All children are naturally curious about any and everything the world has to offer. Kids are literally real-life “noobs” who find every new experience interesting, intriguing, and exciting. They react to positive and negative stimuli with extreme emotion because they essentially don’t know how else to react. Simply put, children live all of their experiences to the fullest, whether good or bad.
As we grow older, we remember less and less about what it was like to be a child and to be constantly amazed at the world around us. And once we have kids of our own, we start thinking that they should simply act like we do. We need to remember that children are still learning about life and everything it encompasses. And we could definitely learn a thing or two from them while we’re at it. Think twice before intervening when children do any of the following:
Our first instinct when a child cries is to run to them and find out what’s wrong. While it’s definitely okay to show that you care for a child, you shouldn’t try to stop them from crying altogether. Crying isn’t comfortable; if they could stop, they would. But sometimes they just need to let it out. And it definitely doesn’t help the situation if you’re standing over them demanding they tell you what the problem is over and over again.
I know, who would stop a kid from laughing? Of course, laughter isn’t always appropriate under certain circumstances, and it’s important to teach your children about these situations. But like crying, laughing is an involuntary response that can’t be controlled at times. When I worked with children, I never got upset with them for finding something so funny that they couldn’t stop themselves from laughing. Isn’t life supposed to be fun? Instead, I’d ask them to leave the room to compose themselves, but there was no reason to get upset with them for catching a case of the giggles.
3. Fooling around
Alright, so this is a little more controllable, but what’s the point of life if you’re going to take it so seriously? Don’t you remember what it was like to be a kid and so carefree that you actually had the time and energy to goof around? I’m not saying you should let your children act inappropriately, but what’s so bad about hiding in a clothes rack at Target to mess with your sister? When’s the last time you had that much fun at Target? Like I said before, maybe we could learn something from our little rascals.
4. Jumping in puddles
Watch this video, and you’ll immediately want to take your kid outside and dance in the rain. Okay, so their shoes will be wet, and you might have to wash them. I’m sorry you’re the adult, but as old Blue Eyes says, “That’s life.” This is another one of those moments that you forgot is actually fun to little kids. In their own way, they’re experimenting with their surroundings. Let them have their fun while they’re young enough for it to be socially acceptable.
5. Making a mess
Whether or not they mean to be, kids are messy little humans. But again, what’s the worst that could happen? Perhaps you’ll have to scrub the floor, do some laundry, or repaint the entire house (okay, maybe not that last one). But if your kid spills paint on her shirt while she’s creating a masterpiece for the fridge, can you really get upset with her? If they’re being careless, that’s one thing. But mistakes happen. Don’t discourage your kids from getting their hands dirty in the name of art or science. Those worms aren’t going to dig themselves up, you know.
You’re probably thinking, “Who would stop a kid from reading?” Sadly, I’ve heard plenty of other adults tell students to put away comic books and take out “a real book.” Okay, so they were reading, and fully engaged in their reading, and you want them to stop and read something that you consider interesting instead? What if I told you to watch wrestling instead of So You Think You Can Dance tonight? I bet you’d choose to just not watch TV at all. What do you think a kid will do if you restrict what he’s allowed to read?
7. Playing an instrument
I’m looking at you, Homer Simpson. When kids start showing an interest in a musical instrument, parents usually feel a mix of excitement and trepidation, knowing they’ll be dealing with squeaky scales and repetitions of Hot Crossed Buns for the next month or so. While you should definitely put a limit on how late your child is up practicing his tuba, you should never discourage him from picking it up when he feels driven to practice. Even if it interferes with your after work nap time.
8. Focusing on an interest
This goes along with the last two sections. There was a popular commercial a few years ago in which a girl’s parents and teachers constantly dissuaded her from learning about science, power tools, and other so-called “manly” things. How can children ever break the mold and grow into adults that will change the world if they’re constantly being told to fit in? Just because a kid is into something you don’t think they should be into doesn’t mean you should stop them from pursuing their passion.
9. Arguing with a friend
I’m not saying you shouldn’t monitor the situation when you realize two friends are having a fight, and you should definitely never let it come to blows. But children need to learn to sort their arguments out on their own. You can certainly act as a moderator, but you should let both parties come to the realization that they both were most likely somewhat at fault, and that they can also both put their differences behind them and move on.
10. Doing homework
Seriously, who would stop a kid from completing their obligation to school? But, remember all the other things we sign our kids up for in the name of preparing them for life? “Hurry up and finish your work, you have karate and baseball practice tonight! And you can’t do it in the morning because you have choir!” Sound familiar? I know, we want our kids to experience as many things in life as possible, but we can’t let them burn out, and we certainly can’t force them to shirk one obligation in favor of another.
11. Trying things on their own
Many kids don’t want to admit that they need help doing something. Most kids don’t think they need help, and will try to go about doing something their own way time and time again until they’re physically and mentally exhausted. I’d often see kids working on a math problem, knowing they’re doing it incorrectly, and let them finish anyway before I intervened. They learn much more by trying, failing, and trying again than by being caught before they fail in the first place. Let them scrape their knees when trying to ride a bike; it will make mastering the skill that much more rewarding for them when they finally do get it on their own.
12. Expressing themselves
Be honest: If your 13-year-old son came home with a green mohawk, how would you feel? I imagine your first thought would be, “What are people going to think if they see my son and me together?” Let kids experiment with who they are. Again, they’re new to the world, and simply trying to find their way through it. And if they simply follow in everyone else’s footsteps, they run the risk of becoming another office drone. They have their entire life to toe the line for their boss and society in general; let their voice be heard while they’re still young.
13. Being weird
As if dying your hair green isn’t weird enough. But again, let them push the limits of social boundaries. John Waters is a bit weird. Robin Williams was too. And I can’t imagine what Jim Carrey was like as a child. He was probably a nightmare for his parents and teachers. But I also bet they (at least some of the time) let him get away with some ridiculous stuff. Kids don’t have to fit any kind of mold yet; again, that’s for boring adults with boring office jobs. They’re not there yet. Let them experiment with their weirdness, and see where it gets them.
You should probably know by now that play is the work of children. And, ironically, when children play, most of the time they’re emulating “grown up” jobs. They play house, teacher, doctor. They build things. They dig for stuff. When you think about it, isn’t it amazing that kids find the stuff we think of as boring work-related tasks interesting and entertaining? Too often, we beat it out of them (not literally, I’d hope) by putting them in various structured activities (like I talked about before). Let them have time to play and find their true passion on their own.
15. Growing up
This whole article was about letting kids be kids, so this part probably comes as a surprise. However, I think most parents reach a point where they realize they had forced their kid to grow up too fast, only to want them to stay young forever. They’ll always be your baby, but they won’t always be a baby. Once the time comes for them to get their license, graduate high school, and move away to college, it’s time to start treating your kids as what you’ve always prepared them to be: responsible young adults.
Featured photo credit: Flickrr via farm1.staticflickr.com