Mini Me

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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. Every time I hover to keep that short kid safe she bucks like a bull to get away and find out for herself. She doesn’t know color, the other kids in her class don’t either, at least not like that. The fact that she’s different, they don’t seem to notice. They just try to help and stand up for her if don’t think something’s right.
    Laurie recently posted..Saturday’s PlansMy Profile

    Reply
    • That sounds like a far better environment than the ones I encountered for mine. In fact, this post is an example drawn from intolerance shown them recently.

      Reply
      • There would seem to be a group effort in the school to teach manners, and tolerance regardless what the kids came in with. The parents appear tolerant too (actually they must be for the kids to be), then again most of them were raised back when a smack in the mouth for a smart mouth was called discipline instead of child abuse. It’s a take care of your own mentality, and shorty is one of theirs whether in the classroom or in the therapist’s office.
        Laurie recently posted..Saturday’s PlansMy Profile

        Reply
        • It begs the question: Should everyone be assigned a handicapped children to appreciate what tolerance needs to be for children to cope in a world filled with ignorant adults?

          Reply
  2. Alexandra Heep

     /  November 27, 2012

    Innocence? Some children never experience any.

    Reply
  3. Isn’t this complicated? I was brought up on a short, short leash. I grew with my teachers–but they were treated as short-time-help. Teachers?
    I want to throw up!
    Tess Kann recently posted..Flash in the Pan – BookMy Profile

    Reply
    • I am confused. The teachers here are parents and elders. I get the short leash, as I know many who were never allowed beyond the skirt hem. I firmly believe all parents had a duty (albeit a sorely neglected one) to teach.

      Reply
  4. Luckily, since I know everything, this doesn’t apply to me.

    Teaching children is probably the most important thing we do, but we often seem to not value it very highly.
    Binky recently posted..When You’re Right You’re WrongMy Profile

    Reply
    • I am seeing more and more these days where parents are assuming children learn these things at school or at Grandma’s house or at playdates. I wonder what dog food those children are going to serve at the nursing home.

      Reply
  5. I was physically handicapped and bullied as a child. The neighborhood was the most dangerous for me, but I was intent on exploring it with my leg braces and crutches. I knew the parents were watching and teaching from their homes how to treat me. They turned the other way when their children stole my crutches, shoved me down, and I had to crawl on the street to get home while they laughed. Bullying taught me to keep a low profile, and that didn’t work. Intolerance breeds as generations do.
    Gail Thornton recently posted..Eclectic Designs – Coupon Code for 15% off!My Profile

    Reply
    • Bullying is something I do not tolerate. (full stop) I have called more parents to task than I care to admit. To be perfectly frank, it is my responsibility to stop it. School is a child’s vocation. I do not believe it should be unionized or dues be paid. (Do not take that politically.) They should not be required to give a pound of flesh to be accepted. For me, your story smacks of the unbridled indoctrination of hatred. I find peace you have better peers now.

      Reply
  6. I don’t think I had much of a time frame for innocence, but normal is what you grow up with.

    I was beaten and home and bullied at school because I was intelligent and capable of much more than I was permitted to achieve by my father and my classmates.

    When taken off the leash at Technical College I excelled at chemistry and physics, but did poorly at maths because of a lack of support.

    Today I have many regrets, but at least I helped Emily achieve a 2/2 in English Literature, paving the way for her to become a primary school teacher – my dream job! 🙂

    By supporting Emily and her siblings I gave them the future I was denied by my father.

    Sometimes that is the best that we can do… 🙂

    Love and hugs!

    Prenin.
    prenin recently posted..Tuesday – Quiet dayMy Profile

    Reply
    • Pren, your example of Emily qualifies you in the true parent group. With her and her siblings, you were able to be a positive influence. Were that there were more like you to be such a good influence. {HUGZ}

      Reply
  7. My childhood was idylic, and while I had knowledge of the ills of the world beyond mine, I think I haven’t actually lost most of the personal innocence I’ve always had; my cynicism of the outer world, however, grows every day.

