Saturday, July 4, 2020

Writhing Around Like A Worm On A Hook

It takes confidence to make decisions on one's own. It takes successes to have confidence. It takes risks to gain successes. And it takes opportunities to take risks.

And it is the failure to give kids the opportunity to take risks that is one of the causes of  the epidemic of anxiety disorders found among young people today. Too many kids are given a veto proof power to make life altering decisions, often when they are as young as grade school. The most horrible irony is that allowing small children to make these decisions makes it impossible for them to develop the judgement needed to consistently make sound decisions as they get older.

I am sixty years old. When I was fifteen years old I can say with the greatest of certainly that everyone in my school my age counted down the days until we could get our driver's license. I did not know of anyone who waited until they were eighteen before getting their license.

Today it is commonplace to do so. Many kids lack the confidence to take on driving. The simple reality is that they are afraid to do so.

Many kids my age were afraid to drive. We did so anyway. It would have never occurred to any of us to put off getting a license simply because we were afraid of getting in a wreck.

But this is not simply about automobiles. It is about raising children in a manner that allows them to try to live as children when they are adults. That is a promise of a very unhappy adult life.

But conflict in the home is reduced when little children are allowed to decide that they will step back from all activities that might cause them fear. Parents are allowed to convince themselves that they are doing a great job because there is less conflict when they allow the child to "decide on their own."

As a child we were taught that being a "quitter" was a horrible thing. The word is not even used today. The result is that each of us knows that there are very few people in our lives that we can absolutely count on to do whatever they say they will do. We have raised a nation of people who are perfectly comfortable in saying that they gave something a try "but it was just not my thing." so they quit.

That ethos makes it very easy to quit marriages and other complex relationships when they stop "just being (your) thing." That ethos make it very easy to complete 60% of a task and consider the job done.

Perhaps it would be worth it if this lack of parental guidance produced happy adults, but who can even suggest that that is the result. We produce too many adults who cannot make decisions, who agonize over every alternative put before them, who live as if "planning" to do something is as good as actually fulfilling commitments.

And they are profoundly unhappy people. Kids need to be tough, because life is tough. Toughening your kids does not make you a bad parent. It does not mean that you lack compassion. Your  love, coupled with wisdom and understanding, will give your kids a better shot at a happy, meaningful life if you give the the chance to take chances.

The lesson of the round pen is the recipe for that happy, meaningful life. That lesson is hard for many modern parents to accept. When a kid is tossed from a horse there are really only three questions that matter--Are you injured or just in pain? Is the horse injured? What is taking you so long to get back on the horse?

A kid that learns this in the horse lot applies it to every time life tosses that kid.

To deprive a child of the confidence that that child earns (and earn is the correct word because getting back on is a true accomplishment) in overcoming fear is to fail as a parent.

Without being given that chance to earn confidence the child ( and future adult) will  face each challenge with as little hope as has a worm on a fish hook.

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