Here is a phrase you’ve heard before: every child is special. I will admit, at my peril, that I often hear this kind of phrase and question quietly: “Really? Every single child? Come on!” What about grown-ups? Are grown-ups not as special as children? After some consideration I would go as far as to argue that we are most in touch with that which is most unique about ourselves when we are young.
Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up – Pablo Picasso
I have been lucky enough to have spent all of my professional career with young children. Young enough to be blissfully unaware of most silly social pressures that seem to concern adults. Mostly unafraid of the world and other people. Unconcerned about what others think of them. That beautiful innocent age of endless possibility and self-belief! That Peter Pan Magic! And it is at this at this age that the distinctiveness and rareness of the individual shines most bright. It is such a joy being surrounded by little humans. I want to tell them to always believe in themselves the way they do now. Never start doubting themselves and their abilities, the way grown-ups do.
‘Children are young and vibrant and express themselves! That is why we all envy them.’
One of the greatest minds on children, who also happen to be my favourite stand-up comedian, Dylan Moran said the above. I couldn’t agree more. More excellent Moran philosophic comedy on kids: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3xu-PkfwKc
Yet all too few adults I know have much of this magical self believe left. Even when they don’t seem to know it or show it, I believe every kid has more confidence than most adults. They haven’t become critrically aware of themselves or the world and all its worries.
“All grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
If we can only resurrect our own child-like sense of wonder and bravery. At the very least we need to try and nurture it in our children before they lose too much of it themselves. To hold on to that courage and flamboyance that is inherent in all children, even the quiet ones. Nurture it. Protect it. You might say: “Not my child. My child is shy. An introvert!” My answer to that is twofold: be careful what you tell children of themselves, they are likely to live up to what you believe of them. But more importantly: who said quiet can’t be confident? Character does not depend on volume, confidence does not need to be bombastic.
“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.” ― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
Displaying signs of introversion or shyness is a symptom of fear. A fear of getting ‘it’ wrong. A simple solution to the problem is to create and communicate a safe environment to the child and their natural confidence will blossom. When they feel safe, they are less likely to be afraid of failure. You will see less symptoms of shyness. In this environment give the child the tools with which to express their own unique individuality. Create as many safe environments for the child where they can grow and nurture communication skills, vocal projection and eye contact. Why not at a super fun Buzz class.
So many parents have said to me in my career: “You should see her at home, she dances in front of the mirror, singing into a hair brush but when we go to parties she hides in my dress behind my leg.” This is because home is a safe environment where the child feels safe to be who she is. The party is an unfamiliar environment and more likely to make her feel afraid. Solution? Go back to the safe environment, home, creative play, drama class, dance class. Nurture their confidence there. The next loud children’s party are likely to be that much easier.
Every child, not one excluded, has ‘magic power’. No matter how deeply hidden under fear. The magic power of confidence. And it has to be nurtured and grown during childhood if the poor adult of the future has any chance of surviving the big bad grown up world.
Every child really is special. It turns out to be true after all. I found a wonderful website dedicated to help kids find their own unique spark, to help parents identify it in their children, ignite that flame and let it burn! http://www.search-institute.org/sparks/about say that “there’s also a powerhouse waiting inside each child. The special ability or interest kids have is their Spark. And that Spark can be fanned into a major talent or passion and, ultimately, a critical contribution to the world at large. With a little help, kids can find their Spark—and learn to make it grow into a positive, life-enhancing energy.” Well worth checking out.
As Walt Disney said: “That’s the trouble with the world, too many people grow up.”