A run away child is any parent’s worst nightmare. Social media updates and news items about run away children send a chill down every parent’s spine. Why do children run away – they wonder. I hope my child does not run away.
Why do children run away? Why does anyone run away?
Have you ever felt like running away? I have.
I wanted to run away two days ago – when there was a huge pile of dishes in the kitchen sink. I often want to run away when there is a pile of laundry to fold. And every 6 months or so – when I am exhausted from being the brave working Mom – I feel like running away for a vacation.
Yes – there are times in our lives when all of us feel like running away.
Why does running away seem like the ultimate solution?
The thought of running away is liberating because the physical distance that we are able to put between ourselves and our problems holds the momentary promise of making us feel free.
1. Running away promises liberty.
It makes us feel that not all problems require solutions.
2. When you run away you feel empowered.
You are able to take your life back by putting distance between yourself and the parts of your life that displease you. You imagine that because you are in a new physical space you have left your problems behind.
3. When we leave we feel like we are in control once again.
Leaving makes us feel like we are calling the shots – even in the midst of chaos
Why is it important to stay when we want to run away?
When we make it a habit to change our physical environment to solve our problems – we feel comfortable only when we are on the move. Moving away from discomfort begins to look like the only viable option
We begin to crave the comfort that comes from being in control. And since we know from experience – that the easiest way of taking back control is by leaving the place where the problem is – that is what we do.
Our automatic response to fear and discomfort – becomes to run away.
But fear must be overcome – by challenging and embracing it. Not by running away
The only way to win where others have lost – is to refuse to run away when we are afraid
And this is what we need to model in our lives for children to replicate in theirs
Parenting mistakes that teach children that they should run away
With our Parenting we often teach children the exact opposite of what they need to learn.
We teach them that they can and should Run Away
1. We teach children that we are powerful when we leave
“If you don’t come – I am leaving without you”
We threaten our children like this all the time. In the park, at a birthday party at the mall.
What this teaches children is – that leaving is the easiest way in which we can exert and exercise power and control.
From us children learn – that the easiest way to terrify and blackmail someone who loves you and coerce them into doing what they don’t want to do – is to leave – to walk away.
They learn first hand how terrible the desperation being left behind is – and when they have the opportunity they skilfully engineer this desperation and use it to their advantage.
In what they know of as the sure-fire way to cause desperation – they leave home – they run away
2. We teach our children how easy it is to escape problems by changing environments
“Don’t go down to play – those children fight with you – just stay home and play Xbox”
“That teacher is terrible – I am going to change your school”
“If you don’t like the dinner that’s served – just eat Maggi”
“It’s really hot – go switch on the A/C”
These are instructions that we give without thinking – because they are the easiest solutions. And with these instructions we teach escapism.
Children are sponge like in their ability to absorb, learn and do exactly what their parents are doing
As parents, we are the role models in our children’s lives. We have to show them – not tell them – how to navigate the problems that the world throws up.
With our thoughtless everyday actions however – often what we teach them is escapism.
Instead – we must teach them that they need to stand up and fight to get comfortable
3. We teach our children that fear can just be wished away – we need not face our fears
“Stop crying! There is nothing to be scared of! It is silly to cry like this”
On the first day of school…. at the swimming pool….. whenever things go wrong and our children encounter unhappy feelings – we brush them off immediately.
We teach them that fear is something to be ashamed of. And that no one else is afraid other than them
We convince our children that they are not feeling what they are feeling. As a result they never learn to tackle their feelings and instead learn to constantly run away from them
It is infinitely better in such situations – to say something like this
“I know you’re scared, but I will stand with you and together we will face what you are afraid of – until you are no longer scared.”
It is important to embrace the truth and help children work through their confusing feelings.
It is important to overcome our fears and use them as the rungs of the ladder to grow.
4. We overreact when our children make mistakes
“How could you do such a thing? What will people say? What will happen now?”
Yes – many of us say things like this when our children go wrong
We forget that mistakes are a part of life. And that a lot of what we learn in life – we learn by making mistakes.
Our reactions to our children’s mistakes determines what our children learn from their mistakes.
A balanced reaction can serve as a learning experience.
An unbalanced reaction can make the child angry, resentful and afraid.
Panicking when our children make mistakes teaches them that making mistakes is not acceptable. And when mistakes happen – instead of owning up to them and trying to rectify them – we must run away from them – otherwise there is chaos.
This is what we should teach children to stop them from running away
The primitive defence mechanisms of our body and mind will always prompt us to run,
but it is important not to do listen to the run commands that come down to us …….because
We can run away whenever we want to – but we can never escape