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父母做的那些貌似正確的事

How to Raise a Child
父母做的那些貌似正確的事

It would be easy, on first glance, to dismiss Madeline Levine’s “Teach Your Children Well” as yet another new arrival in a long line of books that have urged us, in the past decade or so, to push back and just say no to the pressures of perfectionistic, high-performance parenting. But to give in to first impressions would be a mistake.

乍一看,你很可能會把瑪德琳·萊文(Madeline Levine)的新書《教好你的孩子》(Teach Your Children Well)丟到一邊。你會以為它又是一本不認同高標準、嚴要求、追求完美的教育方式的書。最近十年,傳輸這樣理念的書還真不少。但是第一印象往往是不靠譜的。

For Levine’s latest book is, in fact, a cri de coeur from a clinician on the front lines of the battle between our better natures — parents’ deep and true love and concern for their kids — and our culture’s worst competitive and materialistic influences, all of which she sees played out, day after day, in her private psychology practice in affluent Marin County, Calif. Levine works with teenagers who are depleted, angry and sad as they compete for admission to a handful of big-name colleges, and with parents who can’t steady or guide them, so lost are they in the pursuit of goals that have drained their lives of pleasure, contentment and connection. “Our current version of success is a failure,” she writes. It’s a damning, and altogether accurate, clinical diagnosis.

萊文的新書實際上是一位臨床心理醫生衷心的懇求。在富裕的加利福尼亞州馬林縣, 在萊文的心理診療工作中,她每天都處在沖突的第一線。沖突的一方是人類天性中美好的一面——父母對孩子深切而誠摯的愛與關懷,另一方是社會文化最惡劣的影響——鼓勵競爭、追求物質,日復一日越發糟糕。萊文的診療對象是十幾歲的孩子和他們的父母。孩子因為要努力考入那幾所名校而感到疲憊、憤怒和悲傷;父母呢,既穩定不了孩子的心神,也給不出指導意見。他們迷失在對目標的追求中,生活毫無樂趣,得不到滿足感,失去情感聯系。“我們現在對成功的定義本身就是失敗的,”她在書中寫道。這該死的結論卻恰恰是來自準確的臨床診斷。
 

Levine’s previous book, “The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids,” opened with the image of a “bright, personable, highly pressured” 15-year-old girl with wealthy parents, who seemed, on the surface, to have it all. But a glimpse at her forearm revealed that she had also carved the word “empty” into her flesh with a razor. Teenagers like this, and adoring if preoccupied adults like her parents, haunt the pages of “Teach Your Children Well.”

萊文的上一本書名叫《特權的代價:父母的壓力和優越的物質條件如何造就了一代孤獨而不快樂的孩子》(The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids)。書的開頭提到一個15歲的女孩,她“聰明、美麗,但是壓力很大”,父母很富有。表面上看,她要什么有什么。但是瞟一眼她的小臂,你會看到她用剃刀在肉里刻了一個詞:空虛?!督毯媚愕暮⒆印防锶沁@樣的青少年,以及對他們過度寵愛和關心的父母們。

One academically talented girl in Levine’s care is knocked off her feet by self-loathing and grief after she’s rejected from a particularly desirable college. She “lies in bed for days,” Levine writes. “She will not get up, and when I visit her at home, all she can say through her streaming tears is: ‘It was all for nothing. I’m a complete failure.’ ”

萊文碰到過一個成績優異的女孩,在被她特別鐘意的大學拒絕后,自責又悲傷,不能自已。她“在床上躺了好多天,”萊文寫道:“她不想起床。我去她家看望她的時候,她不住地流淚,就說了一句話:‘什么都完了。我徹底失敗了。’”

Other kids cheat, take drugs, drink, shut down or, worse still, keep up their tightrope act of parent-pleasing, Ivy-­aiming high achievement while quietly, invisibly dying inside. “The cost of this relentless drive to perform at unrealistically high levels is a generation of kids who resemble nothing so much as trauma victims,” Levine writes. “They become preoccupied with events that have passed — obsessing endlessly on a possible wrong answer or a missed opportunity. They are anxious and depressed and often self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. Sleep is difficult and they walk around in a fog of exhaustion. Other kids simply fold their cards and refuse to play.”

