How to Be the Best Parent or Teacher

A scene from a TV show I saw once sticks in my mind. In this scene one man at the hospital apparently characterized as the “extreme melancholic” had a great body because he followed a very strict and disciplined routine. So another gentleman at the hospital (I don’t know his name so I will call him ‘Mr. Phlegmatic’) wishing to look like him asked if he would be able to work out with him. On the first day of their workout together ‘Mr. Phlegmatic’ asked him “So what is your secret?”

‘Mr. Melancholic’ answered, “You have to hate your body. I hate my body. It is horrible”.

(note he had a gorgeous body)

‘Mr. Phlegmatic’ is shocked.

‘Mr. Melancholic’ continues….”The minute you start liking your body then you are done for! You get happy with what you have and you relax. So the secret to staying fit is hating your body.”

I thought of this line again this morning as I was discussing schedules and parenting and teaching with some friends. We all try so hard to be the perfect parents or perfect teachers just like ‘Mr. Phlegmatic’ was striving to have the perfect body but along the way – how are we motivating ourselves?

Are we motivating ourselves with hate for the way we are and trying to be better or are we motivating ourselves with love for ourselves, honor of what we do and a realization that we are on a journey and not at a destination?

I don’t agree with ‘Mr. Melancholic’ from the TV show. I have observed that hate and fear can be the most effective short-term and quick motivators but their effectiveness is not long-lasting. For long-lasting motivation one must turn to love.

Are we being so strict that we are not allowing ourselves the joy of life and the joy of the processes of life because we believe as ‘Mr. Melancholic’ did? (This does not reflect on anyone of the melancholic temperament by the way – this was just the gentleman’s temperament in the show and is often the side of us that wants us to be disciplined and strict).

We have a joke in our family when we travel. The kids always ask, “When are we going to get there?” One day, I got really tired of hearing this and I spontaneously said (in a very serious voice) “Sorry kids, we will never get there.” They looked shocked and started protesting, “But why mom? Where are we going? I want to get there! Why not?”

They were a bit upset by this. Then they saw me smile and I said, “We will never get there because when we do get there it will be HERE and it won’t be THERE anymore and so we will actually never get THERE because it will always be turning into HERE.”

They thought for a moment about that and then started to laugh! What a wonderful concept! It was almost as fun as talking about time travel. They spent the next 30 minutes discussing variations on the concept and trying to figure out different ways to say “Are we THERE yet”?

In a similar way we often talk about “getting there” in our own lives. We look forward to the day when we will have our rhythm down, when our schedules will run smoothly, when we are the parent or teacher we dream of being, and when our children seem to be learning everything they “should” and when we become the perfect Waldorf parent.

If we remember, however, that we will never get THERE, that we are always HERE. Perhaps we can also remember to love what we are now and be motivated by our love of the moment instead of by our fear of failure (as the man with the bodybuilding program was).


  1. Beautiful! I completely agree! Anytime I’ve looked back at how I achieved anything with homeschooling/parenting/life, the answer always comes that love gave me the motivation/perseverance/patience to get ‘there.’ I loved the examples used here and I think so many us need the reminder. Thank you!

  2. Ah, just what I needed to hear. Great post. Love the idea of never getting there because you will be here! Thank you.


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