The past two days, I have blogged about the changes adults have made in the way we lead, teach and parent kids over the last thirty years. Kids are definitely growing up in a more controlled environment than I did. My conclusion is—there are shifts we’ve made that have had unintended consequences to them. Four of those shifts are what I’ve focused on in this series. Adults have not let kids…
Today, I will handle the third change and how it’s affected young people.
3. Adults won’t let kids fear.
So many adults want to prevent their children from ever experiencing fear. Now don’t get me wrong—fear can be a paralyzing emotion. I know adults who are crippled by all kinds of fears—fear of flying, heights, strange places, you name it.
Today, adults are afraid kids will be abducted, poisoned, bitten, and even shot. This fear became pronounced after the Columbine High School massacre in April 1999. Parents yanked their children out of public schools and put them into private schools and even home-school environments. We didn’t want them harmed on our watch. So we decided to remove any possible cause of fear. This was naturally passed on to the kids. Young people actually got used to guaranteed outcomes.
In the end, they knew all would work out fine. But again, if kids never learn to handle fear, they may be unable to cope with it as adults, when no one is around to help them. Our homes and schools are havens of guarantees, insurance policies and warranties. We want to guarantee outcomes and so remove all fear of consequences. We want reassurance…which real life doesn’t really grant us.
Psychologists tell us that people are born with only two fears: the fear of falling and of loud noises. The rest of our fears we accumulate over time. However, the best way to beat a fear is to face it. It’s the proverbial “get back on the horse” idea when you fall off that allows a person to not fear that horse.
The next time your young person mentions being afraid, talk about it. Encourage him/her to take small steps to overcome it. Further, the next time you’re tempted to remove a task or project because it scares a student, think again. Tell them and show them how to face fears. In fact, why not identify one and create a plan to overcome it by running to the roar. My son and I did this when he hesitated to get his driver’s license a few years ago. The plan involved both conversations and actions, but it worked. He moved quickly from driving in safe parking lots to freeways. It was fulfilling to watch.