還有些孩子撒謊、吸毒、酗酒、輟學;更糟糕的是,有些孩子繃緊了神經,想考入常青藤盟校,以取悅父母,但內心已經無聲地枯萎了。“無情地逼著孩子去追求不現實的目標,使這一代孩子遭受了巨大的心理創傷,”萊文寫道:“他們為已經過去的事情憂心忡忡——為可能答錯了一道題或者失去了一個機會而糾結不已。他們焦慮、低落,經常用毒品或酒精來自我療傷。他們睡不好覺,累得精疲力竭還硬撐著。還有些孩子干脆就自暴自棄了。”

Levine has spent 30 years with these unhappy children, as a therapist and a mother of three sons who attended high-pressure schools. And now, it would seem, she’s had it. She’s had it with schools that worship at the altar of high achievement but do everything they can to undermine children’s growth and well-being: eliminating recess; assigning mind-deadening amounts of homework; and ranking, measuring and valuing kids by narrowly focused test scores, while cutting out other areas of creative education in which large numbers of students who don’t necessarily test well might find success and thrive. And she’s had it with parents who profess to want nothing more than “happiness” for their children (“Kids laugh when I tell them that their parents don’t mention money as a measure of success; they think I’ve been snowed,” she divulges) while neglecting the aspects of family life that build enthusiasm and contentment, and overemphasizing values and activities that can actually do harm.

在過去的30年里,身為理療師的萊文都在跟這些不快樂的孩子們打交道。她自己的三個兒子就讀的學校壓力也很大?,F在她已經受夠了。她受夠了學校只看重考試成績,想盡一切辦法,妨礙孩子們幸福成長:取消課間休息;布置大量耗費腦力的作業;僅根據考試分數來排名次和評價學生,縮減創造性教育的其他方面(很多考試成績不好的孩子,在這些方面也許很擅長并能有所作為)。她也受夠了家長們自我標榜說,除了想讓孩子“幸福”別無所求(“當我告訴孩子們他們的父母不把錢作為衡量成功的一個標準時,孩子們大笑,認為我被愚弄了,”她透露說),卻忽視家庭生活中能帶來熱情和滿足感的那些方面,過分重視那些實際上會帶來危害的價值觀和活動。

These are parents who run themselves ragged with work and hyper-parenting, presenting an “eviscerated vision of the successful life” that their children are then programmed to imitate. They’re parents who are physically hyper-present but somehow psychologically M.I.A.: so caught up in the script that runs through their heads about how to “do right” by their children that they can’t see when the excesses of keeping up, bulking up, getting a leg up and generally running scared send the whole enterprise of ostensible care and nurturing right off the rails.

這些家長們自己因為工作和“過度養育”而忙碌不堪,還提出了一種“貌似成功、實則舍本逐末的人生模式”,讓孩子們照著模仿。表面上看,孩子需要的時候,這些父母都在身旁,但是在心理上他們卻缺席了:他們被頭腦中設定好的“做正確的事”的劇本纏住了,卻沒有意識到,一味激勵孩子處處要勝人一籌、時時要小心謹慎,看似是對孩子的關愛,其實是拔苗助長,誤入歧途。

This message — that, essentially, every­thing today’s parents think they’re doing right is actually wrong — is the most noteworthy take-away from the first two-thirds or so of this book, which otherwise spends a bit too much time consolidating and restating (without, unfortunately, adequate footnotes or in-text credits) a great deal of previously published wisdom on the dangers of ­winner-take-all parenting.

這個觀點——其核心內容就是,現在的父母所做的每一件自認為正確的事,實際上都是錯誤的——是本書前大半截最值得注意的觀點。其余部分花了太多篇幅強調和重述“勝者為王”的教育理念的危害——這個觀點很多之前的出版物已經提到過了(可惜本書在腳注和文中都沒有充分說明出處)。

Levine has good, if familiar, lessons for parents about the virtues of teaching empathy; encouraging the development of an authentic self; and making time for dreaming, creating and unstructured outdoor play. But she really comes into her own — and will, if widely read, make an indelible mark on our parenting culture — when she moves beyond child development to concentrate instead on parent development, exploring why we do the misguided things we do, and asking how we might (as we must) change ourselves and behave differently.

