A fable reveals a lot about raising kids to their natural potential.

An Elephant In a Race

Oh, you are looking so cute,” said Mama Elephant to Baby Elephant as the elephant family walked into the stadium for the annual athletics meet. The stands were soon filling up with parents, some anxious and some excited.

“Son, cheer up,” said Papa Ele-phant to Jumbo. “You will do well. I am sure you will.” Jumbo did not reply. Dragging his feet, he walked towards the start line of the 100-meter dash.

In the lineup were Baby Cheetah, Baby Zebra, Baby Deer, Baby Tiger, and Baby Elephant.

“On your marks… get, set, go!” Zoom! Everybody sped. The spectators were on their feet cheering loudly and clapping. Baby Cheetah flew past everybody and won the race. Jumbo did not complete the race as he fell down trying to run very fast.

Papa and Mama Elephant ran to the tracks to help Baby Jumbo get up. With tears in his eyes, Jumbo cried out to his parents, “I told you Papa, I do not want to run this race.”


Does your child feel like Baby Jumbo in the race of life, trying to compete with the leopards, cheetahs, and tigers and always struggling to win and complete the race?

“Yes. But in this rat race what are the options?” you may exclaim.

We go back to Papa Elephant. He tried some options and next year Baby Elephant won three gold medals and the Promising Athlete of the Year award.

How did this happen?

Firstly, Papa gave up his expectation of his son winning the 100-meter race. He started observing what made Jumbo happy; he started seeing Jumbo from Jumbo’s eyes and heart and not from his. He saw his son as somebody unique who was born to win. He observed that Jumbo enjoyed picking and throwing heavy things around with great ease. He got him some heavy weights to carry and Jumbo did that with great ease.

He took him for wrestling matches and Papa saw a shine in Jumbo’s eyes. The other day Baby Cheetah came home to spend the day and Jumbo invited him to a wrestling match. In no time, Baby Cheetah was licking the dust on the floor. Proud Papa and Mama Elephants were all praises for their son.

Jumbo grew in confidence and enrolled for coaching in wrestling. He would wake up early in the morning, excited to go and wrestle with his friends. He would spend hours practicing and discussing wrestling. He started beating everybody around him…one could see the bounce in Jumbo’s walk and talk.

The next year, he swept three gold medals in wrestling, weight-lifting, and shot-put and got the Promising Athlete of the Year award.

A Baby Elephant at Home

Although this is an imaginary story, it is real for many children who are living the aspirations of their parents, trying to run the 100-meter race while they are not cut out for it.

I am sure you want your child to be confident and happy like Jumbo and this is how you can do it.

‘A gardener’ before deciding on cultivating the seed, understands the characteristics of the seed.

Parents are like gardeners who need to invest time in observing their child: what makes the child happy, what comes naturally to the child. Some children take to numbers very easily while some are easy with words.

‘A gardener’ does not modify the seed; he accepts the seed as it is.

Accept your child as somebody unique. Appreciate their strengths and tolerate their limitations with grace.

‘A gardener’ nurtures the seed with the right amount of water and earth.

Provide the right kind of support to help the talent in your child become a strength. You could enroll them to learn a musical instrument if they like or join abacus if they are number-oriented. Teach them subjects in the way they understand better. If they are visually intelligent use a lot of pictures, doodles and cartooning to explain theories.

‘A gardener’ regularly checks how the plant is doing by observing the plant.

As parents we need to observe how our children are doing. Listen to the child with your eyes and ears, connect with their feelings and you will understand their pain and challenges. This will help your child overcome his disappointments and also find a friend in you.

The supreme gardener God provides air and sunshine to all the plants irrespective of who they are. Similarly we need to provide unconditional love to our children irrespective of their achievements. This helps children deal with rejections and failures as they know someone at home is there to receive them unconditionally.

Finally, whatever they achieve, if you appreciate them for their efforts and also for the results, you will find your daffodils and lilies dancing and singing happily in the garden of life.

Deepak Bharwani, MBA, is a facilitator with a leadership institute, and is actively involved in running a spiritual school for children.