    Reply
    • I think we all get the cynical barnacles as we get older. I try an shed mine pretty often. Unfortunately, they grow back with striking alacrity.

      Reply
  8. (everything worked this morning Pin, FB, Tweet)

    I hope I did not create mini me, it was my greatest desire to create better me. We struggled to find better ways to grow and learn, sometimes together and sometimes apart. I suspect most times successfully, but with all the different inputs it was difficult to sort out.

    Reply
    • That is the honesty which makes children better. The varied input, while it can be frustrating, is a large part of not creating the mini me. Opening their worlds to more than a single source is vital to the choices they need to make in adulthood. Honestly, you did create better. You see it when they care for others and for you. Fences can be good reminders of more than just the neighbors you are not seeing. 😉

      Reply
  9. Very insightful post. (I studied child and adolescent psychology). It’s sad that children in this world do have to grow up in many ways, very quickly, because the more they know, the safer they are. If they know about drugs, sex, peer pressure, many times they will be prepared to face these complicated rites of passage with a strong mind and confidence. If they know about sexual predators, they will know to avoid situations like walking alone, or they will maybe know how to defend themselves. Knowledge is power in these cases, and unfortunately it means losing a bit of the innocent childhood, which is very sad. Of course this is a Western world view of it. Multi-media venues force the kids to grow up in unnecessary ways.
    Sage Doyle recently posted..“Small Man”My Profile

    Reply
    • I will never deny knowledge is power. I have taken quite a different approach to teaching the rites of passage to my children. At times, it was accelerated by exposure to others who felt expending innocence was the only way. Rather than merely expose them to fear of the unknown and the possible, I set them to understand their own place in the ecosystem. Knowing their capabilities and what was right allowed them to make the decisions which kept them safe and healthy.

      Your last statement is resounding. I also see it as a conviction of society.

      Reply
  10. Another Blog masterpost you have here Red.
    Hope all is well in your part of Blogsphere.
    Wow, I empaphise with so many points made.
    I’ll try to contain myself as I know I’m guilty of leaving Blogs for comments when I’m passionate about something. 🙂
    I’m the eldest of 7, mum split from my dad (2nd and final time) just before I reached 4 and my sister was a little over 1. However, I would say my innocence was first dented when I learned that my step dad was cheating on my mum when I was 10. He had 2 other women and including my siblings 13 children.
    Although I knew about sex (mum taught and school at 11) the other things concerning sex (the abuse of sex…i,e Porn) was shown to me one afternoon at a friends house when I was just 14 so I lost my sexual innocence at 14 but didn’t act on the knowledge till later..I learned how to treasure my virginity navigated the temptations and held out for as long as my hormones allowed me. 😉
    The rest of this post I associate with on some levels but have different experiences on others.
    Having 3 boys and 3 girls I see 6 unique personalities which are not only based on gender, my eldest is nearly 18 my youngest just over 4.
    I’m an open parent, my children wished I would get embarrassed at times so that I don’t challenge them on knowing what they know but I don’t believe us parents have time for being coy.
    I have 4 God children, I have had security checks to enable me to work with community and church youth and teens and I’m incensed when I hear of child abuse on any level.
    Yet and all, I still feel being a true Daddy is one of the most amazing things which can happen to a man.
    This is my short version by the way….lol!
    I do have other parental posts in my ‘family matters’ section of my other Blog http://philslounge.wordpress.com.
    I’m feeling proud to have made it onto your speakers list. 😀
    Phil recently posted..You’re not my type.My Profile

    Reply
    • Coy parents tend to raise children who blush at the mention of things which could wreck their worlds and who trade their virginity for acceptance by people who will not remember their names in less than 10 years. Being a true parent is like no other feeling in the world. It blends all emotions into a love base.

      Reply

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