I was walking into the park yesterday (we’re making the most of the glorious London summer sunshine) when I heard some kids talking and laughing. I looked around but there was no one there. I saw a big green rectangle wheelie bin and thought “could they be hiding in there?” but then I looked up and realised the voices were coming from up a tree. And I smiled!! It was so nice and refreshing to see 2 children had climbed up a tree and were just hanging out. You don’t see it that often these days.
If you were an 80s child you most likely played outdoors, came home when it got dark or in time for dinner and had minimal adult supervision. Statistically crime hasn’t changed that much. What has changed is the media’s reaction to crime. The over sensationalising of things that are happening out there. Don’t get me wrong, you’ve got to keep your kids safe but this fear based parenting, as I see it, hinders children’s independence and self confidence.
It’s ironic that we grew up with so much independence ourselves and yet we wrap our children in cotton wool, constantly looking over their shoulders, making sure they are not getting hurt or bullied or even dirty in some cases!! And where does all this fear come from? Can we simply blame the media or are we creating it ourselves?
A few years ago I went to a Chinmaya camp in Hong Kong. The Swami’s aim was to help us let go of the fear we build up within ourselves. He let us know that before the end of the camp we’d be walking on burning hot coal. To say I was petrified is an understatement. He then spent the next two days “creating” fear in our minds. When it came to the task at hand, he had us all sit in a row (alphabetically). We weren’t allowed to talk to each other, look around at the people who came in having walked on the burning coal or skip our turn. As my name starts with the letter N I was about half way down the line. The 20 minutes I waited was agonising. I built up all this fear (and anger) inside me and when my name was called my feet turned to lead. I very slowly lifted myself up and walked out to the beach. I saw the girl who went before me hobbling (he also got his volunteers to pretend to help the person walking away so that the next person built more fear within themselves). As I approached the coal I started crying. I was terrified but he said I had no choice but to do it. I faced the red hot coal and in that moment I let go of my fears and just walked…twice! And I came out totally unscathed (there were confident people who got blisters because walking on burning coal is about keeping a steady mind – no fear but not overconfident either). I later questioned him about why he chose to do it this way rather than take an Anthony Robbins style approach of motivating us to do it and he reminded me that the whole point was to let go of our self created fears. He may have created the circumstance but we built the fear all by ourselves.
But let me not digress. The point of that story was to elaborate how we are the creators (and also destroyers) of our own fear. And we are, very often, projecting this fear onto our children. Admittedly I do it myself sometimes. We wrap our children in bubble wrap, protecting them from anything that can touch them or harm them. But I worry sometimes that we’re encouraging children to be dependent, to rely on someone to help them at all times, to be rescued. And they’ll grow up into adults who are unable to take care of themselves.
So as it’s the first of the month, I encourage you to spend September trying to let go. And see your child amaze you. Toddlers are so capable, if we just let them. Keep them safe, give them boundaries but let them be explorers, making mistakes and learning the ways of the world through their own eyes.
For some interesting reading on this topic, here are a few sites I came across: