Don’t steal your Children’s Childhood! – 30 Sep 16

I yesterday wrote a little about the way parents try to influence their children to do what they want – obviously because they only want the best for them! There are instances however when this kind of behavior goes too far. You can see that in children talent shows a lot and you can see it in beauty pageants. When children are pressurized to practice and perform. When they have to spend hours in a day rehearsing and preparing for such an event. Or when they lose and break down crying.

I believe this kind of issues start when parents want their children to fulfill their own dreams. When they want their children to go places they always wanted to go but never could. They dream of fame and being known, of prices and recognition – and want to achieve this through their children!

A child would never, by himself, spend four or five hours rehearsing one and the same thing every day so that it gets perfect! These little girls whom you train to be princesses with doll-like appearance and behavior, would just like to play in the dirt sometimes, too! They want to get their hands full of paint and they want to climb on trees.

Instead, they learn a behavior which is completely unnatural for them and they have to train and train and train. They lose a part of their childhood, a certain innocence and freedom which only children have, only those who are little and don’t have any such burden yet! But you put that burden on them!

I once saw a video clip in which participants in a girls’ beauty pageant answered the question what they would like to do if they had a free day. ‘Go to the playground’ and ‘Just watch TV and play’ were followed by ‘I want to eat without having to stop!’ I felt these girls were not only stopped from playing like kids should but also already forced to keep a diet so that they fit certain beauty standards!

It is this kind of situations when I wonder how sick our society has become! That this is not only acceptable but that people wish for this. That parents don’t see how this ruins their children’s childhood!

No, again, I will not go for fame or money – but for fun and happiness! Don’t do this to your children! Let them play and be kids!

Klau deinen Kindern nicht die Kindheit! – 30 Sep 16

Gestern habe ich ein wenig darüber geschrieben, wie Eltern versuchen, ihre Kinder dazu bringen zu tun, was sie wollen – natürlich weil sie nur das Beste für sie wollen! Es gibt jedoch Augenblicke, in denen diese Art von Verhalten zu weit geht. Das sieht man oft in Talentshows für Kinder und auch in Schönheitswettbewerben. Wenn Kinder dazu gedrängt werden, zu üben und Leistung zu erbringen. Wenn sie Stunden mit dem Üben und der Vorbereitung auf eine solche Veranstaltung verbringen. Oder wenn sie verlieren und dann weinend zusammenbrechen.

Ich glaube diese Art von Problemen beginnen, wenn Eltern wollen, dass Kinder ihre eigenen Träume leben. Wenn sie wollen, dass ihre Kinder dorthin kommen, wo sie immer sein wollten, was sie jedoch nie geschafft haben. Sie träumen von Ruhm und davon, bekannt zu sein, von Preisen und Anerkennung – und sie wollen das durch ihre Kinder erreichen!

Ein Kind würde nie selbst jeden Tag vier oder fünf Stunden damit verbringen, ein und das Gleiche zu üben, um es zu perfektionieren! Diese kleinen Mädchen, die ihr zu Prinzessinnen mit puppenhaftem Aussehen und Verhalten macht, würden auch gerne manchmal einfach im Dreck spielen! Sie wollen ihre Hände voller Farbe bekommen und würden gerne auf Bäume klettern.

Stattdessen lernen sie ein Verhalten, das für sie komplett unnatürlich ist und sie müssen trainieren und trainieren und trainieren. Sie verlieren einen Teil ihrer Kindheit, eine gewisse Unschuld und eine Freiheit, die nur Kinder haben, nur diejenigen, die noch klein sind und keine solche Last tragen! Doch du bürdest ihnen das auf!

Ich habe einmal ein Video-Clip gesehen, in denen Teilnehmerinnen eines Schönheitswettbewerbs für Mädchen die Frage beantworteten, was sie tun würden, wenn sie einen freien Tag hätten. Auf die Antworten ‚Auf den Spielplatz gehen‘ und ‚Nur fernsehen und spielen‘ folgte ‚Ich will Essen, ohne aufhören zu müssen!‘ Ich hatte das Gefühl, dass diese Mädchen nicht nur davon abgehalten wurden, wie Kinder zu spielen, sondern auch bereits dazu gezwungen werden, eine Diät zu halten, so dass sie gewissen Schönheitsidealen entsprechen können!

Es ist diese Art von Situationen, in denen ich mich frage, wie krank unsere Gesellschaft eigentlich ist! Dass das nicht nur akzeptabel ist, sondern dass die Menschen sich das sogar wünschen. Dass Eltern nicht sehen, wie das die Kindheit ihrer Kindheit ruiniert!

