— Ramendra Kumar

The other day I heard my colleague tell his 22 year old son, “Come on Ritesh! Stop behaving like a kid. You are a grown-up now. You should behave like an adult.”

This morning I saw a newspaper headline, “Parents should be good role models for their kids”. The conversation and the headline set me thinking. Somewhere, somehow, aren’t we getting our perspectives muddled up?

We usually confuse the two words – childish and childlike. And the confusion is not because of semantics but due to our lack of understanding of the real meaning of the two words. To bring out the difference let me use the concept of ‘Transactional Analysis’ (TA).

According to TA, we all have three ego states – Parent, Adult and Child. The child ego state can be subdivided into Rebellious Child, Natural Child and Little Professor.

The Rebellious Child, the one who throws tantrums, is unreasonable, and sulks. His behavior can be described as ‘Childish’. The Natural Child as the name suggests is fun-loving, filled with amazement and wonder, and is happy and gay.

The Little Professor is creative. He is the one who is artistic and innovative. He is responsible for all the creativity in the world. According to me, the Natural Child and the Little Professor can be described as the Childlike.

In mythology, if Duryodhana symbolizes childish behavior, Lord Krishna epitomizes childlike qualities – that of both a Natural Child and a Little Professor. What we have to do is to control the childish Duryodhana in each one of us and encourage the childlike Krishna.

If we observe children carefully we find that basically they are childlike. Their Natural Child and Little Professor are very high. Only when they come into conflict with parental authority or adult admonishments does the Rebellious Child – the childish, streak surface.

Instead of encouraging their childlike qualities what we do is suppress them, put them in binds, thereby we encourage childish behavior. In our confusion between childlike and childish behavior we end up winning the battle but losing the war.

Not only should we encourage and nurture the Little Professor and Natural Child in every child, we adults should reactivate these qualities which are lying dormant in all of us.

In our quest for attaining mature, responsible adulthood, we tend to stifle the child in each of us. We spend our lives in pursuit of happiness and peace of mind. We look for happiness in extrinsic things; little realizing that happiness is very much an intrinsic quality.

Before I elucidate let me ask you a simple question? Tell me who amongst us is the happiest of all?

To find an answer to this question observe any small child. Watch him in any activity whether he is flying a kite, climbing a tree, or he is in a temple or in the middle of a puddle – he is totally involved. And happy. He gives his hundred percent to the moment and experiences joy.

Watch a child looking at a rainbow. He is filled with complete wonder. Is he concerned about the heavy rain that preceded it or the scorching sunlight which might follow? No, he is just soaking in the glory of the moment.

When you take your four year old to the temple and tell him, “Now close your eyes and pray, Lord Hanuman will come and bless you.” What does he do? Does he question you, or does he doubt? No, he accepts your word one hundred percent.

When he is playing with friends – does he pick and choose to play with only those friends whose fathers own cars, or who are Hindus or those who speak a particular language? No, he goes by the language of his heart. He doesn’t, like us, listen to the prejudices of his intellect.

We all were childlike once. We all possessed these wondrous qualities like unconditional love, trust, playfulness and simplicity. Somewhere on the road to adulthood we have shed these childlike virtues and adopted fear, mistrust, prejudice, doubt and selfishness.

Not only have we forsaken childlike virtues, we have also started looking down upon them as being immature and not sufficiently adult or grown up.

Does our culture celebrate complicated adulthood at the cost of pure and simple childhood? No, it doesn’t. Our most celebrated God, who for thousands of years has held men, women and children in thrall, is Lord Krishna – the Maakhan Chor Nandkishore. As mentioned earlier he is the epitome of all that is innocent, creative, pure, playful, pristine and joyous.

We have his images as a child stealing makhan, teasing Radha, flirting with the Gopis, playing with the Gwalas et al. But as a grown up too, Krishna doesn’t don the mantle of an adult and become severe, grave and foreboding.

His interaction with Kunti, his banter with Panchali and his gentle leg-pulling of Balram and the mischievous taunting and teasing of Duryodhana and Shakuni, are all manifestations of the Natural Child and the Little Professor.

I think it is high time that all adults invoke the Little Professor, the Natural Child, and theMaakhan Chor Kanhaiya within them.

As Sri Ravishankar, the founder of Art of Living Foundation says, “Normally all you adults are worried: When will our children grow up?” My concern is: “When will you adults become children?”

And if this happens, we will soon be having headlines like – “Children should be the role models for their parents.”

And my colleague will probably be telling his 22 year old son, “Come on son. Be natural, be childlike, why are you curbing your impulses?”

About the Author
Ramendra Kumar is an award winning Indian writer for children with 24 books in English and translations in 7 Foreign and 8 Indian languages. Ramen was born in Hyderabad and he is now settled in Rourkela.

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