Rushed parents, stressed children (Mário Cordeiro book review)

Mário Cordeiro pais apressados filhos stressados

Note: this post contains my free translations from the Portuguese edition of “Pais apressados, filhos stressados”, a book by Mário Cordeiro.

First impressions

“Pais apressados, filhos stressados” (Desassossego, 2019) seemed like the title of a lighter book, like a self-help thing. Still, it was written by Mário Cordeiro, who I find interesting.

It’s a book about the use of time. How not to be its slave and get into the “hurry up” dynamic that affects us all. But the tone is hopeful: there’s almost always something that we can do to decide how we want to live. It’s an easy read, but embedded with deep ideas that point us towards serious reflections.

Rushed parents, stressed children

The author worries about the frantic rhythm in which the current society lives. And the harmful impact on the children, adults and families. The importance and benefits of living more calmly apply also to the adults/parents.

A part of the book adopts a more scientific tone. There are incursions about Man’s evolution and about the way our bodies work. Besides, the author uses the voice of “characters” who present credible points which are immediately recognisable. For instance, the father who feels that if he isn’t the one yelling at the rest of the house, they’ll all be late. Or the child who only cries until getting to school and is fine during the rest of the day. Or even the family dog.

We rush so much, for instance, that we don’t even value the knowledge and wisdom of the elderly anymore. Human beings are one of the species in which the non-fertile period (old age) is proportionately longer. That would have to have some purpose, in the context of evolution, which we are wasting and undervaluing arrogantly.

Each child – and each family – has its own rhythm, so parents should provide a sense of route, not an obligation of speed.

Mário Cordeiro

The big issues

that which makes us human is art, creativity, calm, reflection, contemplation and love

Mário Cordeiro

The author reminds us that we risk becoming robots, if we do not preserve our humanity. And, like Isabel Stilwell underlines in the preface, what makes us human is incompatible with the “narcisic desire to be everything and to have everything”.

Adding to this trend, human beings have an “instinctive need” to want control. This is because we are fragile but intelligent. We know time passes, which generates conflict.

The idea that is being pushed that we are narcisic gods, omnipotent, who “want it all, now” and that we shall have it because “we are entitled everything!” and all of this because “I am me”, is a fantasy, an illusion, a lie. LIE! In each moment of our lives we are choosing.

Mário Cordeiro

But let’s not forget that we are free, we don’t have to be slaves to the frantic way of life! We have more degrees of freedom to change our life than we think. Watching the news in repeat, watching TV shows, or spending time on social media are choices we make. What we can’t do, is having it all, like the author says.

Time is the rarest and most precious thing we have. So, exchanging goods for time is winning. For instance, having a smaller house which enables a shorter commute. “In our daily lives, winning time is winning the lottery.” Precisely.

How do we make our children acquire competencies, develop talents, express themselves “up to the last drop of humanity” and, at the same time, wishing them a tranquil, calm, peaceful life?

Mário Cordeiro

The bedtime stories

It’s one of the activities most reccommended by the author. And it’s a reflexion of what the book promotes. Reading stories should be a slow and paused process. We should let children change the story, not demand their submission. Their contributions are a reflexion of their concerns, which they need to have addressed. Besides, more than the plot, story time lets kids know the parents are there. That mindful presence is the most valuable part.

Mário Cordeiro refers to the bedtime story as an “opportunity that cannot be wasted”. It’s a “mix of tenderness, joy, rest, leading to sleep and creativity”.

Another goal of the stories is the “reposition of the ethical logic”. Good and evil must be clearly distinguishable and the good might as well win.

Other ideas to think about

“Pais apressados, filhos stressados” is a multi-disciplinary book. Here follow other interesting topics approached in the book:

  • Reflection on cities: “the idea that cities are a very dangerous place is exaggerated”, since, excluding some risks and with the right planning, cities can be pleasant places to live.
  • Noise causes stress, sleep and dream disturbances, irritability, hypertension. Artificial man-made sounds are much worse than natural ones (the rain, sea waves).
  • There are complements to activities we are doing that “open up horizons in our neurones”. For instance, the author was listening to Bach on Youtube while writing this book. On the other hand, anything that puts us in a state of monotony and turns us into “acephalous and repetitive machines” is bad.
  • The value and the merits of walking, specially without a pre-determined destination. It’s a habit that enables us to be mindful of ourselves and that we have a body. It is a dehumanisation to feel the obligation to go outside only to purchase something.

Going out without a euro in your pocket would be weird… but it should be normal, when we go outside for a walk, to walk, to do the most health-beneficial human activity there is, the most global and organised. Walking beats the hell out of activities like “going to the gym for two hours a week”.

Mário Cordeiro
  • Meals are a privileged moment for family conversation, socialising and sharing feelings. Having said this, meals in restaurants with kids should not be too long, because it is exhausting for the children.

Meal time is a great protective moment against the risks that threat our mental as well as physical and nutritional health.

Mário Cordeiro

Mini issues mentioned

The author has thought a lot about all these issues. So, the book mentions many more ideas, concerning which much could be said.

  • The importance of parents getting involved in the education and even scholar experience of their children.
  • The negative attitude of some parents: “what a great mother I am” vs “I have great children”.
  • The benefits of not overloading our children with extracurricular activities. It is critical to have time to rest, sleep, play and be with the family on the weekend. Having commitments every Saturday at 9am could be counterproductive.
  • Do not overstimulate the kids: it may cause emotional problems.
  • Valuing life’s little pleasures (on a personal note, it is one of my main challenges). The author exemplifies: bike rides, going to the playground, cinema sessions on the couch.
  • Human beings evolve through a mix of what the author calls “adrenalin poles” and “endorphin poles”. Without rest and pleasure, there is no humanity, nor growth.
  • We should not be slaves to our mobile phones. Today people assume that just because they are calling or texting us, we have to answer.

Let’s relax, be happy and let them enjoy their childhood in a balanced way, with no demands or obligations.

Mário Cordeiro

And also this

Funny enough, the sentence that touched me the most in the whole book was not by Mário Cordeiro:

He who has set his heart exclusively upon the pursuit of worldly welfare is always in a hurry, for he has but a limited time at his disposal to reach, to grasp, and to enjoy it.

Alexis de Tocqueville

In a nutshell, “Pais apressados, filhos stressados” is a book which makes you think, whether you are a parent or not. I liked it.

What abou you? / E a menina?

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