The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:
I’m a female company worker in my 30s. My son, a fifth-grader in elementary school, can’t become No. 1 at anything he tries.
My son is modest, inoffensive, gentle and always smiling. He plays on a junior baseball team, and motivates himself to diligently practice pitching and batting every day. He has been chosen as the team’s captain this year, probably because of his good nature. He plays reasonably well in games, but has never won an individual achievement award such as MVP.
Although my son seems unhappy about it, he nevertheless offers a smile to teammates who win awards and says, “Congratulations.”
Seeing him do this sets my teeth on edge.
On reflection, I realize my son has never been chosen to run a relay or commended for his calligraphy work, or anything else for that matter.
In a word, my boy is completely unexceptional. He isn’t bad, but he’s by no means phenomenal, either. Honestly speaking, I’m envious of other children who excel while in the spotlight.
How should I cope with this?
Y, Saitama Prefecture
Dear Ms. Y:
Why are you so quick to compare your son to other children and push for him to be on top? Evaluations based on comparisons to others change depending on the person you’re being compared to.
Reading your letter made me realize how amazing your son is. He has many distinctive qualities others don’t have. Your boy is willing to work hard and is broad-minded enough to congratulate friends on their success, even when he himself is unrecognized. Even adults of sound character don’t often behave this way. He has been chosen as captain of his junior baseball team, proof of how popular he is with his teammates and the level of trust the team’s coach has in him.
It’s important that children growing up feel their individual qualities are being truly recognized. Such a feeling helps boost the child’s self-esteem and holds the key to them achieving a fulfilling life that accords to their unique personality.
Your wish for your son to be superior and acquire what he doesn’t have may simply come from your own affection for him. I may sound rude, but I’d like you to direct your attention to yourself: What have you accomplished so far? I hope you look back on your life and carefully work to avoid boxing your son in with too many expectations. This is true parental affection, I believe.
Masami Ohinata, professor