Teaching Children the Courage to Go A Different Way

road_childrenSometimes it’s not about having the courage to try again.  Sometimes it’s about having the courage to try something different.

As my husband and I are working on “purging” our house of stacks of papers, old books, forgotten clothes, and random “what-nots,” I came across my diaries from middle school and high school.  There are some “deep” thoughts in there. Amazing what goes through the mind of a teenager.

Stuck in between the pages of my ninth grade diary was a page from one of my leadership camps was the famous “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters” by Portia Nelson.

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.

II

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place
but, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

III

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit.
my eyes are open
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

IV

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

V

I walk down another street.

Why do I bring this up?  When talking to children, sometimes we need to teach them the courage to go another way.  This may be “the road less traveled” or it may simply be a road less traveled…by them. Perhaps they need to try a new activity like martial arts, gymnastics, swim or dance– perhaps they need courage to move to a new town or enroll in a new school. Or maybe, they need the courage to make new friends when the current ones are just not the right fit anymore.

It’s hard. it’s scary.  It takes courage. But it may just be the best thing they ever did.

I was speaking to one brave and beautiful 15 year old yesterday who told me that she had to do “spring cleaning” on her so-called friends because they were not supportive of her– in fact, they made her feel awful about herself. They would tease her and make her feel self-conscious about her weight and her appearance.  Asking a teenager to switch groups of friends can be like cutting off part of yourself.  And at first, it looks like it’s a really important part of yourself, but as it turns out, it’s more like a growth you are better living without!

I lost touch with those “friends” and met all sorts of people. They were all about my size and we all wore the same size clothes and shoes. Soon we started having sleepovers randomly on weekends and going shopping. And they also had similar stories from when they were little that they were picked on for stupid things like being “ugly”. So we formed our own group of friends and we would go ice skating and meet all new friends. Eventually our group got so big that those other people started becoming jealous of us because we had real friends that loved us for who we were.”

There have been many times throughout my life that I’ve walked down the same street over and over.  Making the same mistakes and looking for different results.  It wasn’t until I decided to go a different way that well, something different happened.  Often, something better.

It’s important to help our children see that change can be wonderful.  It can open up a whole new– and better– world for us…if we just have the courage to walk down another street.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs


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