Home Education Magazine
November-December 2002 - Articles and Columns
A Matter of Trust? - Avivah Werner
One day last spring, when my children went out to play, they discovered wildflowers growing in the alley next to our home. A short while later, they ran in breathlessly and announced that they were going to have a flower sale.
My immediate thought was that no one would want to pay money for weeds they picked for free. Besides which, it was mid-morning, and no one was around to buy them. Fighting my urge to dissuade them and thereby protect them from failure, I asked what their specific plans were. They excitedly explained how they had arranged the flowers into different sized bouquets, and would sell them to people going by our house. I paused, reassuring myself that that experience is the best teacher, and that regardless of the outcome, it would be a good learning experience. Then I agreed.
They ran off again to make signs about their sale, pausing to ask me for word spellings and taking out time to discuss appropriate prices for the bouquets. They discussed strategy to attract the attention of passing cars.
After completing all of the preparatory work, they decided they wanted to begin selling immediately. They sat outside for an hour before coming in. My son commented to me that people must all be at work, since no one was going by. I agreed that it was a likely reason. (Lesson number one, I thought to myself.) Later that day, they set up shop agan and soon rushed in exclaiming with delight over the first sale they had just made. I shared in their joy before they ran out again, glad for them that their efforts were fruitful. Inwardly, I was doubtful of any further sales, thinking that someone must have seen them and felt sorry for them and therefore made a purchase.
In the next two hours, they proceeded to sell every bouquet they had prepared. They counted their earnings, glowing with success, and divided it equally between them all after putting aside ten percent for charity. As I congratulated them on their persistence and hard work, I reflected on how glad I was to have been able to suppress my doubts and allow them the opportunity for learning and growth.
Trust. It is at the heart of our home learning adventure, and what I struggle with most. My children's days are filled with activity, joy, and direction. I watch them bake, create, build, and read, and a little voice inside periodically wonders if I am being negligent in not pursuing regular drills of the multiplication tables. As our homeschooling has evolved, I have become increasingly confident in the ability of my kids to self-direct, and I have been able to reassure myself that meaningful learning is, in fact, taking place daily.
However, there is another, more subtle, challenge when it comes to trust. Our children are extensions of ourselves, and as parents, we often feel the disappointments our children suffer more keenly than they themselves do. It can be hard to let go, as we seek to protect our children from potential difficulties or failures. The alternative, though, is a lifetime of hand holding, in which children grow to become adults who have had little to no opportunity to stretch their wings. Confidence is built, bit by bit, by reaching past comfort zones and doing the difficult. Learning to deal with challenges and overcoming obstacles are crucial in a child developing faith in his own abilities and coping skills. It is from developmentally appropriate struggles that they develop the self-assurance that they are capable and able to stand on their own two feet. It is appropriate to do the best we can to adequately prepare our kids (and it goes without saying that children must be protected from situations they are unequipped to deal with). But at a certain point, we need to stand back, express our belief in their abilities, and let them have their own experiences. We have to trust that they are strong and able to deal with the consequences, pleasant or not.
Too many parents are afraid that the self-esteem of their child will be affected if he isn't immediately successful. So they regularly step in to make sure the child succeeds. Yet it is precisely this pattern of interference that leads a child to doubt himself - "If Mommy thinks I can't do it, I guess I'm not capable."
I rejoiced in the opportunity my kids had in making the flower sale, not because they were ultimately "successful," but because they had to face the possibility of failure. Yet would it have been a failure if nTheir bouquets had sold? I don't think so. They would have learned something about effective marketing, and the laws of supply and demand. Perhaps they would have made another flower sale and made changes in their approach. Maybe they would have decided to sell something with wider appeal. Or maybe they would have chosen to spend their time and energies on something more personally rewarding. Any of those outcomes would have meant they had been successful.
How many adults grapple with lifelong feelings of incompetence and inadequacy because they were never trusted as children, never given the tools, support, and then set loose? How many adults lack confidence in their ability to choose for themselves without the direction of someone else? How many adults are so afraid of failure they never take any chances, though it often means giving up their dreams? And how different could it be for our children, if we choose to trust them?
Trust brings out the full range of potential in the human spirit, and sets it free. Yes, it is often challenging to look past our immediate reactions and emotions in order to say, "Go ahead, you can do it, I have faith in you." But don't our children deserve the chance to fly?
© 2002 Avivah Werner
November-December 2002 - Articles and Columns
HEM General Information
Subscribe to HEM