“But I agree with you that somebody, somebody who had worked in the White House, — not Clinton himself, but somebody who has been close to the process — said that should we be successful, the actually most important thing you can do is to have big chunks of time during the day where all you’re doing is thinking.” Obama goes on to observe that without this time, “You start making mistakes, or you lose the big picture.”
At work, the good adult has problems too. As a child, they follow the rules; never make trouble and take care not to annoy anyone. But following the rules won’t get you very far in adult life. Almost everything that’s interesting, worth doing or important will meet with a degree of opposition. A brilliant idea will always disappoint certain people – and yet very much be worth holding on to. The good child is condemned to career mediocrity and sterile people-pleasing.
Many good children are good out of love of a depressed harassed parent who makes it clear they just couldn’t cope with any more complications or difficulties. Or maybe they are very good to soothe a violently angry parent who could become catastrophically frightening at any sign of less than perfect conduct. Or perhaps the parent was very busy and distracted; only by being very good could the child hope to gain a sliver of their interest.
But this repression of more challenging emotions, though it produces short-term pleasant obedience, stores up a huge amount of difficulty in later life. Practiced educators and parents should spot signs of exaggerated politeness – and treat them as the danger they are.