Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Protecting Your Children From Success

When I was 7 years old, I would wander about on my own or with friends. Walking down the street or in the woods. No one told me I was in great danger or that I was about to be abducted. No one told me to be careful not to hurt myself. My basic animal instincts were sufficient to keep me safe.

This freedom to explore served me well twenty years later when I found myself in a difficult financial position. The only solution involved a tremendous leap of faith, going to work a commission job with no guarantee of success beyond my own confidence. Fortunately, that confidence, built over years of independence, served me well and I am now quite successful.

Unfortunately, most American children are robbed of that opportunity by a culture of fear. Before I go further, I should make clear that most of the parents I meet are good parents and good people doing their best to raise their children well. It is not their fault. They are caught up in a culture of helicopter parenting and paranoia.

As I said, when I was growing up, I might leave for the afternoon and come home safely, a little tired, possibly bruised, but more confident. This was before cell phones. My parents simply had faith enough in me to believe I would make it home safely as I always did. Many of the parents I meet with won't even let their children out of their site in their own home. Most of them will not allow the children to play outside without the parent being outside to watch. What message does it send to a child that they must be supervised 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for the first 11 to 14 years of their life? Even patients in a psych ward have more freedom than some of the children I see.

As I say, the parents who do this mean well. They want to keep their children safe. Fed a constant diet of fear from both the media and their peers, they believe in a world where child molesters and predators lurk behind every bush and tree. Every road contains windowless white vans waiting to abduct an unsuspecting child.

While protecting their children from the extremely rare phenomenon of abduction, they fail to protect their children from the very real and very common phenomenon of underperformance. The parent shares their fear with their child, teaching them in adulthood to keep to the safe path, never take risks, and guarantee themselves a life of mediocrity.

You see, as Eric Giglione says in his Daily Locker Room every great thing that you ever see was created because someone took a risk and had a goal, but how can a child ever learn to have goals and take risks if they are supervised for every moment of their early lives.

I'll leave you with an interesting fact from the Department of Justice NISMART report, a comprehensive report on missing and abducted children:
In 1999, 12,100 children were reported abducted by strangers, 357,600 were reported to have run away or been kicked out of their homes. You can draw you own conclusions about what the greatest danger to our children is.

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