My Final Words
(and so it begins)
If I had one last thing that I was allowed to write, this might be the time to do it. Teaching kids that risk is to be embraced rather than feared it the greatest gift we can give them. In order to take a risk you have to be brave and a little bit foolish. Maybe, a better word is adventuresome. I love children and I want them to be able to approach life without fear. I don't want them taught that the world is a scary place and that terrible things will happen when they take chances. The unknown should be embraced and anticipated with enthusiasm. If we can't teach that to children, then we shouldn't be teaching them at all. As adults, we are required to make so many decisions! From the time we are about sixteen, many of these decisions are life changing.
What do I want to do with my life?
What college will help me attain my goals?
Do I really want or need to go to school or is there a better route for me to take?
Do I want to buy a house?
What car should I buy?
Is this the person I should marry?
Do I want children?
How many children do I want?
How many children do I want?
These are no small choices, yet today, aside from what to watch on TV and what to wear (maybe), there aren’t a lot of choices a child can make on their own. I’m exaggerating, but many choices are limited and directed by adults. Kids need the opportunity to make really bad choices. They need to fall off the monkey bars, walk into door frames with paper bags over their heads, and get punched in the nose. They need to be able to fail tests, be told they aren’t working up to expectations, and not given a second chance because they will work harder the first time if they know they can't do it again right the next time.
Children need to know in their hearts the satisfaction of a job well done, that they tried as hard as they could and eventually succeeded without help from anyone. They need to know that it’s time to find the next thing to do without being prompted or patted on the head and told how good they are.
Children can’t be taught self respect through being praised. They need to get dirty and do things on their own. I don't know if some great educational philosophy teaches these things, but I hope they do.
Every time a child takes a risk, whether it’s wise or foolish, they are empowered because they have been educated by themselves. No one has saved them, no one has encouraged them. They have gotten there under their own steam and it is a lesson they won't forget anytime soon. A child doesn't need to hear “I told you so” when they can make their own mistakes. They don’t need to be warned to stay safe multiple times while having to take it on faith that whatever it is they are driven to do is going to do permanent harm. There are very few things that cause permanent harm or are fatal. Sometimes, it's even more dangerous to prevent curiosity from taking its course because you can't watch a child 24/7.
As parents, teachers, and caregivers, rather than thinking in terms of what will keep a child safe, maybe we need to think in terms of what will enhance a child’s future. They really are not the same thing.