I have a tendency to be a pessimist. I thought this was the best way of being – if you’re expecting the worst, you’re not going to get disappointed when the worst happens. This also made me something else.
A dream squisher.
I hadn’t realized this was the case until a few years ago. When Shae would share ideas and dreams, I’d often play devil’s advocate and find ways to point out that they weren’t realistic or how hard it would be to achieve them. I thought I was being helpful, until Shae pointed out how this was actually squishing her dreams.
This got me thinking about all the times I do this – in marriage, at work, with friends and with youth.
Young people can be very idealistic – they have grand ideas of what can be done, as they’ve not had a chance to become jaded like us adults can be. They have – quite literally – the faith of a child. That anything can be done.
This leaves us with a choice. Do we live our lives squishing the dreams of young people, or do we enable them as best we can to leave their mark on the world, even if this sets up the possibility of failure?
As you might have guessed, I don’t want to be a dream squisher anymore. Amazing things can happen when we’re enablers, which is demonstrated in the way two youth workers dealt with situations involving their very own children who wanted to make a difference in the world.
Instead of standing in the way of their children for fear of them being disappointed when things didn’t work out as planned, they actually facilitated their children. Here’s what happened:
1) MarkO’s son Max
Max wanted to design his own rubber bracelets to raise money for Haiti. As Marko explains:
i was at a control or facilitation junction, baby. i love my son, and i want him to impact the world, and i want him to succeed. and the best way i know to ensure this is to exert my control, to take over the details and tell him what to do, overseeing and prescribing each step. i knew, in that moment, that if i encouraged him and served him, helping only when he asked, it would be a more fruitful growth opportunity for him (get this:) even if he failed.
Read the rest of the story to find out what happened.
2) Martin’s 6 year old son Joel
Joel had watched a video about poverty. He was moved so much that he chose to do something about it. He decided to try fundraising and set an initial target of £60 ($100). As Martin explains:
We agonised over that number. My wife and I worried it was too high; that we were expecting too much of our friends and family. And that’s one of the most wonderful things about what happened next – that genuinely, it was completely unexpected. He was trying to raise £60.
It would have been easy for MarkO and Martin to be dream squishers, to tell their sons not to try because they were only young and wouldn’t raise much money. Instead, thanks to having enabling parents, Max and Joel have learned at an early age that they can make a difference – a difference people living in poverty have now benefited from.
Question: As youth workers, how can we enable our young people instead of squishing their dreams? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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