A modern child respecting parent’s job is a balancing act.
In any split second we are juggling body autonomy, the desire to respect people around us, a critical analysis of the rules or the status quo, safety or well being and the fact that our children are actual people with minds and bodies of their own.
To some people this balancing act may look like “letting her kids do whatever they want” when actually it is “letting her kids do whatever they want – because they are free human beings with autonomy and will- as long as it isn’t harming anyone, physically or mentally.”
Child starts doing roly polys on sofa – quick assessment: causing harm, no… ROLY POLYS ARE AGOGO!
Child starts doing roly polys on sofa at GREAT AUNTY SHEILA’S house- quick assessment : causing physical harm, no, challenging normal sofa behaviour, yes, therefore causing mental harm for Great Aunty Sheila, yes… ROLY POLY’S ON SOFA ARE EMBARGOED! Or, we might get that judgment wrong and believe Aunty Sheila’s happiness isn’t dependant on normal sofa behaviour and say ROLY POLY’S ARE AGOGO when really they should have been EMBARGOED and now Aunty Sheila is cross and parents these days let their kids get away with anything!!!!!!
But I think it requires consideration, the mental harm thing. We are standing up for children and their right to be themselves in this strange, rule bound world. But we may need to take time with them to explain that sometimes grown ups don’t cope very well when rules are broken or when things don’t go their way.
(Sometimes we need to tread gently this way, and then sometimes we might need to say to a grown up “This child is doing nothing wrong! She is harming no thing! Why do you desire to control her or this situation?”)
The mental and physical harm goes for mamas and papas too- it’s why the activities I don’t interfere with look different to yours, or even my husband’s. If my kids want to make a potion out of bits of food and mud and soap I won’t stop them because I can’t see the harm in it (but I can see the joy and learning they are getting from it.)
My husband, however, has different parameters and he would say that mentally he is not up to that free style potion making, so he is far more likely to step in and redirect (in an ideal world still allowing that urge to flourish, but in a less messy place/ with limited ingredients.)
Personally, I feel like I have seen urges squashed and joy diminished by breaking a child’s working bee, so I try to just let things flow for them. But I’m not going to judge people’s different parameters – especially if they are working on expanding them! (I feel like that needs a *wink* emoji!)
I wonder what people mean, when they talk about kids getting away with whatever they want? Is seeing a kid in flow upsetting?
I sometimes wonder if grumpy grown ups (myself included) when they try and quench a child’s energy or enthusiasm are being triggered by their own controlled childhood. A child’s exuberance brings up, in a deep unconscious way, all the times we were made to sit on our hands and not make a peep because we were children in an adult’s world.
I love to hang out with grown ups who celebrate a child’s wildness. Who have come to terms with their own childhood oppression and are now able to take full delight in a child’s desire to stick their fingers in a jar, climb on the furniture, pick the petals. These grown ups are the greatest!
I am laughing inside a bit, because don’t you think it’s true that children go wilder when they are in an environment that tries to control them?
A few weeks ago we went to a new friend’s home. It was filled with bits of art and sculptures and beautiful, breakable things I was a little bit terrified inside. I knew one of us was gonna shatter something.
But we were all so welcome. The children were treated with the respect and honour we were given, as guests in their home. They relished it when Ramona reached in and grabbed the last two mussels from the bowl.
After dinner, instead of rushing from corner to corner, picking every piece of pottery up and eventually breaking something, Ramona and Juno curled up on the couch and fell asleep!!! Harhahahahahaha. It was as if they just floated into dreamland on a cloud of welcome and inclusion.
I couldn’t help but compare this to other situations where it seems my children ride a wave of tension… the weight of expectation is so heavy upon their shoulders that they crumple into every bad behaviour expected of them!
But of course… we know really there is no bad behaviour…
There are only children yielding to the urges inside of them, and there are only adults finding these urges an inconvenience.
There are only children with needs unmet, trying to communicate and connect in a way that makes us uncomfortable.
How hard it must be for kids, trying to figure out this ridiculous adult world.
Where saying the word “thank you” trumps a grateful smile, or where even the word “thank you” bossed out of you opens the door to receiving something. This world where you DON’T see adults constantly badgering magic words out of each other…
So I won’t let the children hurt people… (but if they do hurt someone or do something unsafe you won’t find me reprimanding them or punishing them. You will -on a good day as opposed to those grumpy stressed out days that pop up- see me intervene to stop it happening, and requesting that we keep things kind and safe, then you probably won’t see anything. Because the follow up to that is an empathetic conversation and an acknowledgement of needs unmet, it’s decisions made together about how we can make sure everyone stays safe in the future. Long term, punishment impacts well being, compared to an empathetic response that promote the development of empathy… so I’m not gonna forsake their well being even if it looks like they’re getting away with something…)
Where was I?! Ah yes! We won’t let the children hurt people … and I will probably try and stop them breaking precious things… and I will absolutely ensure their safety. Aside from that, I am simply here to help them navigate this strange place, to create space for them to follow up their wishes, to personally, mentally, rise to the challenge of letting kids be kids for a while.
If that is letting them get away with whatever they want….
so be it.
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PPS New Youtube video from today; non violent parenting, child shaming and unmet needs…