We can’t achieve anything that we can’t imagine ourselves doing. It sounds obvious, but it’s easy to forget how potent this truism is when it comes to our children. How our children think about themselves, how they imagine they are is the most powerful influence on how they think about their own future.
There are many potential obstacles for our children to overcome in order to develop positive self-image in a robust fashion. One to look out for is a failure to separate ‘bad’ behaviour from a fault in the child. That is to say, we need to separate actions from personality. It’s important that we raise our children to understand that if they do something we deem to be bad, it doesn’t make them a bad person. Good people can, on occasion, do bad things. When we are guiding the behaviour of our children, we want them to realise that one mistake doesn’t prevent them from progressing positively, to know that an error doesn’t necessarily close off that path or block their sense of possibility.
In fact, we currently live at a time when it’s more possible than ever to acknowledge the capabilities of youngsters. As we age, it becomes increasingly difficult (for me anyway!) to keep up with technological advances in our everyday lives. What adult hasn’t asked a child to sort out some digital conundrum for them?
We like to think that wisdom accumulates with age in a steady, measured way, that it is the job of those of us who are older to feed titbits of our hard earned wisdom to the youngsters, and that they should greedily gobble them up.
This is not always the way it is, and not just when it comes to technology. Consider the ecological question, or feminism, racism and various other political platforms that are increasingly occupied by the younger generations, as much and even more than the older generations. Personally I think this is something to be proud of, and it is faith in our children that gives me the greatest sense of optimism for the future.
So let’s nurture, nurture, nurture that sense - encourage our children wherever they want to go in lives that are opening out in front of them like a wide horizon. When they take to the stage, don’t even show them the wings. The wings they will grow will lift them to heights we can only dream might be possible.
Now this might seem a bit rich from someone who writes a blog every week about communication with children and young people, but in this column I’d like to touch on having faith in your own judgement, rather than stressing out about what you read is the correct way to do things.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about ‘praise’ - this week, I’d like to deal with it’s cousin ‘expectation’.
That voice that comes from inside us, telling us not to even bother trying, because we’re just no good at it; telling us we are and always have been hopeless at maths, spelling, art or whatever - that voice came from somewhere.
There's every chance you are on Facebook. How old are you and those you connect with most often? We periodically hear about the rise in the average age of Facebook users and the projected exodus of millions of under-25s in the future.
Reading interviews with young people who are now turning to alternative platforms, I was reminded of a past experience whilst working in Scotland many years ago.