Truth's out for kids

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Oct 28, 2013

Put down your smartphones a second and gather round children because it is time for another edition in the popular series of children's books: Hard Truths For Kids.

As some of you may recall - although I would be pretty surprised if you did - the basic idea behind this series is that it would help parents talk to children about some of the realities of life.

For instance, the first edition in this series was a piece titled "We are poorer because of you".

My hope was that by informing you what a huge drain on resources you all are, you might be motivated to be less annoying.

As far as I can tell from the e-mail and the children I have tried this message on, it does not work. You kids can be incredibly resilient to logic and bald-faced attempts at manipulation.

Still, I am not giving up just yet, although I am tweaking my approach a little. This time, I decided to focus on trying to stop the lies.

These days, parents tell their kids a whole sackful of lies - sometimes because they don't know the real answer and don't want to come off sounding ignorant, but most of the time because they are concerned about hurting the kids' feelings.

For these same reasons, teachers can also be a big bunch of liars. Oh, they did try and tell the truth some time back, but then some parents got really, really upset that their kids were informed of their relative lack of intelligence.

As it turns out, there is a belief that children - people who spend nearly all of their waking hours fighting and calling each other names like poo-poo head - have very sensitive finely tuned egos.

As such, adults now think that any premature acknowledgement of a weakness in a child will inevitably cripple his or her self-esteem forever.

But let's face it, kids: In the grand scheme of things, you really aren't that good at anything.

Sure, you get praised a lot, but it's for really little insignificant things that nobody else gets praised for.

Why, it wasn't all that long ago when you struggled to tie your shoelaces or feed yourself. Also, remember the time you were naughty and your parents threatened to report you to the cops? Well, that threat works only with people who do not have a basic working knowledge of how the criminal justice system works.

That said, the second edition of hard truths for kids is not specifically about how smart or dumb you may be. No, the specific lie we want to address in this edition pertains to what your place is in society and the world.

So it is now my honour to present Hard Truths for Kids 2: You are not that special.

You are not that special.

I know we told you that you were, but we sort of lied.

You are special to us, you see,

But to everyone else, it's misplaced pride.

You won a football trophy in school? What a thrill!

But how can that be? You lost eight-nil.

The coach has taken some pill,

And told you everyone's a winner still.

Well, he's wrong.

Have you been good this year?

Tell Santa what will bring you cheer.

You want an iPhone 5S in gold?

I agree it's nice and bold.

No, get a job.

What? They won't let you leave your hair long?

That's absurd and just wrong.

Oh, I see it's a rule,

Well, then that's cool.

Just follow it then,

Why are we even having this conversation?

So they didn't give you the special prize.

Well, I hope it's not a big surprise.

The winner was smarter than you,

Richer and better looking too.

I know it's disappointing,

Get used to it.

Look around and you will see,

Lots of kids as good as thee.

So if you're special, they're special too,

And then everyone's special,

That can't be true.

But maybe, just maybe,

You're the chosen one,

And you actually are more special than everyone.

Don't bet on it though,

Chances are low,

That Lego stuck up your nose should tell you so.

No, no don't cry.

I know I'm a bad guy.

I took this Tiger Mom thing too far,

I didn't mean to leave a scar.

The truth is, you are still quite special,

Just not that special.

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Oct 28, 2013

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