I was talking with my eldest son, his wife and another young couple a few weeks ago. All four of them were youth leaders together about twelve years ago. They were reminiscing about some of the things they did back then and how much it has all changed since.
One of the changes is the over-regulation and rules about what activities now can and can’t be included. This has restricted or put a stop to certain things that used to be included during their youth nights.
Twelve years ago someone usually went home with a minor injury on a Friday evening. Nothing too serious – a couple of our sons sprained a wrist or ankle after a competitive game of soccer or during a boisterous indoor game. We’d tell them to be a bit more careful next time but we didn’t ban them from participating.
Experience builds resilience. You fall, get back up again, and avoid making the same mistake next time.
As we’re nearing the end of an era in our home with our last student driver and I breathe sigh of relief, I’ve been thinking again of freedom, resilience, and preparing children to flourish in this new world we are all facing.
How do we teach our children to be resilient when the new world wants to coddle them?
One of the scariest aspects of driving is that no matter how well you teach your child, there will always be some idiot on the road they have to contend with. One of my sons was driving my car when another driver veered into his lane and hit him. My husband said that if he had been driving he could have avoided the accident – just because he’s had enough experience on the road to know a poor driver when he sees one. He’s also had a lot of practice anticipating the actions of other drivers.
Experience builds resilience. We wouldn’t let our children drive without instructing them first and helping them to anticipate the actions of other drivers, but they do need to get on the road eventually and get some experience.
My 17 year old’s cello teacher is a straightforward person and speaks her mind, which some of her students don’t like. She made a comment to me that Miss M was resilient, meaning that she could critique her playing without my daughter getting upset about it.
I’d never really thought about it. I suppose if you’re the youngest of seven and have four older brothers, you have to be tough.
But isn’t one of the roles of a good teacher to offer critique?
The paradox of the over-regulation we see is that on the one hand children are protected physically by removing anything remotely dangerous from the playground; where a dutiful parent is supposed to hover around their child to make sure they don’t fall off the play equipment and where organised activities for young people are full of restrictions, but on the other hand, the mind gate is left wide open. Ideas are free to float in without scrutiny and are accepted without question.
In Book 2, Ch X of Ourselves by Charlotte Mason she talks about ‘keeping the postern,’ i.e. a back door or gate.
‘We are not free to think what we like, any more than to do what we like; indeed, the real act is the thought. Our opinions about God and man, Church and State, books and events, are as much the result of the operations of Will as are our moral judgments. They must be no more lightly entertained. Here is the need to watch and pray against the irresponsible flight of opinions for ever on the wing. Every such opinion must be examined at the postern, and, however attractive, if it fail to satisfy due tests, it must be pushed out of the way, diverted by some friendly and familiar thought waiting to occupy the mind. It is not that we must make up our minds beforehand to reject any class of intellectual ideas; but that it is our bounden duty to examine each as it presents itself, to submit it to the tests of Reason and Conscience…’
Irresponsible flights of opinion must be examined but it takes resilience to do this and then to reject opinions especially if they are embedded in the culture around us. It takes resilience to even question them.
How do we grow resilient children?
*Give them a Liberal Education – the proper outcome of this is stability of mind and magnanimity of character. It is a safeguard against fallacies because it allows a wide field for reflection and comparison. A ‘large room’ education provides enough substance to base sound judgements upon.
*Teach them to consider others & start when they are young – I’ve been amazed by parents who make allowances for their own children’s poor behaviour and let them run rough shod over the feelings of others.
*Understand the importance of delayed gratification – just because we can give our children want they want doesn’t mean that we should. If they have to wait or work for something they will appreciate it more. And waiting helps them to be resilient. Life, no doubt, will throw things at them later on and if they’ve never had to wait for anything it’s easy to fold under the pressure of circumstances that don’t seem to be changing any time soon.
*Help them not to allow their emotions to rule them – feelings are notoriously unreliable. They are also very subjective and don’t allow us to look at the big picture.
*Encourage them but don’t praise them unnecessarily. I’ve written about this before, and my comments relate mostly to teenaged children, but I get really annoyed when well-meaning adults praise young people for doing things that cost them nothing or that were just something they should have done anyhow. Even younger children can learn to do things without a continual expression of how amazing they are. It smacks of flattery. We also don’t want our children to expect to be validated for every aspect of their life.
*Balance freedoms with responsibility. Expect them to pull their weight around the home. I read an article recently where the expectations of what children are required to do at home now were compared to previous generations. The author found that although parents have become more permissive and allow their children much more freedom in some areas: their bedtimes, what they eat, or what they wear, they have also lowered their expectations of what children are capable of doing.
*Teach them life skills – there are so many appropriate skills we can teach children, even when they are quite young. As children mature and show some measure of sense we give them more opportunities to learn. We never let our ten year olds operate a chain saw but we did let them use an axe. I didn’t realise how much my children did around the place until after most of them left home.
*Show them how to resist wrong ideas:
‘Once an idea gains admittance, it becomes our master, not our servant. There are ideas, both good and evil, either moral or intellectual, that captivate us, take hold of us, carry us away, absorb our whole being, so that, for better or worse, we can come to live as if we were the instrument of a single idea. That’s why it’s so necessary for us to keep watch at the gate where ideas come in. We need to become expert in the simple way of repelling ideas that we don’t want to willingly entertain.’
Our Will acts upon ideas that are introduced to our minds in many ways: through books, conversations, and spiritual influences, for example, but no idea has any power over us until we willingly let it in and entertain it.
*Teach them to pray for help & discernment:
‘Whenever life becomes so strenuous that we are off guard, then is our hour of danger. Ideas that make for vanity, petulance, or what not, assault us, and our safety lies in an ejaculation of prayer, – ‘O God, make speed to save us! O Lord, make haste to help us!’
Haste, Lord, to help, when reason favors wrong;
Haste when thy soul, the high-born thing divine,
Is torn by passion’s raving, maniac throng.
George MacDonald (Scottish, 1824-1905)