[Week 41 of 52 Weeks to a Better Relationship With Your Child]
What are the main factors in youthful passion?
Right around the time puberty hits, a child usually feels a surge of passion about life. Some of this is simply due to the new physical strength and desires that come with a maturing body. Some of it comes from the mental ability to take in the world around them in a new way.
This combination of the vigor of youth, the strength of maturing adulthood, a sense of independence, and the magnified awareness of human issues is a potent mix. If the child and parent are not ready for it, it can be explosive in truly damaging ways.
Another twist on this is that feeling passion for something has a way of making a person feel like he, too, matters. By espousing a worthy cause, a person taps into a sense of value and meaningfulness. For a young person developing a new degree of independence, this is appealing.
Help your child avoid being a slave to passion
Passion is the state of having a high level of energy or concern for anything, from romance to politics. Passion can be a fuel for the engine, but it shouldn’t be the driver. Uncontrolled or unguided passion is like an out of control fire – it may have started for a useful reason or pleasant purpose, but it becomes a raging destruction.
Or, it is like trying to drive a car with the gas pedal pushed to the floor and the brake disabled. No one gets where they are going uninjured that way.
If a child has not learned self-control, this “age of passion” is going to be a wild ride at best. Learning self-control is not about bending to others or lack of individuality, but about learning that it is frequently best and very possible to decide how to respond to choices.
When a child is young, it is part of a parent’s responsibility to lovingly motivate a child to exercise self-control. Sometimes a child should do something and sometimes a child should not do something. Self-interest or reason regularly fall short of influencing a toddler or young child to appropriate choices. And, ironically, a child who has no self-control is not so much the tyrant of the home (though he may get away with something like that for a few years), as a slave to what he feels.
The need for self-control often significantly precedes a child understanding the reasons for self-control. It is asking a lot for a young child to independently muster the necessary self-control when immediate satisfaction seems so sweet. This is why a parent has the responsibility to help until the child is able to evaluate with more long term awareness.
A person with self-control is a person who can learn
Uncontrolled passion tends to cloud the mind. The problems and the solutions get distorted. Communication is hindered because the habit of letting feelings reign is like willingly standing under the down spout during a rain. The person gasps for air and can’t see because of the deluge of water, but really all he needs to do is step to one side.
The moment he steps aside, all of the options for getting out of the rain or playing in the rain or using the rain are much more manageable. The rain becomes something to be harnessed or easily avoided instead of an overwhelming torrent.
It’s not that a person without self-control never learns anything. However, such a person tends to not learn that which is most useful or true, because passion becomes an excuse for making truth irrelevant.
Why is passion so attractive?
There is nothing wrong with passion. In fact, life without passion would be pretty boring.
Passion makes us feel alive. It allows us to enjoy life as more than automatons. Passion is often about wanting what is right or beautiful.
Passion also imbues a person with a sense of power. And while this energy or power can help get things done, misdirected passion too often leads a person to what is harmful.
Part of the problem is the mind-fog referred to earlier, but part of the problem is also the sense of energy can be misunderstood as being indestructible or undeniable. And that, again, is part of the attractiveness of it. Who doesn’t like to feel righteously indestructible?
Passion doesn’t have to be overwhelming
There are 5 interlocking factors to preparing your child for passion.
- a relationship with you, the parents, that the child can trust and respect
- establishing your child’s value as a person
- explaining and exhibiting how a person can and can’t have an effect on the world around him
- conversations about how to channel healthy passions, taking advantage of early interests and the examples of others
- guidance for how to deal with passion that is headed the wrong way, including finding another passion
Going back to the idea that there can be no significant quality time without quantity time for children, let your child see you engaged in things you are passionate about. Invite and encourage your child in ways that spark his own passions.
Make it clear in word and deed how much value your child has as a person simply by being who he is. There is nothing to prove, just opportunities to consider or to avoid.
There will be many real life examples to use to help the child understand how people make choices and what the consequences are most likely to be. This can be presented in a humble, yet confident way.
Also, make it a point to have your radar on for helping your child discover and enjoy his own healthy passions, with a balanced perspective of priorities and underlying truths.
If you do these things, the passions of young adulthood will not catch you or your child by surprise. It will all just be another phase of ongoing discussions about the stuff of life. Your child will have already exercised all the parts of his mind and emotions that make him well able to do the heavier lifting for the new levels of passion. Then you will have the joy of seeing him be appropriately passionate in ways that build up his own life and the lives of others around him!