Written, Audio and Video from Dr Demartini
In the classroom, the effects of this free play are also evident. Children have become more settled, more cooperative, more creative and better problem solvers. “Not only are they learning about risk when doing free play, they are learning how to do things differently. You often overhear the children working together as they are building and creating, and coming up with new ideas”, McLachlan remarks.
“Children are not setting out to hurt themselves”, he adds. “They are actually setting out to achieve something. And in the process of achieving something, they are learning how to manage their risk and how to do things they couldn’t do before”.
In Pursuit of Fantasy
Human behaviour specialist, Dr John Demartini is not surprised with the results from the Swanson School initiative. “Many people would equate freedom with children running around like wild animals. What we are talking about is children who are free to do what inspires them”, he explains.
Demartini has spent over 40 years researching and educating on philosophy and on the principles of human behaviour. He believes that the recent obsession with protection and sanitation is based on part fantasy. “People perceive more harm than is actually realistic. Many people these days are addicted to fantasy”, he says.
According to Demartini, this fantasy has its roots in the Hedonistic and Utilitarian movements of the 17th and 18th centuries - ideals that are based on the principles of continuous happiness, safety and security. However, Demartini maintains that the ideology of and striving for a utopian society can actually undermine human development. “We are wise to learn to embrace both sides of life; support and challenge”, he advises. “People have to have challenge to facilitate the birth of innovation, creation and opportunity. Over-protection creates juvenile dependence; too much challenge creates precocious independence. But a lovely balance of both support and challenge gives rise to maximum growth and development.”
According to Demartini, this inherent need for challenge includes the experience of both physical and emotional pain. “We wouldn’t have pain endings at the end of our fingers if pain wasn’t necessary”, he remarks. “Pain is our feedback mechanism. By nature, you have a need for pain, discomfort and things that challenge you. It makes up half of learning.”
For Demartini, the answer to a fulfilled life does not lie in eliminating all pain and discomfort. In fact, he believes that wherever we attempt to suppress challenge, we will create equal challenge in another area of our life – a principle which is already playing out in society, as mentioned above. Instead, Demartini suggests that we can teach ourselves, and our children, how to embrace challenge; how to love and embrace painful experiences, and to appreciate the support and growth they facilitate.
“With children it’s about self-governance; if they don’t have self-governance, then they need outer governance”, Demartini advises. “Self-governance only comes from acknowledging both sides of life; pleasure and pain, challenge and support.”
As for today’s children, Demartini suggests that instead of constant supervision and radical protection, they should be encouraged to acknowledge pain and discomfort and be given opportunities to explore challenging situations. “It is wise to teach children to go after challenges that inspire them. If they don’t seek out or create challenges that they are inspired by, they will keep running into and experiencing other challenges in their life that are uninspiring”, Demartini remarks.