is the race of a moth into the fire who can’t draw the difference between the nourishing sun and the consuming fire. Idealism is the growth of a seed into a tree, rooted strongly in values and reaching for the sun braving storms and winters.

Let’s encourage our children to lead a life of purpose and meaning and let them be guided by values and ideals of goodness.

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