Children are much smarter than we give them credit for. I’m talking toddlers and pre-schoolers here.
They are great learners.
What they don’t have yet is education or life experience.
What they do have is curiosity, innocence and honesty. And a burning desire to learn.
I place great value on my years associated with our kindergarten, where I discovered the immense intellectual capacity of young children. Kids are physically and mentally resilient. At around one year old they have mastered being on two feet. A whole new world. They walk faster. Then they run. Then they run faster. And all through this process they fall over.
But they don’t care. They don’t even think about it. They get up and do it again. They don’t say to themselves that they must be more careful in future. They don’t try to analyse why they fell. They probably don’t even remember that they did. Falling over is just part of being mobile.
Are We Harming Our Children?
This is a metaphor for their universal resilience. The past doesn’t linger for too long. Kids live in the future.
We do our kids a lot of harm by protecting them from harm. In fact overprotection by parents is a big concern being studied by many parenting experts. (A topic for a future article). So when one of the children in the kinder group has a birthday party and your little treasure isn’t invited, for one of any number of reasons, get over it. You can be sure that your child will.
Do believe that children learn by life not going their way. I don’t want to say by ‘their mistakes’ or ‘failures’, because these words have negative connotations. Kids are born with mechanisms in place to deal with things going wrong. And they will.
When my daughter was , I don’t know, maybe late pre-teens, she said “It’s strange. We praise babies for doing some things (burping after being fed in this case) and when they get older we tell them that that same behaviour is inappropriate.”
It keeps going. We protect our children when they are very young by (say) stepping in when they have a dispute with another child. In a similar situation when they are older they come to us for help. We tell them that it is their problem and they have to learn to deal with it themselves.
But we haven’t taught them to. They don’t know how to go about it. Because in the time of their lives when they should have been learning, we were doing it for them. Stop doing it for them. Help them to learn how to do it themselves.
We learn by doing. Let them do!
This is NOT the same as abandoning them. Kids will always come up with a way of dealing with a situation. We need to help them to determine what is a more suitable solution. They can’t be left totally to their own devices. We need to guide them and give them the tools they are going to need moving forward.
A line I remember from a very old B movie is “You can guide them, but you can’t live their lives for them.” It’s pretty well the only thing I remember from the movie. If we do everything for our kids, if we deprive them of the opportunity to learn by doing within a sound framework, they won’t grow up. They will just get older.
Khalil Gibran Nails It
If you haven’t read ‘The Prophet’ by Khalil Gibran yet, stop reading this article and do it now. In fact, don’t go looking for it. I am going print the relevant bit here.
On Children, by Kahlil Gibran
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
image courtesy of sara elman, saraelman.com
Get the book, and read it often. It is written spiritually, but it is extremely practical.
The amazing ability of kids to do and to learn is an ongoing theme in what I write. Have you read my articles on kids doing chores, or getting your kids to do homework, or why I have an optimistic outlook for Australian youth? They are all in this blog. The theme is the same.
Kids want to learn.
Kids want to do.
Kids want to grow up.
Let them. Let them learn how to cope with adversity. They’ll do well.
]For a more extreme approach, this is the article that got me started on this essay.