Last night I had a conversation with a fifteen year old. I have known this lad for about a year. When I first met him he was very quiet. Now he has revealed himself to be very funny, he has perfect timing and is very quick with his quips. I can guarantee he will make you laugh, a lot. I have realised that he is quiet when he is out of his comfort zone, when he feels that he has taken on something that he doesn't feel able to handle or is capable of. He seeks me out, alone, to ask me and tell me things. Inside the comedian exterior he is lost. He has lost his identity, his sense of self. I had a conversation with someone this last week about two children who were the same. They feel very scared, as opposed to trepidatious, about doing something new.
A baby is completely dependant on its parents to care for it and meet, or attempt to work out, it's needs. Within their first year they start to make small steps away, coming back to the parent, the safety net. As the child grows as does their desire to explore, to make sense of their surroundings. But as they explore we naturally want to keep our children safe, away from harm. If we tell our children to be careful or suggest that they may not be able to do something is this really that helpful. Who is really fearful you or your child. By using these words you are planting your fears into your child's head. They may have not even considered whether or not they could do what they are about to do but your words have planted some doubts into their head. You are their wise protector and you think they cannot do it so maybe they can't, rather than enjoying the moment this becomes their overriding feeling. When we are distracted, we usually fail. If it really is that dangerous should you be there in the first place. The best way to keep a child from harm is to give them freedom to explore and let them get on with it. This may feel counter intuitive but they will become better able to anticipate and avoid dangers as they get older, but they can only develop these skills if they are given the support they are need and treated with trust and respect.
Last nights conversation made me sad. Sad that a young man on the brink of going out into the world independently has not been able to build the resources he needs. I have heard his parents speak to him. He doesn't trust himself or his abilities, he has no sense of who he really is. The restrictions placed on him are necessary because he has not been able to build a framework for himself, he doesn't know what he could be capable of because he has not had the freedom to explore. His parents fears have become his.