Kids egos are amusing and frustrating, much like our adult egos. I was playing soccer with my daughter and my niece the other day. I was trying to teach my daughter how to get herself into position to score. Unfortunately, her ego is strong and it got competitive with her younger cousin. My sweet little eight-year-old was off her rocker with the idea of besting her six year old cousin. The idea that her cousin may score a goal was so distasteful to her that she would go take the ball from her cousin, even though they were on the same team. I soon had to call off the game and move to a less competitive activity, because my daughter had worked herself into a foul mood. Young egos are so transparent that you can watch self worth go up and down with the score of a ball game, even when nobody’s keeping score.
Unfortunately, many of us never outgrow this young ego. We just get more sophisticated in how we keep score. We still define our self-worth by external criteria. We still try to exclude people to make ourselves feel better. We still judge ourselves and other people by what we have and don’t have. As we grow, our egos grow with us.
When we learn to watch our egos in action, the way we watch children playing, we will see the same crude tactics. We see grown men cry when their sports teams lose. We see grown women scoff at other women for wearing outfits that don’t match their age. Our young egos are still alive and well and up to the same tricks that they pulled when we were in elementary school.
Kids egos tend to let go easier. Their moods come and go quickly. They can be best friends, then mortal enemies, then best friends again in a five minute span. Adults don’t transition so smoothly. This is why it is important for us to learn to pay attention to our egos. We need to watch how we judge others, how we feel diminished by loss, and how we feel elevated by others’ shortcomings. These are all crude tricks of the ego. These habitual reactions cause us plenty of misery. As we grow our awareness, we shrink our egos. We can guide ourselves, with patience and compassion, as parents guide the young egos of their children.