Nein, ich strebe nicht nach Ruhm oder Geld – sondern nach Freude und Glück! Tue das deinen Kindern nicht an! Lass sie spielen und Kinder sein!

Why you should not try to be perfect – 24 Feb 16

Yesterday I wrote about the little judgements that especially parents often have to face from the outside. And the reason why such a judgement often bothers you much longer than it actually should, is simple: you want to be perfect!

Yes, striving for perfection actually makes you unhappy, something you may already have guessed. Why? Because there is no way you are ever going to reach this goal! There is nobody who is perfect, we all make mistakes and the easier you accept this, the happier you will be!

The problem for a lot of people is however that they really very much want to be perfect. They don’t want to make any mistake and that’s how they are eagerly trying to do everything right. If they do a mistake, they beat themselves up about it mentally. Paired with a tendency to worry about what others think, this gets even worse. A mistake proves you wrong and you get stuck with it. You keep it in the mind, try to make explanations and excuses, you try to hide it so that nobody sees it – in short, you just don’t want to let anybody see that you are not perfect. Maybe you even manage to convince yourself that it was not a real mistake, that in fact you are perfect and it was someone else’s mistake!

Another problem is that there is not always a right and a wrong! For some people, one thing may be right while others would say the same for a completely different matter. So if you are trying to be perfect for your surroundings, you constantly need to change, because the people around you have different ideas of what is perfect!

There is a big lesson for everyone wanting to be perfect: we learn from our mistakes! Yes, it is actually good to do mistakes because they teach you what you should or should not do in future. You can feel guilty about your mistake and ponder on it for weeks or months or you can accept that it was a mistake and make a change!

I can promise you that other people won’t even remember your mistake for as long as you do! They forget it quicker than you because it actually is not as important as you think it is! So when you feel judged by someone about a little thing and then you are worried about it for a long time, they may already have changed their mind and forgotten all about it!

Don’t try to be perfect – you are perfect as you are with all your mistakes!

Life for Women in India is changing – but not where it is needed the most! – 14 Jan 16

I yesterday explained how a lot of old traditions are the cause of current bad situations in the society, for example the pressure women experience after marriage with so many people expecting them to become mothers really soon. Some of my readers agreed but added: it is changing. I agree but only until a certain degree!

First of all, let’s look at those places where it is already changing: metropolitan cities are of course seeing change first of all. These are the places where there are women working, where girls go to study just like boys and where there are even day-care offers for the children of working mothers and similar things.

I can tell you however that for one, this is a tiny part of India’s population and that for two, the mentality has not changed as much as one would wish to believe!

Yes, Delhi, Mumbai and other big cities have already brought change for women. Parents give them much more freedom and they can explore life in a completely different way than girls and women on the countryside.

Apart from the fact however that this is a clear minority, even there, life remains unjust for those of the ‘weaker’ gender with traditions maintaining a high priority in the minds of parents, relatives and members of society in general! While boys can roam around freely, girls are kept in a protective bubble which keeps them not only safe but also isolated. They are discouraged from dating and if they do, parents keep a close eye on whom they meet. No late nights, sleepovers can happen only with the best girlfriend whose parents are known to be respectable people and she has the duty to report exactly where she is going.

It is a pretense of freedom. A demo version, not the full one. In most cases, it still expires at the point of marriage when a girl, educated and already in her career, is expected to yield to the wishes and needs of her new husband and his family. Because this is a tradition that is still hardly broken anywhere! ‘Respect your husband’ means do as he says.

And from that point, expectations are the same, the process that follows is the same and the pressure, pain and tears are the same. So no, the big cities have not got rid of such problems yet – in fact, this has brought up other issues which I may discuss next week.

The horrible Consequences of Pressuring Women to bear Children – 12 Jan 16

I yesterday told you about the expectations that Indian parents, in-laws and society members have on newlywed couples: they should get babies as soon as possible, otherwise something is wrong with them! That is a whole lot of pressure especially on the woman who is the one that is repeatedly asked and expected to report. A lot of women actually believe that this is what is supposed to happen after marriage anyway and they, too, want it to happen. They want to conceive – but that is not always up to human to decide! Sometimes, it just doesn't happen. And that is when the pressure of society can become too much for them to handle!

I have met a lot of women in the situation that they could not conceive or that the fetus in their body never grew. I talked to women all over the world about their mental, emotional and physical problems. The stress is big on all of them – but in India the pressure from the outside is by far the worst!

Obviously, if you have tried for a long time and have had several miscarriages or simply never conceived, it is emotionally draining. It is physically challenging as well. It is a mental burden. But in the west, it is usually a burden that comes from the inside of the woman herself. It is born in her own wish to have a baby and the fact that this wish has not fulfilled as well as the fear that it may never be reality.

