Nurturing Young Lives

Nurturing young lives is one of our greatest responsibilities as parents… rather than being guilty of hijacking the lives of our children. Perhaps our lives were hijacked by our parents when we were young, and we’ve fallen into the trap of following this erroneous path with our offspring. If so, it is a cycle that we have the power to break.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge. Photographs have been added as visual breaks.

Glenorchy, New Zealand, Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 48mm, efov 129mm, f/8, 1/125, ISO-160

Massaging our egos through our children.

When our egos are in a tender state we can sometimes find solace by bragging about our children and their accomplishments. This can lead to us putting undue pressure and stress on our children to evaluate their worth through competition and comparisons with others.

Our actions can be perceived by our children as encouraging them to live their lives with the objective of them pleasing us. Nurturing young lives means helping them discover their talents and abilities, and celebrating what makes them unique. If not, their lives can become dull, stifled and regimented.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 48mm, efov 129mm, f/5.6, 1/250, ISO-160

Reliving our lives through our children.

As parents we need to be on guard to our own proclivity to try to relive our past through our children. Our unachieved goals and failed aspirations can be forced on our children. They may be encouraged to follow in our footsteps in terms of career path. Or pursue similar monetary and material goals that directed our lives.

We do our children a disservice and are hijacking young lives when we restrict their potential by having them relive our lives as surrogates for us. If that happens their potential dies before they have had a chance to really live.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 30-110 mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 59.4 mm, efov 160.4 mm, f/4.5, 1/15, ISO-3200, extension tube used

Dangers of dogma.

We live our lives within personal belief systems. As parents we can sometimes be guilty of force feeding those beliefs to our children. The dangers of dogma include the reduction or elimination of independent thought, and the forced attachment of strong emotions to components of our belief systems.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 25.7mm, efov 69.4mm, f/5.6, 1/30, ISO-160

Emotional arousal is inversely proportional to our ability to think and respond rationally. This is true whether our state of emotional arousal is caused by positive or negative emotions. Some of the worse decisions we make in life find their roots in high levels of emotional arousal.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 12.1mm, efov 32.7mm, f/8, 1/500, ISO-160

Dogma takes many forms and can include political, religious, various societal beliefs, and other factors. Force feeding these to our children narrows their experience of the world around them. As a result they can become small and weak minded individuals. People who are small and weak can easily fall prey to the manipulations of others and coerced into patterns of behaviour. Examples are endemic in society.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor 6.7-13 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 13 mm, efov 35 mm, f/8, 0.8 sec, ISO-160

Many decades ago I took some university degree night courses as a mature student. The very first class that I attended was an introduction to politics. This resulted in a research paper that I wrote: “The Political Socialization of the Chinese Intellectuals from 1949 to 1952”.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 35.3 mm, efov 95.3 mm, f/5.6, 1.6 sec, ISO-160

This was a fascinating topic to cover. I discovered how socialization techniques that were hundreds of years old… and some much older than that… had been used by various religious and cultural groups throughout the ages. These were adapted by Chinese government officials to force thought change.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 100 mm, efov 200 mm, f/4, 1/25, ISO-500

These same approaches are still in rampant use today. Rather than immerse our children in our own dogma, it is more productive to help them identify socialization techniques and learn how they are used today to reduce independent thought. The proliferation of social media and unfounded conspiracy theories add some urgency.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 100 mm, efov 200 mm, f/4, 1/25, ISO-500

Whether my children decide to believe in a particular god or not, and follow any religious doctrine or not, is none of my business. That is their decision to make. My role is to encourage them to explore a wide range of philosophies and beliefs that may be of interest to them. The same thing holds true for any potential political orientation that they may choose.

Nikon 1 j5 + 1 Nikon 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 72mm, efov 194 mm,, f/8, 1/400, ISO-160

My role is not to indoctrinate them into any kind of political affiliation. It is the opposite. My role is to help them develop critical thinking skills so they can make those decisions for themselves. How my children choose to vote and the politics that they may choose to follow is also none of my business. My role as a parent is not to produce mindless ‘mini-me’ clones.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5, 1/50, ISO-200, In-Camera Focus Stacking, subject distance 345 mm

Encouraging choice.

The quality of our children’s lives will be created by the choices that they make in life. As a parent it is not my role to tell them what they should do, or how they should think. My role is to help them identify factors that may impact their decisions, and to weigh those factors. The more they can discern and understand the differences between facts and opinion, the better equipped they are to make the best choices for their lives.

They need to learn and understand that their choices have consequences, and that they are fully responsible for the choices they make. The role of a parent is to facilitate that process… not to force choices on their children.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 mm f/2.8 @ 40 mm, efov 80 mm, 1/15, f/5.6, ISO-200

Getting to the root of emotions and choice.

There’s an adage in industry that business would be much easier if we didn’t have to deal with people. Not that people are inherently bad of course… but because very often people act emotionally rather than rationally. Emotions have a way of getting in the way of progress and muddying the water. Hard felt emotions can lead to a ‘hardening of the attitudes’. This can be extremely counterproductive as it causes growth and understanding to atrophy.

