Stop Drugging Your Children!

Tim Jordan, M.D

Stop drugging your children! You heard me right. But I’m not talking about marijuana, cocaine, Prozac or Ritalin. I’m talking about drugs that are more insidious and harmful to our children’s long-term well being.

What I’m speaking of here are the drugs called approval, appreciation, recognition, being popular, fame and fitting in. Our children are being conditioned to believe that without these drugs they will not be happy. They are being taught that in order to be happy you need money, success, fame, beauty and praise. And I believe this is the primary reason why many kids and adults are miserable, anxious and stressed.

I read a book entitled “Awareness” by Anthony De Mello about 20 years ago and it radically changed my thinking about such things. In this article I want to focus on our beliefs about fitting in.

Psychologists have long told us how important it is for kids and especially teens to have a sense of belonging. And parents, teachers and the culture have brainwashed kids into buying into this. I say rubbish! Why would you want to belong to someone? You don’t need to belong to anybody or any group.

This sense of belonging means you want to be accepted, be attractive, be recognized, be desired. But it sets you up to be dependent on these things. So if someone says “I really like that blouse on you”, you feel happy and accepted. But if someone says: what’s with that blouse?” you feel bad, discouraged and deflated. You are like a puppet on a string that can be controlled by what other people say or don’t say; do or don’t do.

Kids are susceptible to giving up parts of themselves in order to fit in or belong. I work with girls all the time to show them how they are giving their power away to other girls because of how outward directed they are. They become sensitive to others words, and thus give other people the power to hurt them. I tell girls there are no mean words unless you give them that power.

I see kids striving so hard to get into the popular groups at school. They put up with abuse and having to act mean and inauthentic to get in. But even if they get in, there is a constant stress about staying in. Kids feel a lack of control and terror about wearing the wrong clothes, saying the wrong thing, talking to the wrong person, because one slip up and you’re out. And they are stressed and miserable. And they waste so much time and energy trying to please others and fit in.

So consider this paradigm shift: what is truly in children’s nature is not to belong; it’s to be free. Freedom in this case means that no one has the power to control you; no one has the power to hurt you. You are in charge of your feelings and your reactions. If someone likes your blouse, fine; if they don’t, that’s fine too. You do not define yourself by what other people think about you. You become inner-directed.

Kids would no longer be threatened by someone’s criticisms; she doesn’t care what you think about her. She knows who she is, and is no longer a puppet. That to me is true freedom.

I believe it’s also in children’s nature to love others. And that love is unconditional with no strings attached. Kids want to relate with others, have fun. And it’s not a love or relationship predicated on needing things from others to make you happy. It’s relationships that transcend the need for approval, recognition and acceptance. You don’t need this from others because you give it to yourself.

I would like this to be the standard that kids aspire to. They would grow up happy, unable to be controlled or manipulated, and confident. It’s time for a rebooting of our cultural conditioning.