Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Through the eyes of a child

When the Twin Towers fall, or when a devastating natural disaster rips an infant from the arms of a mother, or when a suicide bomber steps onto a crowded bus to consign dozens to the void, in another part of the world, a child will look towards parents and ask that most vexing of questions; Why? Why did this happen? Why did they do that?
Why indeed. But that's not the question I'm posing today. As a parent I'm aware that the mind of a child is malleable, impressionable. How do we as adults respond? We cannot dismiss these difficult questions. To do that is to devalue both the question and the right of the child to ask. At first glance it seems a hard obstacle to overcome. I can only offer the following insights. Firstly, it is not my job to teach my child what to to think; it's my job to teach them how to think. I can equip them with critical thinking skills, encourage them to ask questions, and to treat answers only with the respect that the evidence warrants. Sometimes the temptation for adults is to pretend to have answers when we have none. I'd suggest that this is a mistake. Perhaps we can help our children find answers; or at the very least praise them for having enquiring minds. I have no respect for those who seek to indoctrinate, whom happily front load their own biases and fears onto the minds of their young. Ideas have consequences, and children need the space to explore where they fit into this beautiful, albeit troubling world. So remember; your children are individuals, not your own personal vanity project. If you truly love them, give them the space and a safe place to grow.

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