Scorched: parenting and learning

Words can inflame situations and words can burn and scar.

So often I hear parents ruining an amazing learning moment with thoughtless words, leaving the child scorched, smarting in pain and with nothing salvageable left from their experience.

Mum!  I made a boat that floated all the way across the puddle and… 

Junior, why are your cuffs so wet?  Bad boy. I’ve told you enough times…

End of day conversation overheard at daughter’s previous school

I try to support my daughter’s learning and self-development by looking at myself and others around me with mindful honesty.

Sometimes, you need to play with fire, to take risks and push your limits.  Sometimes you need to indulge your urges, other times resist them.

Whenever daughter gets the urge to do something that others think she shouldn’t, I want her to know that it is okay… stand strong, think things through, make up her own mind.

Sometimes that urge will become an amazing positive experience and sometimes she will get scorched.  She is no better or worse, I love her no more or less, either way.

I would rather she was scorched by the experience and tacitly supported whilst she heals (in body and mind) than scorched by thoughtless selfish limiting words that eventually leave her too dejected, frightened or numb to feel and explore new urges.

Or, more dangerously, she explores them alone in secret.

Today it is matches and fire. In five years time maybe it will be drugs, sexuality, extreme sports, gender, political protest… I don’t know.

This is life: at some point, you will get scorched.  There will always be scars.  Curiosity most likely killed the cat who couldn’t explore openly and with loving support close by.

We love playing with fire.

Didn’t you ever want to set a whole box of matches alight and see what happens?  What about 20 boxes of matches, tipped out into a big pile?  Did you do it?

Did you ever get the urge to burn wood and write with charcoal or daub your face and run around yelling like a wild man of the woods?  Did you do that with your kids?

Fire is a powerful learning tool…

It can make a simple sail turn.

It can create a vacuum and lift water.

Fire is exciting.  It is potential, action, reaction, surprise and joy.

Fire is not danger, it is self-control.  Fire is caution, planning, preparing, being safe and calm.  Fire is anticipating, watching, learning, recording.  Hypothesising and testing.

Fire is family and friends and sharing.  Marshmallows and memories. It inspires star-watching and story-telling.

Sunshine, a magnifying glass and a leaf.  Maybe also a sacrificial ant and a hot scorch of shame and a lesson learned a harder way.

Fire is mesmerising and it is multi-sensory.  Light, heat, smell, taste…

…and touch.  Yes, little fingers did get scorched that day but it wasn’t the end of the world.  No fuss.  No recriminations.  No apologies either way.

Adding words and emotions would only have lead to a tiny scorch becoming something more, that warped the learning and memories and left a scar…

You can protect a child from fire, from risk, from living a vibrant joy-filled life but perhaps better to just protect them from scorching words.

Written in response to The WordPress Daily Prompt: Scorched

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