Spark – what’s the concept, and have you identified your child’s?
I recently read Steve Biddulph’s Raising Girls – the first parenting book I’ve read in quite a while. And it was really great, full of things to take away and think about. This isn’t a sponsored post, but I have found myself thinking about this for some time and want to share with you.
There’s a sensitive period between ten and fourteen when girls need to find and identify their spark. This is a concept theorised by Dr Peter Benson, one of the world’s leading experts on adolescence, according to Biddulph. His opinion was that Spark was the single most important concept for transforming the home and school life of young people.
The idea is that young people almost always have something – or somethings, for the really lucky ones – “an interest, enthusiasm, talent or concern – which, if it is supported, gives them incredible joy, motivation and direction. That thing is their spark.”
Biddulph summarises Benson’s study results as follows:
1. Asked the question, ‘What activity gives you the most joy, makes you feel alive, gives you a sense of purpose and excitement?’, 100 per cent of children understood the idea.
2. About 65 per cent of all kids could name at least one activity that filled those criteria for them. They knew what their spark was.
3. Another 20 per cent, if prompted by an adult who knew them, could also find their spark (they were just too shy to say so straight out.
4. Ten per cent of kids had more than one thing that sparked them.
Doesn’t this make you look back on your own life and wonder what your spark is/was? Some of you might be lucky enough to know and to have been able to foster and develop it into full-on bonfire. But how many of you can look back to something you loved, and remember how you stopped doing it – maybe you moved away from where the lessons were, maybe there wasn’t enough money or time in the household, maybe no one cared enough or noticed your interest when it was needed.
I wonder what my spark is/was? I think that writing is one. Love of language and languages is another. I have come back to these over and over, and thanks to my family I have been able to foster them as much as I chose to. But I also think about how much I love singing and how much I loved dancing as a child. These things I never pursued for one reason or another, and I have a regret about it now. But I can’t blame anyone in particular about it, my parents were very supportive of whatever we wanted to do, to the best of their abilities.
Biddulph quoted Plutach: “The young are not vessels to be filled, they are fires to be lit.” I think this is a good lesson for me – one of the things I looked forward to most about being a mother was the chance to teach my child, to introduce her to things I think she would like. But I need to make sure I don’t try to make her relive my own life or fulfil my own dreams of what might have been. She is her own person and I need to look at her objectively and ask, “what makes you tick – what do you want?” – not “what do I want you to want”!!
Once you have found your child’s spark, how do you keep it alive? Only about a quarter of the young people Benson studied “were truly thriving in their lives, happy, engage and with a strong sense of where they were going.”
Benson believed there are three critical things for a spark to really take off:
1. There needs to be an adult in her family who gets behind her.
2. There needs to be an adult outside the family – at school or in the community – who recognises and helps her.
3. There has to be the opportunity to carry it out.
I think there are lots of sparks out there for people, though not all may survive even when encouraged. We change, grow, encounter new stimuli as we get older. Things we never knew about might spark us as time goes on. Either way, it is what gives you focus, meaning and joyful satisfaction in life – cherish your child’s and your own! And foster it to make it grow and flourish.
I really hope this has got you thinking – it certainly did for me!