萊文舉了一些很好的(也有些常見的)例子,告訴家長以下行為是大有益處的:教育孩子具有同情心,鼓勵孩子塑造真實的自己,騰出時間去夢想、去創造、在室外無拘無束地玩耍。但是,本書的獨到之處,在于它不僅講述了怎樣培養孩子,更進一步講述了怎樣培養家長:探究了為什么我們會做出誤導孩子的事,怎樣才能(因為我們必須)改變自己,走上正途。如果這本書被廣泛閱讀的話,這些創見將為養育方法的改變起到極大作用。

Here, her insights are fresh. “When apples were sprayed with a chemical at my local supermarket, middle-aged moms turned out, picket signs and all, to protest the possible risk to their children’s health,” Levine reflects. “Yet I’ve seen no similar demonstrations about an educational system that has far more research documenting its own toxicity. We have bought into this system not because we are bad people or are unconcerned about our children’s well-being, but because we have been convinced that any other point of view will put our children at even greater risk.”

在這一點上,她的見解很新穎。“如果當地超市賣的蘋果噴了農藥,中年媽媽們會扯出示威標語,抗議這可能給孩子健康帶來的危害,”萊文反思道。“但是我卻沒有看到任何類似的針對教育系統的抗議,很多調查證明教育系統的危害更大。我們已經接受了這個系統,不是因為我們是壞人,或者不關心孩子的幸福,而是因為我們以為任何其他觀點都會使孩子陷入更大的風險。”

With vastly increasing numbers of children now showing stress-related symptoms, it’s more urgent than ever, Levine argues, that parents learn new ways to express their love and concern, trading their fears of failure for faith in their children’s innate strengths, and prioritizing the joys and challenges of life in the present over anxious visions of an uncertain future. “There comes a point in parenting,” she writes, “where we must decide whether to maintain the status quo or, armed with new information, choose a different course. There is little question that our children are living in a world that is not simply oblivious to their needs, but is actually damaging them.”

萊文認為,現在越來越多的孩子因壓力過大而出現病癥,所以現在比以往任何時候都更加迫切地要求家長們學習表達關愛的新方法,把對失敗的恐懼轉化為對孩子天分的信任,優先考慮目前生活中的快樂和挑戰,而不是去擔心未知的未來。“父母的教育方式現在到了十字路口,”她在書中寫道,“我們該決定是繼續保持現狀,還是用新的理念武裝自己,選擇一條不同的道路。毫無疑問,我們的孩子現在生活的世界,不僅不關心他們的需求,甚至還在傷害他們。”

Levine is correct to say that, as parents and as a society, we’ve reached a tipping point, in which the long-dawning awareness that there’s something not quite right about our parenting is strengthening into a real desire for change. Families, their fortunes tracking the larger economy that encouraged so much of their excess, are crashing after bubble years in which they spent their every penny, and then some, on cultivating competitive greatness in their kids. Now exhausted, often disenchanted and (conveniently enough) broke, they’re reconsidering whether the mad chase was worth all the resources that sustained it.

萊文說得對,家長和社會,都到了轉折點。很久以來,我們就隱隱感到我們的教育方法有問題,現在我們迫切地感到需要改變。經濟大環境好的時候鼓勵大家過度消費,所以人們在經濟泡沫時期花光了所有的錢。經濟泡沫破滅之后,依賴經濟大環境的家庭財富也隨之化為烏有,家庭也變得支離破碎,這時候有些人就把錢都花在培養孩子的競爭能力上。而今家長們精疲力竭、疲憊不堪,終于醒悟過來,開始反思這種瘋狂的追求是否值得。

After all, as Levine notes, the inconvenient truth remains that not every child can be shaped and accelerated into Harvard material. But all kids can have their spirits broken, depression induced and anxiety stoked by too much stress, too little downtime and too much attention given to external factors that make them look good to an audience of appraising eyes but leave them feeling rotten inside.

就像萊文指出的那樣,盡管有點讓人難以接受,但是事實就是,不是每個孩子經過塑造,就能快速成長,變成哈佛高材生。但是每個孩子都可能因為壓力大、休息少、太在乎他人的看法而精神崩潰、抑郁焦慮,縱然金玉其外,也不過是冷暖自知。
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