“Nothing happens unless first a dream”–Carl Sandburg (American Historian,Poet and Novelist-1878-1967)
I remember growing up and having people say that I was a dreamer. As a young man and even to this day people will comment about how I was always dreaming about doing this or going there. But an odd thing happened to me along my way–several of my ‘bucket list items–my dreams’ got checked off and I’m so much better for it.
I also remember how disappointing it was that I never got to talk to my father about my dreams. He just didn’t seem very interested in what I was thinking or what I valued. That not only hurt but it stifled any kind of closeness between us. I have come to understand he couldn’t give what he didn’t know. I don’t believe that he was ever told by his parents how vitally important it was for parents to encourage their children to dream and then to be able to share those dreams with those who care to know. It is so healthy and self affirming for our children to be able to express themselves and what they dream about with their parents. Maybe it’s about hitting a home run to win the ball game and be a hero and dad is their to see it happen just for a while. Perhaps it’s learning how to fly an airplane and then flying it around the world. Who cares if it’s been done before. It hasn’t been done by you. Maybe it’s about building the tallest skyscraper in the world. The likelihood of doing some of these things isn’t important. It’s being free to dream and not be judged or ridiculed for your thoughts that is important. It allows us to develop our imaginations, our determination and our creativity. As parents we need to help channel that energy into productive things that are possible and to do it without killing the freedom to dream. Currently it seems as though that freedom to dream is being sucked out of many of our children by either parents who can’t be bothered tuning into them, parents who are too busy accumulating stuff or by a world that is too pre-occupied by war, killing, greed and gaining power to realize what is happening so close to home.
My heart ached when I recently heard the news about a 12-year-old boy who has been charged with the stabbing death of a nine-year old boy the other day. Instead people are talking about how the price of a litre of gas has dropped–finally. My question is why weren’t these kids out playing in a pile of dirt making cities or towns out of popsicle sticks and playing with toy cars and trucks in the land of make-believe? Why do parents feel that a new x-box says ‘I love you’ better than the words so easily spoken? Our children need to hear those words and often. They need to feel they are valued and that they have importance in your world. Just as importantly we need to start asking ourselves why now? What is happened–what has changed to allow and in some cases encourage the violence and the insecurity amongst our kids? Something has changed because when I was a kid I never heard about little kids stabbing each other to death. As parents we need to wake up and take some responsibility for what is happening. We need to re-evaluate our priorities and our role as the true teachers of our children. All the signs and the evidence is available that says we are losing the battle to hold on to our kids. It is no longer OK to excuse what’s happening by saying ‘Oh, it’s just a stage they are going through.’ No–it’s not.
Joining our children in and with their dreams is one way of building a different relationship that shows we care about who they are and what they want–about how they see the world they live in.
If, as a parent, you are struggling to connect with your kids or specifically with your son try spending some time with him–consistently. Ask him what he is thinking. Ask him what he wants to be when he grows up. Ask him why that is important to him and what would be the first thing he would do if he could make his dream come true. Talk to him about a dream that you had when you were a kid. Make him laugh and tell him a funny story. Be with him. That’s all he wants from you right now. To deny him that is destructive and counters any trust building that may have been established. These conversations offer us, as parents, a golden opportunity to learn how our kids see the world they live in and to use them as teachable moments. Not judgements or criticisms but teachable moments. That’s what we are supposed to do–teach them. One of the things that we parents need to understand about our children is that they have needs too. One of those near the top of the list is to be free to dream. We need to give them permission to do that and we do that by participating in their dreams with them.
I’ve listed a link for an outstanding web site called ‘The Search Institute’. It is one of the best resources available to help parents develop good parenting skills.
Anyways, that’s how I see it–Jim
Next week an article on the 3 C’s needed to be a good parent. Guess and see how they match up with my suggestions.