The more we can help our children understand their emotions and the factors that are driving their decisions, the better equipped they are to be well-functioning human beings. Using a simple problem solving technique like the “5 why dig” can be a worthwhile approach. This is simply asking “Why?” at least 5 times when trying to get to the root cause of an issue or an emotion. It can work wonders when trying to find breakdowns in business processes, or discovering emotional blockages in our own thinking.

Old Cabot Trail, Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 48mm, efov 129.6mm, f/5.6, 1/250, ISO-160

Openness and accuracy.

Being open to field questions from our children and being accurate in our responses is fundamental when nurturing young lives. I am encouraged when I hear my 2 year-old granddaughter talk about body parts and functions, using accurate language that she has learned like anus, penis and vulva.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 79 mm, efov 213, mm, f/5.6, 1/80, ISO-160

Expanding circle of ignorance.

When we are young the amount of knowledge and understanding that we possess is extremely small. Like a very small circle. Our appreciation of what we don’t know or understand is also extremely limited, and is represented by the circumference of that small circle.

The more we expand our knowledge and understanding the larger our circle becomes. And, so too does our appreciation of what we don’t know or understand. Consciously expanding and appreciating the circumference of our circle of ignorance, is how we continue to grow in our understanding of the world around us. This is something that we can encourage in our children. It is also something of which we can remind ourselves to encourage our continued growth.

Frame 6, Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm, f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-800

Wisdom is not regurgitation.

Much of our educational system involves rote memorization and being able to successfully regurgitate what we have been told.  Our school grades are often determined by our regurgitation abilities. This does not create wisdom or challenge the intellect. Learning basic facts is important in terms of understanding that 2 + 2 = 4, or that gravity exists and operates in predictable ways.

Nurturing young lives involves moving past simple rote learning. Encouraging children to identify and apply basic facts to better understand actions and events around them, and solving problems in new and innovative ways, is how we help them develop wisdom, and use their intellect.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/2000, ISO-500, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI, cropped to 3124 pixels on the width

Understanding increases through observation.

It is important that we encourage children to observe nature to discover Universal truths. These observations can then be applied to their understanding of the family, society and culture in which they find themselves. Increased understanding also helps promote change and growth in individuals, as well as in society at large.

Australian Coot with chick at Hobbiton, New Zealand, Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 234.5 mm, efov 633.2 mm, f/5.6, 1/800, ISO-500

Nurturing young lives creates the future.

When we encourage children to be free and open thinkers we support the creation of a more understanding, and just society. And, we help to ensure the future of humankind.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/3.2, 1/125, ISO-5000, subject distance 630 mm

Technical Note:

Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard approach in post.  Images were resized for web use. This is the 1,182 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

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9 thoughts on “Nurturing Young Lives”

  1. If I had to teach my children about people and how to handle others again, I think I would do it quite differently. People are changing. The trust is gone. The humanity is waning. We’ll stop behind our cameras, view the world with one eye (lens) and try to make sense of the changes.

    1. Hi Matt,

      The world has always been changing and teaching our children to recognize change and adapt successfully is critical. Trust can still be established once the true character of an individual can be revealed. Humanity still pulses at the core of humankind… but perhaps more difficult to discern amongst all of the noise and selfishness.


  2. “Whether my children decide to believe in a particular god or not, and follow any religious doctrine or not, is none of my business. That is their decision to make.”

    With all due respect, this is faulty thinking. Would you say whether or not your children eat nutritional foods is none of your business? My childrens’ spiritual health is actually more important than their physical health. If you are talking about believing in gods, well, OK, better they don’t believe in any gods. But my responsibility to guide them to belief in the God of the universe is utterly important. Indeed, it is their decision to make, and they have. All are grown, and so far only 1 in 3 believe as my wife and I do. Time will tell. But if we had not tried to guide them toward the life-giving truth that we know, we would have failed them totally.

    1. Hi Martin,

      Any and all decisions that my children choose to make as adults, including their choice of food, are none of my business. My responsibility has been to encourage them to individually investigate, and critically evaluate, a variety of different philosophies and belief systems on a broad range of issues. Including those of a spiritual nature.

      Whether their examination and evaluation leads them to “belief of the God of the universe” as something they deem to be important and relevant in their individual lives, is none of my business. Just like it is none of my business what you and your wife happen to believe.


      1. I was, of course, primarily speaking of my responsibility, not my business, when they were children in my care. Although my responsibility to offer guidance to them does not end once they are grown. And indeed they do seek it (my guidance), sometimes.

        1. When young, children can benefit from being encouraged to identify and consider a range of options. Part of the maturation process is to learn, compare and assess options. This approach can become an ongoing journey of growth and exploration as we age.


        2. In my mind, as children become young adults a key parenting goal is to help them develop to the point where they do not ever seek any guidance from their parents. Helping children learn to be self-reliant and to trust in their own critical thinking are fundamental cornerstones of them becoming fully functioning human beings. Under normal circumstances we will all die before our children. Before that happens we need to do our best to ensure that they are fully independent of us.


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