Do You Have an Ego Problem?

Kids can drive you crazy.

That’s not their fault, because that is what is expected from children. Try to ask your parents about how you were when you were 4. I can guarantee you that you drove them crazy at times too. Kids explore everything and that is what they are supposed to be doing.

My niece and nephew came to town and they played together with our son. Playing they did, day and night. I am not disturbed by them playing, even though at times they can be very noisy. I am actually glad that my son gets to play with kids his age. That is what they should be doing.

Kids learn important social skills through play, so I would always encourage my son to play to his heart’s content (with limitations of course). This is something that I learn from parenting courses, particularly from Puan Noor Afidah Abu Bakar (Parent Connect) and Dr. Putri Afzan Maria Zulkifli (Kinderkaizen).

One night, I temporarily forgot what I learned in all those parenting courses.

I was in my bedroom doing some work, while my son is out in the living room playing with his cousins. First mistake I made was doing work in my bedroom. Then, he came into the bedroom and saw me with my laptop. Second mistake I made was I didn’t lock the door.

Whenever my son saw me with my laptop, he would be instantly intrigued. He would jumped up and wanting to see what’s on my screen. Then, he would ask to watch cartoons or something. I gently said to him that I was working, and I asked for a few minutes to finish up my work before I can play with him.

Because that’s all children want: play.

They don’t want to ruin your day because they just want to play, with you.

But my son wasn’t heeding my gentle request. He saw that I had my wireless earphones with me. He saw the delicate charger and snatched it. Still keeping my cool, I gently asked him to give it back. He ignored and just walked out of the room.

Okay. Before I continue to the juicy part of the story, let me give you a bit of background about the parenting style my wife and I decided to adopt. My wife and I established together an idea that we would be educated parents. That doesn’t mean that we become parents with a PhD.

What that simply means is that we are conscious about our parenting and about how we affect our children in whatever we do, especially towards their emotional wellbeing. That’s why we attended parenting courses, read parenting books, and continuously discuss about parenting, even before we had our first child. 

That’s why I was being gentle with my son when he snatched something I own that is expensive. Every moment is a teaching moment and I don’t want my son to learn something bad from me, consciously or not. You might be thinking, “Oh my, they’re such good parents!”

Hold that thought, and let’s continue the story.

When he walked out of the room with my expensive wireless earphone charger, something inside of me woke up: my ego. I immediately saw the price tag of my wireless earphones charger, instead of the priceless tag of my son. I followed him out of the room to get my charger back from him.

My son being my son, i.e. always playful, he placed the charger at his back. He wanted to play. At first, I tried to gently ask for the item back, a few times. He didn’t budge. At this point, I can physically feel the anger creeping in and my mind shut down.

Here it comes…

I yanked his arm, took the charger, and walked away.

Now, I still have the sense not to yell or hit him (Alhamdulillah for that). But the yanking alone left him stunned. He didn’t cry or scream. He was just stunned, and I felt it as I walked away from him. I returned to my bedroom, put everything away, and just laid down on the bed feeling super awful.

“Argh, why did I do that?!”

My wife came. I told her what happened and how I was feeling. She simply said, “Go and apologize.” That makes sense, right? You did something wrong, so you should go and apologize. But wait, the ego is still there. It said to me, “Wait, why should you apologize? Your son took something your own without your permission. He deserved it!”

I know it’s stupid because my son is only a child, but that’s how the ego operates.

The ego doesn’t care about anything other than seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, no matter the costs. In that situation, it is painful for my ego to apologize to my child. Even before I apologized, I already felt the pain. The painful humiliation of an adult having to apologize to a child.

But my wife was right, I should apologize. My ego went crazy and kept yelling at me not to do it. But my heart knew the right thing to do, and the decision was made. It was not easy, but I stood my ground in the battle with my ego. Before I apologized, I needed to calm down first.

I prayed Isha, walked out of the bedroom, and saw my son in the living room watching TV. He looked fine and there were other people there in the living room. My ego chimed in again, “See? He’s fine! No need to apologize la kan. Plus, others are here so it’s embarrassing if they see you apologize to a child.”

Nope. I’m not going to stop half way. I made up my mind, and followed my heart. I kneeled down, hugged my son, and tried to get his attention. I softly whispered to him, but it was loud enough to be heard by others. But I committed to it. I said to him:

“What I did to you just now was wrong. I am so sorry.”

Now, I don’t know if my son understood what happened. But, what I do know for sure is that he always remember my actions. Children don’t do as you say, they do as you do. Children see, children do. Despite what you say, they will focus more on what you do. 

If they see that you do everything you ego tells you to do, then they will follow that. As parents, we want our children to act above their own ego. We want our children to do the right thing, including times when doing the right thing is super difficult. Our children can do that, but only if they see it from us.

I know that not everyone reading this is married or has children, but this goes beyond marriage. If you have smaller brothers/sisters, employees, or anyone whom you are in charge of, then they are always looking at what you do – not what you say.

Remember that.