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Mini Me

Innocence is a short period for children. They often get five to six years of bliss before the oppression of the adult world crashes in on them. They are introduced to repressive attitudes, taught hypocrisy and made into charitable liars. Fortunately, it does not happen overnight.

Monkeys

Imitation is the sincerest flattery.” ~ Charles Caleb Colton

If you prefer Post hoc, ergo propter hoc; the similar, familiar, Monkey see, monkey do; or even Like father, like son, it all amounts to the same thing. Your children imitate you because they want to grow up and be the successful people they see in their parents. Some children have more parental units than merely the biological models. Children are just as likely to mimic the behavior of the adults to whom they gravitate, even if it is in direct opposition to the parental stance.

When was the last time you heard something a child said and were brought to tears? Was it something terrifically funny? Ironically, much of what children say we find comical because we interpret it as sarcasm. In truth, it is not humor at all. It is a lack of inhibition.

Children naturally have no shame. They come into the world nude and are taught to cover up: their bodies, their minds, the truth.

They see parents dart behind towels and doors to cover nudity. They hear parents profess one belief and act on the exact opposite. They hear parents say, “I would never tell him/er that.”

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc.

Tangible

We can argue the propriety of clothes. In most cases, clothes are a necessity based on our failure to reside in climes where are bodies are suited to live. It is of note, clothing is not a base necessity. The body does survive without it, in spite of our poor choices of location.

Where the tangible twists into something sinister is when we assign shame to the body. This is a topic to be explored in a separate post.

Intangible

We cannot argue the propriety of a strong mind. We have based our language to indicate those of weak mind as inferior: infirm, feeble, irresolute. Those whose minds are weak are in need of protection from the predators: of all species.

What makes us teach our children to be weak-minded?

Laziness

Strength of character is an arduous undertaking. It means learning through example or by experience what the dangers in life are, how to avoid them or how to navigate them.

Rather than be an example for our children in the most effective ways to navigate difficult or dangerous situations, it is far simpler to teach them mere avoidance.

In the case of danger, this is sound reasoning. Needlessly putting oneself in the direct path of harm is a different sort of weak-mindedness generally characterized as poor judgment or poor impulse control. Both characterizations are common descriptors of mental illness. Instead, we attempt to instill risk assessment capabilities in our children to properly weigh the risk against the reward.

In the case of difficult situations, this is faulty reasoning. Difficult situations are the field on which personal growth occurs. They create opportunities to examine others and behaviors which are alien. It allows for risk assessment. Everyone needs to weigh the risks of engaging themselves too deeply in situations which are beyond their control; however, avoiding all situations where one can intercede, regardless of likelihood of success, is poor judgment.

Parents show by their involvement, or lack thereof, how difficult or challenging situations are handled. If the child only sees avoidance, avoidance is all the child learns.

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc.

Fear

No true parent wants to see any child harmed physically or emotionally. (Clarification: Biology has nothing to do with being a true parent. True parents are concerned for the health, welfare and emotional well-being of the children even tangentially in their charge or within their realm of influence or knowledge.) Let’s repeat.

No true parent wants to see any child harmed physically or emotionally. Since not everyone on the planet is a true parent, the other people, the sexual predators with a penchant for children, sociopaths who have no boundaries against harming children and other sociopathic and psychopathic persons who harm children in specific, move among society with or without notice.

True parents guard against those who go unnoticed by being vigilant and attempting to detect them. Using example and experience, parents protect children from the things the children cannot perceive.

As children mature, parents expose their children in larger degrees to the predators of the world, so the time comes where the child is the adult capable of perceiving.

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc.

Unknown

The unknown is different from the unperceived. Parents know predators exist. Many of the things parents do not know are hair-raising:

  • What Teen is doing at 0325 when not home
  • Whether Child is late because of a fatal accident
  • How far a crayon can be inserted into a nostril

Most of these are examples of the what if game parents play. These instances are less the fear of the unknown than they are merely lamenting the lack of control once children get out of our direct influence.

When we transfer our fear of the unknown to our children, it often does not propagate fear. Instead, it grows prejudice, bigotry and zealotry.

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc.

Words suck.

Many parents become handicapped when their children ask them to explain concepts.

  1. Your four-year-old wants to know why you crossed the street away from the homeless person when clearly the ice cream parlor is on that side of the street.
  2. Your eight-year-old wants to know why he cannot have a wheelchair because he is tired of walking.
  3. Your three-year-old wants to know why she is not the same color as the other children on the playground.

Why do parents struggle with the explanations?

All the same on the inside.

  1. Because you did not want to feel shame for not doing more to help the person who was clearly in need.
  2. Because wheelchairs are not a matter of convenience but a necessary tool for locomotion for a person who is capable of much, even if their legs are not cooperative.
  3. Because cosmetic differences in people are no different than the myriad colors of butterflies.

But parents do not say these simple truths. They make up stories and try to use little words which muck up the meaning and the import of the answers to the questions. Rather than set their children on a path of tolerance and humanitarianism, it is simpler to pass down the fear of the unknown, the ignorance and the self-loathing. It is far simpler to avoid the challenging growth situations.

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc.

Curtsy while you’re thinking. It saves time.
~ Courtesy Disney.com

All ways here…

Children learn by exposure. In the absence of parents’ explanations of the concepts they encounter, they learn by example and experience– in that order.

Children notice the subtle body language of discomfort when they ask the questions which form their view of the world. They understand; If this is a concept which makes you uncomfortable even to speak, surely it must be a situation to avoid.

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc.

Open your mouth a little wider.

The simplest answer to a question when you are unsure how to navigate the subject any child has broached is to say with certainty:

I don’t know.
Let’s find out together.

Engage the power of the search engine. Use your gadgets which make you the cool parent. What may shock you is a simple concept:

All ways are not your ways.

Most parents do not want to be equated with Iracebeth.  When we fail to give our children the breadth and scope of the facts, merely relaying our tainted, cynical or oblivious view of the world, we fail to teach them. We are trying to create Mini Me: a person who will have our thoughts and opinions. The delusion is we are creating a person who breathes the adage: If I only knew then what I know now.

Yes, you can.

How is it possible to teach someone something you do not know? Learn it with them. You are getting more bang for your buck. Not only will the child learn the concept, but good research skills are also demonstrated. Beyond that, children soak in the concept learning is a lifelong pursuit, and there is nothing weak about not knowing all the answers. This is the example all true parents want to exhibit.

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc.

A word of caution to this tale: If you already know everything, the only example you display for your child is one of arrogant condescension.

~~~~~~~~~~


Name a challenging situation which was a growth experience for you and someone posing a question to you.

Did you have more or fewer years of innocence? Can you name a fear or tenet you got directly from an adult in your childhood which later proved baseless?

How is children’s behavior different when you allow them room to make mistakes as opposed to exclusively controlling their environments?

When you tweet or +1 this post, please use the hashtags #parenting and #psychology. Thank you for all your help.

© Red Dwyer 2012
Image Glow © Liz Campbell 2012
Image of Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland (1951)
©Disney Studios 1951
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25 Comments

  1. Last time I heard something a child said brought me to tears,

    Daniel said he loved me, Mum.
    Noeleen recently posted..Death by ShoppingMy Profile

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    • Those are the good kind. I heard, “We can’t play with you ’cause you’re different.”

      Reply
  1. Musical Foolishness & Follies | The M3 Blog

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