In India, the burden mostly originates from fear of disappointing others, from the wish of others to have a grandchild, from the expectation and pressure – because that is what it is – to bear children. The fear of being seen as inadequate, unable to perform the most basic of your duties as a woman and the emotional pain it gives you to not be able to fulfill the wishes of others. Along with the regret that your own feelings don't seem to count at all. Own disappointment may play a minor role, too, but it is overshadowed greatly by influences from the outside!

Of course in India, too, there are procedures to be done if you cannot seem to conceive a child. Fertility tests for both partners, devices to measure the time of ovulation, several methods to help conceiving naturally and of course IVF, in vitro fertilization. Apart from the fact that some of these treatments require young couples to take loans to be able to pay for them, are also as painful emotionally as they are physically! Upon failure – and the chances of success are often dishearteningly low – women are shattered! All their hopes for happiness, love and respect from the outside are gone with the eggs or embryos that left her body back to its non-pregnant state!

Women fall in depression. They lose the charm for living. There have even been suicides out of this very reason! Especially due to arranged marriages where it is a bargain you make for marrying and where love is not a factor in the equation. It is as though the groom got damaged good that did not function well and could not bear the produce it should!

Can you believe we lose lives due to this stupid expectation? Of course parents have a right to have hopes and dreams for grandchildren. They have no right to create pressure though and the whole society should know: by valuing the phantom of a future child more than the woman’s feelings, you make her sick. You kill her a little inside with every month’s menstruation! Is this what you want? I don't think so!

So please let couples fall in love and marry out of love. Let them decide when it is the right time for a child. Let them live their own life. Be there for them when you are needed for support – be that a helping hand in changing diapers or a shoulder to cry on when the wish for a baby remained unfulfilled!

Planting the Seeds of Depression and Burn-out in our Children – 2 Apr 14

I yesterday told you why I believe filling the schedules of our children until there is no free minute anymore is not a good idea. Apart from robbing them of the ability to occupy themselves, we place the seeds for todays’ huge problems in our society: depression, burn-out and other psychological problems. These problems, formerly only known to people in their forties, are now a regular occurrence among young people in schools all over the world.

Let’s go back to the activities that parents want their children to participate in. There are many, some more educational and some less. Some are supposed to stimulate the child’s intellect, others are for developing their musical skills, again others should just let them move and exercise and events like playdates shall help them create social skills. Everything has a purpose.

Yes, there is the thought behind all of these that the child should learn something. There is an expectation: children should perform well during these activities! If they act in the way they are expected to, they get praised for it as well. Even in social activities, there is the watching eye of a supervisor, judging on the effectiveness of what was happening. This creates pressure.

Now away from the ‘leisure activities’, let’s talk about what happens at school: it is hard to believe how much pressure already our young ones have to bear! They have lots to learn, they are continuously shown the consequences if they don’t and they are made afraid of the future.

Teachers, parents, the school and even students among each other again and again remind each other that life is not fun. That learning is for a bigger purpose: so that they don’t sit on the road after their school unemployed and without money. Because money is what it is about. For that you have to have a good job, for that you have to pass the exams with good marks, for that you need to learn more and more and more! Don’t have fun, learning is not for fun! Make a mistake and you are punished! Compete with those around you! Are they better than you? Try harder! Are they worse than you? Don’t let them ever catch up!

In some schools and for some kids, it is more obvious, while it is more subtle pressure for others. In whichever way, you can imagine the psychological consequences. There is no outlet, no time to get rid of this pressure. And there is no respect for the fact that we all are different and cannot all be the elite. That we cannot all be doctors and engineers.

That’s why children have learning disorders, mental breakdowns and burn-out. Because they are never enough how they are. Because their future looks horrible, no matter how much effort they do!

We have to change this.

Let our children learn with more freedom, give them the chance to enjoy and have fun. Be positive and teach them positive thinking as well!

You are special because of who you are – not because of what you do! – 14 Aug 13

After yesterday’s speech for minorities who feel pressurized by society, I would like to add some words for those people who absolutely don’t feel like a minority, those who feel that they feel like most other people do, those who are genuinely a part of ‘the majority’. Why? Because there is a lot of ‘majority-bashing’ going on, especially in the spiritual scene, but there are a lot of people who honestly feel the way they do and they have a right to be themselves, too – even if this means that they are ‘mainstream’. If you are one of them, you don’t need to feel guilty about it!

