Submitted by Danny Smith
One thing that parents around the globe have in common is the hope that their children will have the skills to achieve their dreams in life, which comes down to a sort of flexibility that allows for growth and upward mobility. When I think of what qualities best serve people in their life opportunities, what seems at the essential core is Good Manners (respect) and Creativity (resourceful, innovative thinking). You can have the best ideas in the room, but if you alienate others, you’re in a dreamworld by yourself. Likewise, you can be an etiquette champ but lack the vision that leads to blazing trails at the forefront of your dreams.
Good manners and a vigorous imagination naturally begins to lead a child to believe that they have internal control over their effect in the world, and that gives them the power against all kinds of swindling, victimization, or apathy. The wearied sense that external factors and luck or privilege determine outcome, is more disabling than just about any other factor.
What I really want to get to is that I’m excited about a website I found, specifically intended to foster a Do-It-Yourself ethic in kids. The kids can browse the projects of other kids, and attempt those, and they can submit their own craft project instructions and tips. The website is DIY.org and here’s a quote from the Parent’s info. page:
“DIY is a club for kids to earn Skills. DIY Makers share their work with the community and get patches for the Skills they earn. Each Skill consists of a set of Challenges that help them learn techniques to get the hang of it. Once a Maker completes a Challenge, they add photos and video to their Portfolio to show what they did. Makers are curious about the world and strive to learn all kinds of practical knowledge and share it. They seek adventure in the outdoors, participate in communities, use technology to innovate, and have the confidence to try new things.”
Sounds good, right? Yeah, I know.
There’s a lot of pressure on parents to achieve impossible ideals, but the basic needs for happy kids are simple: shelter, food, water, medical care, love, structure/consistency/discipline, communication, respect for themselves/others (manners/integrity), and self-guided curiosity. I personally came from a 2-parent blue-collar household with two sisters as siblings, and a menagerie of pets. Money was tight and my parents might have gotten a few scoldings if Dr. Phil was a fly on the wall during some arguments, but looking back there were many blessings. The most valuable gifts of my upbringing have to do with the capacity to strive for generosity as a host, gratitude as a patron, and to be creatively driven as a woman.
If you’ve ever got sucked into a marathon of watching World’s Strictest Parents (a BBC program that takes unruly youth from the U.K. and explores how they handle a visit in a strict foreign household), then you may have noticed a common theme. The troubled kids seem to have two major problems that make them almost insufferable as teens: lack of earned achievements seems to force them to cling to shallow arrogance to compensate for low-self-worth, and a tendency to have outbursts/physically escape confrontations without resolving them. By the end of the episode you can begin to see the kids actually have a lot of great qualities, they were just miserable and didn’t know why (and their parents back home were stuck in the same argument-style, dejected). The point here is, DIY strikes me as a way to curb the problems of boredom and aimlessness. DIY makes a child explore the special quirks that make them unique, without a false sense of store-bought individuality (false individuality). I love the DIY movement and I love that more and more parents are bringing up kids who love to create, imagine, and share their ideas!
When kids create and share their ideas online, they’re learning to productively contribute to the online community, and they are less likely to have the insecurities that lead to joining in on malicious passtimes, like cyber bullying.
Check it out, and let us know on Mom Audience Facebook if you try it out.