Heather Plett’s wonderful “8 Tips to Help You Hold Space for Others” (upliftconnect.com) goes on to offer practical help in supporting children in becoming more fully the people they were created to be.
Plett says space-holders will:
2. Give people only as much information as they can handle.
This is particularly important in relationship to children.
Children have questions. Adults need to respond to children’s questions.
(Nb: a “response” is different from an “answer”. Answers may be possible and necessary when a child is simply seeking information. But there are times when the only appropriate response to a question is “I don’t know the answer to that question; but it is a great question for us to hold together and continue to explore.”)
When the question justifies sharing information, it is important to respond with enough information to satisfy the child, but not so much that the child becomes overwhelmed.
Even more important, adults need to avoid trying to answer questions the child is not asking.
“The Sex Talk” may be the biggest area in which adults tend to feel the need to offer information before a child is really seeking it. This “need” may be more often motivated by the adult’s insecurity than the child’s need. It is never good to initiate a conversation with a child in an attempt to ease adult insecurity. If a topic does not come up, it is a pretty good indication that the child has no interest and is not ready to explore the issue.
The verb “to educate” comes from the Latin educere which means to “lead or draw out.” The best education seeks to draw out of the child that which is there, not to stuff in more and more facts and details. Children generally do not need more information. They will soon be able to access all the information they could ever need. What children need is to be encouraged to access the deep inner well-spring of wisdom that resides at the heart of their being.
In order to “draw out” that which is in a child, the adults in that child’s life must begin by listening deeply and sensitively to who that child truly is.
Children learn best when they are listened to openly and attentively. True learning does not come from being told, lectured, or instructed. True wisdom comes from listening deeply inside and we learn to listen deeply inside when the people around us truly listen to who we are.
Listening and telling are not the same thing.
As Heather Plett points out, when we overwhelm anyone with vast quantities of information from our superior vantage point, we leave the person we are “educating” “feeling incompetent and unworthy.” Telling does not empower. It does not help the person we are telling to connect with the deep truth that resides in their being. Telling simply reinforces the illusion of my own superiority.
More information does not make me superior any more than it equips me to navigate more effectively through life.
Openness, gentleness, listening, and surrender are the skills that will help a child find their way in life. A child learns these skills most effectively by being around people for whom they are already common practice. The best way I can equip myself for being a positive force in the life of a child is by practicing openness, gentleness, listening, and surrender in my own life.