September 14

The Real Education

September 14, 2011

Parenting

I talked to a man whose teenage son was obviously on a path that would lead to a lifetime of unhappiness. The father tried to talk to his son, but the boy refused to listen, finally climbing out the window of the bedroom where they were talking. The father did nothing in response, saying, “What could I do? I can’t force him to listen.”

I know another man whose daughter is a selfish, demanding, narcissistic disaster. She treats him and everyone else with disrespect and contempt. He spends enormous sums of money to keep her in a private school, a nice apartment, and an expensive car. She refused to listen to anything he had to say, and I suggested a gradual implementation of consequences, which might prompt her to consider listening. The goal of consequences is not to punish but to prompt an interest in learning to make better decisions. One of the consequences I described was the withdrawal of her very costly tuition.

He responded, “Oh, I could never stop her tuition.”

“Why is that?” I asked.

“Because education is so important.”

I laughed out loud. “You’re right, but what kind of education?”

He had no idea what I was talking about, so I explained that nearly all of us understand the need for education, but what we’re talking about is the education that leads to earning a living and functioning in the world at merely a survival level. We all take geometry, history, and so on, but after the school years how often do most of us ever encounter a need to calculate the hypotenuse of a triangle or to know the date of the Council of Trent?

But how often do we engage in relationships? Every day. How often are we faced with choices that lead to personal happiness or misery? Every minute. And where is our education for that? Where are we learning about how to find love and joy? For most of us, that education is entirely lacking. There’s nothing, which is a tragedy beyond description.

If we neglect our education in life and love, we miss the entire point of being alive. Yuck. If we raise children who are educated in math, reading, and science, but who don’t know how to find happiness, what have we accomplished?

We must have the courage to face the truth about ourselves and create love and joy, not just survival. We must have the courage to give our children an education in life, which is far more important than teaching them geometry and history. This life education requires far more of us—in time, honesty, facing our fears, and more—but the rewards are also far greater.

Want to learn more?

Eliminate confusion and conflict with your children.

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