A Daring Childhood

Feeding the Chickens, Walter Osborne

“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that things are difficult.”

Seneca

About a year ago we got chickens. We bought them as little chicks and miraculously, they all survived to adulthood. Our two little girls adored them. They would rush to the coop every morning to see their chickens. We soon realized that one of our little chickens was a rooster. Once the hens started laying, the girls loved gathering the eggs in their basket. However, a few months ago our rooster started lunging at the girls and pecking at their feet. They became too scared to visit the coop. I wasn’t to sad too see their visits cease, I was scared of the rooster myself. However, my oldest daughter, tough girl that she is, invented an ingenious solution – she showed her younger sisters how to swing a stick at the rooster, forcing him to run off. Her younger sisters became experts in “Rooster Baseball”. They started eagerly tending to their chickens again.

A few days ago we had a little friend come over to play with the girls. They were excited to show her their chickens. However, they were quickly disappointed to discover their little friend was afraid of chickens and didn’t want to go in the coop. My youngest ran up to me and said in amazement, “Mom, she was scared of the chickens!” How quickly she had forgotten her own fears. I explained to her, “She isn’t used to chickens.”

My girls aren’t any more brave than their friend, they have just learned through experience the skills needed to raise chickens. They now feel a sense of control and power, developed through consistent exposure and by overcoming difficulty when chicken-raising got tough. Their sister, and a stick, helped them gain that confidence – and now their fear is a fading memory.

“The way that you make people resilient is by voluntarily exposing them to things that make them uncomfortable.”

Jordan Peterson

When we raise our children, we build for them a life full of experiences and these experiences become their reality. If we are intentional, we can develop a environment full of resilience-building habits, consistently encouraging our children to push beyond their comfort zones.

“The habits we form from childhood make no small difference, but rather they make all the difference.”

Aristotle

As Seneca points out, there must be “daring” at some point. As parents we must dare – dare to point our children toward adventure and not mourn where difficulty arises. But rather see it as a chance to build resilience and perspective. With every new experience comes new dangers – new worries for a protective mother. However over-protection can leave our child fearful and weak. Dare to risk a peck or two at your children’s feet.

Adversity and worry are a part of life. But we can raise a child that is capable of facing these fears. We can “dare” them to do the difficult and unfamiliar and encourage them in appropriate risk-taking. And give them the space to invent Rooster-baseball.

“During the first period of a man’s life, the greatest danger is not to take the risk.”

Soren Kierkegaard

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