It may sound funny to you that I think this should be said but let me explain why I believe that there are a lot of people who have such feelings. For many years now, people have been ‘waking up’, realizing that they don’t want to continue their lives in the normal trot, that they want to get out of the pressure of their daily routine and do something that makes their hearts happy. There have been several movements which you can call the ‘spiritual scene’ if you are looking for one word. They all emphasize that you have to do what makes you happy and I fully support this basic idea. There are different approaches but most of them tell the interested people one thing: you are special!

While again, I agree with the basic idea that we all are unique, there is another implication of this message that I don’t really agree with completely: you are special because you are doing something different. You are special because all those people around you, the ‘majority’, the ‘great mass’ of people are not as conscious as you. You are special because they all do the same old thing and you don’t like it anymore. You are special because you don’t like what they all like. You may find a few people who like approximately the same things that you like but in the end you will go alone on your way to enlightenment because you are so special.

Well, I am just not in favour of the idea that all of these people are ‘the chosen ones’. I don’t think it is a good idea to tell a whole lot of people that you have to be so different from others that you don’t fit in. Yes, I myself tell people that you don’t HAVE TO fit in but it is a completely different story if you tell people that they SHOULD NOT fit in! That they are not special if they feel well around their normal friends. That they are supposed to feel bad when they are in their regular surroundings. That they have to find new friends and a minority that they can join. Or that they have to be lone wolves.

Once you get more conscious of your body, your food, your mind, your levels of stress or relaxation and your actions as whole, you may feel that you are a bit different. You may realize that you don’t enjoy certain activities, maybe like evenings where everyone gets drunk in a bar or barbecues because you are now vegetarian. You may not enjoy talking about most of the topics that you were previously talking about. But even if you still enjoy going to the movies, if you still enjoy dancing in a disco, if you still enjoy going out to a soccer match with your friends, you are still special and unique! You are still an individual being and there is nobody like you!

The message is: you are unique just as you are. Because of who you are, not because of what you do or don’t. Even if you are part of a majority, you are still special!

Don’t let Society force you – it’s your own Life! – 13 Aug 13

When I yesterday wrote about the life plan that most people have, I had another thing in mind which I also wanted to express: this plan is by far not the right one for everyone – no matter how much society wants to get you to believe this!

This is not going to be an article about all those women who have reached the age where they are not going to get children anymore and who are sad about the fact that they could not make this experience. I understand their pain, I have met many women in this situation and several of them are my friends. No, this is going to be an article about those people who feel pressure from the outside to fulfill their ‘tasks of life’ which they themselves actually don’t consider important from their inside!

This may not be a diary entry for the broad masses, not having the majority of people as the main subject but a minority, a group of few. If those who are not part of this minority read this, however, I think it could open their eyes to another point of view and maybe change their actions towards these people, ultimately making it easier for them.

Society believes, if I say it in a very generalized version, that there are certain things that you have to do and achieve in life in order to have used your life properly, in order to be a valuable citizen of your country, in order to be as you are supposed to be. Study or make an apprenticeship, get a job, marry, have children, build a house. You already notice that these are the same goals that people stress themselves about. For some people it is only society imposing it on them.

There are certain things that are just not right in the eyes of a lot of people. Depending on the country that you live in, that can be different things. For a western woman it could be getting children before she could study or learn a profession, choosing not to take a profession at all and stay housewife or, strangely, also choosing not to marry and have children at all but devoting life to a career. For an Indian woman it could be choosing not to marry, deciding to work and establish their work before having children or maybe not have children at all. There are so many more examples in all different fields of life – I think the persons concerned will know what I mean.

If you decide to do what is not the norm in your country, you may face a lot of negative reactions of your surroundings. Even that much that you yourself doubt your decisions and feelings. But if you have found that you just don’t want to go the normal way, if you have found your way and enjoy it – even if it is not always easy – stay on your path! Don’t let ‘the majority’ of people get you down.

Do what you feel is right. Yes, you may need some more courage to face a few more storms than others. It might get uncomfortable sometimes but it would be much more uncomfortable for you to go against what you really want to do.

Follow your heart, as cheesy as it may sound. It is the right way and the only one on which you can find happiness!

Full-Time Schools – are we turning our Children into Robots? – 8 Jul 13

When we were in Germany, I heard from several people that they have now started full-time schools, starting from primary school. Germany is of course not the first country to do this, on the contrary, a lot of other countries like the US or France and many others have had full-time schools for years already. Talking with my friends in different parts of Germany, I had a whole lot of different thoughts which I would like to express today and in the next days. Today I will start with the first thought of all: this is horrible!

Really, when I hear that a seven-year-old goes to school in the morning at eight and stays there until the late afternoon, five or even six o’clock, I have the feeling that this is a terrible thing to do to the child! Thinking back to my own childhood, I know how many hours we spent every afternoon playing on the roof the houses in town, by the bank of the river or out on the road. None of these children will be able to do any of this!

