I am always interested in the things that we believe without questioning. For example, we believe that it is better to “win” than to “lose”. We believe it is better to “try” than to “not try”.  We believe it is better to “work” than to “be lazy”. We believe it is better to be rich than to be poor, and we believe it is better to have many “things” than to have fewer (or no) “things”.

These beliefs are “values” we pass onto our children. But are they necessarily “true”? Like everything else (except, arguably, some physical realities like gravity) these are social constructs we invented. They actually aren’t “right” or “wrong”; they are just social norms we typically don’t question, and which are part of most parenting.

I don’t believe there are a small group of evil people huddling in a cave somewhere to control us all (although…who knows???).   But I do look at these belief systems, and realize how strongly they cause us to raise children who fit well into a capitalist society. Capitalism is all about working hard to “win” and to accumulate as much wealth and influence as we can.Since there is a finite amount of wealth and influence, we are pitted against each other. This happens as early as preschool.   Only one preschool child can win the race; so by definition if you win, I lose. I can be a winner by causing you to lose.

People way smarter than me have pointed out that capitalism has the advantage of creating highly motivated “winners” who can achieve a lot (albeit often at the expense of other people or the collective good). Traditional western parenting is perfect to promote capitalism.  We reward our children for accomplishments and for achievement. We praise them for winning and we chastise them, or console them, for losing. We teach them to get their “piece of the pie”.

But for me it always comes down to happiness.Do we have a world of happy, peaceful, self-assured adults? If we did, would the drug companies be selling billions of dollars’ worth of drugs to fight depression and anxiety? If we did, would we have this much distrust, self-consciousness, intolerance and anger? If this is what we reap from the way we raise children, maybe we ought to reconsider how we sow!

But at the end of the day the choice is up to parents. Only parents can decide if their job is about preparing their children to go out into the “cold, hard world” and compete to succeed. Or to decide their job is something else.

I don’t suspect capitalism in our culture is going away anytime soon (people LOVE their “stuff”) but maybe adults with a strong sense of their own self-worth won’t be quite as impacted by it, and maybe over generations our system actually COULD change.