Wisdom of the Ancients: When Kids Are Right & We’re Wrong

Parenting is a full-time job, full of challenges and responsibilities. Lifestyle Columnist Roula Marinos Papamihail reveals that sometimes our kids are right and we’re wrong,  and the wisdom of the ancients proves it.

Wisdom of the ancient holds true

We’re continuously teaching, disciplining, modeling, interacting…constantly molding our young children so as to become successful and happy adults while at the same time attempting to instill the values and traditions of our Greek heritage. We assume the authority role and we always know what’s best when it comes to our children’s behaviors. Right?

While this is true the majority of the time, there are times when we’re actually wrong and our children are right — and with unlimited access to information in today’s information based society, they can prove it! We also find that in parenting as well, the wisdom of the ancients holds true.

With that said, there are a few common childhood behaviors that we as parents, today, should leave as is, rather than try to change. The philosophers had a few things to say about this too.

Let’s examine some of these behaviors and whether you, as a parent, try to correct these behaviors or get annoyed with them (or both!) Ideally they should be fostered and nurtured so as to be maintained into adulthood.

“Good habits formed at youth make all the difference.” ~ Aristotle

They want the crust cut off their bread

Why is this a good thing? Foods cooked at high temperatures expose our bodies to dangerous levels of mutagens and advanced glycation end products. What are mutagens? Substances that damage DNA and increase cancer risk. Glycation products damage our body’s proteins which cause tissues to lose functionality and prematurely age. The “overcooked” bread crust is full of these mutagens and glycation end products. (Source: Live Longer By Changing How You Cook. Life Extension, September/October 2015)

So while cutting the crust off of your child’s sandwich can be annoying (especially if you have to do it for multiple kids during the hustle and bustle of the morning) AND eating the heel of the loaf may ensure that your “mother-in-law loves you,” cutting the crust off actually makes for a healthier sandwich.

It may seem at times that kids do things to drive us crazy, but there are times when they are actually right. The wisdom of the ancients is on their side. COURTESY Google Images
It may seem at times that kids do things to drive us crazy, but there are times when they are actually right. The wisdom of the ancients is on their side. COURTESY Google Images

They eat their food extremely slow and mealtimes take forever

Ancient Greeks (and many modern Greeks) lived a slow paced life, indicative of slow paced meal times. So while your kids eating super slow may be extremely irritating, especially when you’re rushed to move on to the next task, the benefits of eating slowly just like the ancients, are many. These include better digestion, better hydration, easier weight loss or maintenance, and greater satisfaction with meals. In addition:

Eating slowly is one the most effective interventions one can make for proper digestion.

Large bites that are inadequately chewed are more difficult for the stomach to turn into chyme –which is needed for proper elimination. Food that isn’t properly broken down into chyme can lead to indigestion and other potential GI problems.

So in order to help our children maintain healthy digestion we should try and factor in the amount of time they need to finish their meals rather than rushing them through it and if we’re lucky, they may start philosophizing during meal times.

They wake up with the chickens and should have been farmers

While this habit may be fitting sto horio (in the village) with the family’s chickens, one of the most frequent complaints I’ve heard from parents (including myself!) is that their children wake up way too early. While it may be an inconvenience for us (especially if we’ve gone to bed too late) waking up early has been correlated with a variety of benefits.

Better grades, healthier eating habits, more productivity, and improvement in sleep quality have all been associated with early morning risers. From an evolutionary stand point were actually hard wired to wake up early.

So even though we may wake up with our kids with one eye open and a strong desire to keep sleeping (and don’t own chickens) keeping the above benefits in mind may motivate us to become early morning risers too.

They practice single-minded focus

Finish your breakfast! Put your shoes on! Grab your backpack! Kounisou! (move it!).

Sound familiar? If you’re directing your child to complete all of the above tasks all in one breath every morning, and ten minutes later, they’re STILL not ready to leave the house that’s because they practice single-minded focus. They can only focus on one task at a time, and in reality adults are the same. While we like to praise ourselves for being competent multi-taskers were really focusing on just one task and the other tasks are being completed on autopilot. As adults we can eat, put our shoes on AND grab our backpacks because of this learned autopilot. Children on the other hand, are still mastering these daily living tasks and struggle with completing more than one thing at a time. Adults do too. Multi-tasking has been linked to lack of concentration, poorer productivity, less cognitive mastery and overall unhappiness. Whereas single-minded focus has been correlated with stronger concentration, higher productivity, greater cognitive mastery and greater satisfaction.

“Beware the bareness of a busy life.” ~ Socrates

While difficult to do in today’s fast paced multi-tasking, busy society, single-minded focus truly is the more efficient and effective way to go about your day.

They cry when upset

Adults are very skillful at redirecting or “hiding” their true emotions. Children are not. When a child becomes upset they usually start crying and this physical release is beneficial: it allows them to let go and move on. Many adults on the other hand, fail to acknowledge their true feelings (in this case sadness) and instead may end up displaying a variety of defense mechanisms; never acknowledging and honoring their true emotions. And if you’re a man reading this, you should allow yourself to cry too! The ancients believed that the act of crying was “manly” and men cried when their families honor was at stake. Rather than looked down upon and repressed as it is today, in ancient times it was expected and thought that you didn’t give a hoot if you didn’t cry!

 “Raising children is an uncertain thing. Success is only reached after a life of battle and worry.” ~ Democritus

Wisdom of the ancients prevails

Keeping in mind that the above behaviors displayed by our kids are actually beneficial, and is a great way to help us pick and choose our “battles.” It may also help to alleviate some of the worry associated with child-rearing. Once again, we see that the ancients knew what they were talking about. Most importantly, by re-framing our perception in regard to these behaviors, we can then spend more time expressing our love in ways that our children can appreciate AND teach our children about the culture that we love.

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