friend of mine has a son who is fascinated with fire. He loves to
experiment with it — playing “will it burn?" He has
burned pencils to discover that the graphite inside doesn’t
burn away. He has found that some materials melt, but do not burn. He
puts great thought and planning into his future experiments.
friend gives her son a safe way to satisfy his curiosity by allowing
him to build a fire in their fireplace on certain designated
evenings, with adult supervision. At other times, he knows fire is
dangerous and he is not to play around with it on his own.
young boy that I knew was also very curious about fire, but his
parents just said “No, it is not safe. Don’t play with
it.” Which is, of course, quite true.
this youngster was a rather stubborn sort. So that boy found his own
way to satisfy his curiosity, and inadvertently started a fire on the
kitchen floor when his parents were not around to stop him. Luckily,
no one was hurt.
(and teenagers) are naturally curious beings. They are curious about
the world around them, the behavior of others, sexuality, the need
for rules, the meanings of words. This curiosity is necessary for
their survival. It is the innate drive that allows them to learn, to
grow, to be ready to enter the adult world. Be very worried about a
child that doesn’t seem curious.
a child’s curiosity can be uncomfortable for the adults in his
life. Curiosity can engender a host of truly annoying, seemingly
endless questions, questions, questions. There are days as a mother
that I feel all I do is answer questions.
about things that may be dangerous can be uncomfortable for an adult
to face, because, of course, there are things in the world our youth
may be curious about that are much more deadly to the soul than fire.
can we engineer a safe way for them to satisfy their curiosity about
seems so much easier to just say, “That’s dangerous. Just
stay away from it,” and assume that is the end of the
discussion. And for some children — those that are naturally
prone to safety-seeking behaviors or that trust adults easily and
implicitly — that practice just may work. (At least, for a
while, right?) But that assumption is a gamble. Will this youth be
the one to start a fire in the house to learn the dangers on his own?
I am of the opinion that whenever possible, we should give our
children knowledge or experiences that they seek, but within a
controlled environment, to keep them safe. When it comes to issues
of morality, that generally means talking very frankly about what
they are curious about, so they don’t have to look elsewhere to
answer their questions.
means answering every single question they have about uncomfortable
subjects in a calm, respectful manner that communicates love and
acceptance of their feelings and opinions (even — especially —
when we may not agree.)
means that, rather than seeking to shelter them from the evil in the
world, we are the ones to tell them about it at an age-appropriate
time, in an age-appropriate manner. If we are not the ones they know
they can turn to for honest information about the world, to whom will
they turn? Do you really want to know the answer to that question?
yes, I tell my children, who are young, that there are children
abused by their parents, that there are people who starve to death
because of the selfishness of others, that people ruin their lives by
using illegal drugs. But, I don’t tell them about mass
gang-rapes in worn-torn countries or child pornography or the slave
trade in the Middle East. They are not ready for that. Yet.
want them to know about the evils of drugs, alcohol, and pornography
so they can avoid them. I want to be their primary source for
information about sex. This takes a patient willingness to listen
carefully to what they are thinking about these issues. It takes a
commitment to talk about these things without lecturing, but with
equal parts listening to their questions and concerns, and answering
as honestly as possible.
have seen some parents go great lengths to attempt to protect their
children from the evil in the world, to shelter them and keep them
innocent. I can understand this — it is a natural inclination
to do all we can to keep our children from terrible unhappiness and
at some point they will need to know about the evil so they can be
wise enough to stay away from it. I would rather my children learn
to wade through this muck while they still live with me, while I
still know what time they came home last night, while they can get my
help just by walking into the kitchen.
is impossible to shelter a child forever. I choose to build my
shelter with the strongest materials, but with windows onto the
world, so when they walk out of it, they know what they are walking
Emily S. Jorgensen is an independent music teacher in the Provo/Orem, Utah, area. She is an
active adjudicator and lecturer across the Wasatch front. She has held several positions in the
Utah Music Teachers Association. She has three children and is expecting her fourth soon.
Emily grew up in Tacoma, Washington, earning her International Baccalaureate diploma in high
school. She was awarded a Trustees Scholarship at BYU, and was graduated from BYU with a
Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance and a Masters of Arts in Elementary Music Education.
She taught group piano classes at BYU, and has operated a private studio for 16 years, where she
has taught private and group music lessons for ages 2 through adult.
Emily currently serves as Primary president in her LDS ward, and is still married to her high school