Parents shape a child’s reality. Everything they say and do for the first seven years of their children’s lives is recorded and becomes their beliefs and behaviors. Moreover, it is not the environment that shapes one’s beliefs rather it is our perception (or interpretation) of it that controls our health and happiness.
As parents, we need to be aware of how we interpret a situation to our children. They observe how we react and respond to life’s many challenges. And it becomes the blueprint for their own life. If they see a parent reacting with a defeatist attitude, a child automatically imbibes this response. He/she believes life cannot be tackled.
Life Is Beautiful
Roberto Benign’s award-winning movie Life is beautiful perfectly portrays how a parent can transform and change a child’s perception. By shifting his perception of a hopeless situation to one of adventure, the protagonist shields his son, from the horrors of a very depressing situation.
At the start of the movies, Benign’s character, Guido is portrayed as a happy-go-lucky, optimistic guy. He does not take life too seriously and aptly exposes the absurdity of the so-called elite. He woos and marries a beautiful school-teacher, Dora (Nicoletta Braschi, Benigni’s real-life wife. Just as they have happily settled into domestic bliss with their cute son, Joshua, the ugly head of Nazism wreaks havoc in their lives.
They are captured and sent to a concentration camp. The child is confused and frightened at the violence and brutality. Most parents would moan and increase the panic of the situation. Which may forever mar the child’s brain. The mindset that we demonstrate in our parenting is the mindset that we teach to our children.
The Growth Mindset has to do with the brain’s neuroplasticity – your brain’s unlimited potential for growth, flexibility, and learning. Furthermore, with this kind of mindset, you look at problems as opportunities to discover the perfect solution. This leads to the discovery of new possibilities leading to growth, learning and higher achievement.
Belief and Hope
Thinking quickly, Guido decides to tell his son that the whole experience is a game. Imaginatively, he explains to his son that everything from food shortages to tattoos is part of the contest. He conspiratorily warns that ‘It’ll be a tough game, but if they can earn 1,000 points, they will win an armored tank.’ Even though Joshua trusts his father, there are times when he just wants to quit. During one of those times, Guido tells Joshua ‘Okay let’s leave. But you are going to miss your prize. We are so close to winning.’
Sometimes as a parent, all we can give our kids is hope that things will get better and we will get through the difficult times.
Life is Beautiful – We Won!
Despite the ending being heartbreaking, with the father being marched off to be shot little Joshua is unscathed by his ordeal in the camp. Moreover, as he leaves the camp, serendipitously a tank comes rolling out in front of him. Even though its a movie, we share Joshua’s disbelief to one of elation. He can’t believe it but his father was right. They managed to win the game by putting up with the difficulties. And, little Joshua truly believes he won!!
A Parent’s Gift
I deeply identify with the film’s depiction of the trusting bond between parent and child. How a parent even though he cannot change the situation, still instills hope in his son. Out of deep love for his son, the father transforms a very traumatic situation into one of adventure, and fun
It reminds me of my dying mother who continued doing things with us and still creating moments of fun in what must have been a very painful time. The pain of cancer plus the pain of leaving behind two small kids. It must have been unbearable. My mother’s gift to me was the fun we had when she was with us. Subconsciously, I knew she was dying but held on to the hope that things would get better.
Yes, my mother gave me the gift of positivity – that difficult situations need not define your reality. And the unshakeable belief that one can overcome tough times.
Life Is Beautiful manages to navigate the extremely thin line between humor, fantasy, and tragedy. Although the main protagonist Guido does not survive, he manages to protect his son from the horrors of the camp by using humor and ingenuity. He turns a difficult situation into a game of fun and adventure.
At the end of the movie, Joshua fondly remembers his father, “This is my story. This is the sacrifice my father made. This was his gift to me”
Sometimes as a parent we have to protect our kids from the realities of life and keep hope alive. We have to make them believe that no matter what the circumstances, life is beautiful.
Redirect: Changing the Stories We Live By – Timothy Wilson