They won’t be able to develop that creativity that our generation used to find new games and new ways of using our time because all of their time will be strictly organized. I know, full-time primary school does not mean that they are chained to their chairs the whole day long. I know that there are teachers who have been educated to play with the children, sing with them and make them enjoy. Still however it is in some way structured. They are told to use their creativity – but even then it is channeled in a certain direction, it is directed, not free.

Children thus learn already very early how to be part of the system. How to be a little piece in the complete mechanism, running well, performing as expected. The complete weekday is scheduled and on weekends there will just be enough time to reconnect as a family next to the daily housework chores of course. In earlier times education was a task for the parents, too – now children spend so much time with their teachers that it should be mainly their task. Of course, teachers refuse taking so much responsibility! The harm is with the children!

I also know that there are other countries where this has already been the concept for many years. People of these countries say ‘It works fine, the children are happy, they do a lot of fun things at school!’ I have however seen in those countries how much pressure the children really have in school! It may well be that half of the children or even more cope well with the system, can adjust themselves and are okay. I have met many parents however who were very concerned about their children. They come home from school and are exhausted. They don’t want to play but just sit in front of the TV. They don’t have any energy anymore and doctor appointments become a big hassle because there is just no time. They are unhappy, with all the stress they get problems like depression, ADHD and anxiety. Whoever does not fit in the system is lost.

In my eyes children are getting too much pressure already in those early years. It is not right. The classes are usually too big to pay any attention on individual development. Parents don’t get the time to do that. A childhood, which should be a time of joy, games, jumping, running, playing and exploring the world becomes a structured set of years with development goals which have to be achieved, with pressure for those who have difficulties reaching there, with competition among those who should be best friends.

Where is the time for love?

Tomorrow and in the next days I will elaborate on some further thoughts to this subject.

Don’t schedule your Baby like an Adult but get inspired by your Child – 28 Jun 12

When Ramona and I are talking about our little baby girl Apra, we often also talk about how other people raise their children. It is not possible to avoid in such situations that there are some comparisons in between what is usual in the west and what is usual in India. And one thing that I would say to my friends in the west is to take it a bit easier and go a bit more with the flow, especially with your baby.

It is a general thought that I can actually recommend anybody. I know however from experience that people in the west, and maybe especially in Germany, like to put everything into a system, a structure, something that looks neat and organized. That is very practical if you have to organize appointments, and I appreciate my wife’s skills in that area very much, but there are some things which I believe don’t have to be planned that much in detail. Having a small baby, we are just discovering a few of these.

While I was travelling in the west, I have had this kind of situation several times that the friends with whom I was staying or whom we were visiting got up and told that it was now bedtime for their baby. The tiny toddlers all had to go to bed at a fixed time, for example at seven o’clock. Often the kids were not even tired. When I asked them if their child really stayed in bed then and slept, they replied ‘He was crying in the beginning but when we did it every day, he got used to it.’

You may already have read my thoughts about certain methods that parents use to get their child to sleep and thus know that I will definitely not let my baby lie there and cry while I do other things, even in other parts of the house! This is however not my main point today. Today I am actually thinking about the strict time plan that you already give this little baby. It is really necessary?

I just think it is a bit too much to schedule the little one’s life already that strictly. I don’t disagree that a child needs a certain structure of the day. It is of course difficult for parents, especially working parents, if the baby is awake the whole night. It is good to help the child from the beginning to have its main sleeping time in the night. In this way, the deep sleep will be mainly in the night and the parents can rest in that time, too. This does not mean however that you need to go by the clock. Life does not work like this.

In today’s stressful world, you have to get up at a certain time, be at the office at a certain time and have hundreds of appointments in a single week. Your baby does not have any appointment. It does not have to go anywhere or fulfill anybody’s expectations. Its only task is to learn and explore. Why do you stress yourself and ultimately your baby with a schedule of when and how your little one has to eat and sleep?

Be natural with your baby and go with your feeling. You are the mother or father and you can recognize when he or she is hungry or sleepy. Your baby does not have to sleep at seven o’clock! It is fine if it gets one hour later! Just go with the flow and don’t try to fit the baby into your strict timeframes. Don’t try to teach him or her the life of an adult already at that young age. Instead, see the world from your child’s eyes. Watch your baby and enjoy the freedom, the complete lack of tasks and responsibilities. See this lightheartedness and let it inspire your life instead of putting the burden of timing onto your baby.

Relax, enjoy and trust that your baby’s schedule will naturally be just fine and alright.