Featured, Parenting

Urge (allowing our children’s yearnings to bloom)

27 October, 2014

“I’d love it if you didn’t climb up the side of yurt, Ramona. I’m worried that it isn’t strong enough and that the wood might break.”

She looks me in the eye, defiance pulsing out of her, she reaches out and grips onto the wood. Without breaking eye contact she pulls herself up….

It is one of the most frustrating parental moments. It feels as if they are setting out to push your buttons… but what if they aren’t?

What if they simply have an urge that they can’t resist? And they maintain eye contact in order to test if they can retain their connection with you (the number one priority of any young child – critically essential for survival) whilst following up the call of their heart?


Schemas are “a fancy word for the urges that children have to do things like climb, throw things and hide in small places. 

They are the building blocks for the brain, repeated behaviour that in turn forge connections in the brain, patterns of unfolding, learning and growth.

Schemas are such an important part in every child’s development that they are covered in training for anyone in the business of care and education of young children – yet not too many parents seem to know about these natural,uncontrollable and totally necessary urges that all children have.”

(read more on Schemas on the fabulous Nature Play site where this quote is from)

or The Call of Their hearts

I have been thinking about schemas a lot recently… the inner urges of a child. Is it too much to describe it as “the call of their heart?” I don’t think so… in fact, I think it is good thing to describe it so… as I believe these inner urges are the thing we as adults experience as that- the beating of our being drawing us towards something. The call to spend time with someone, to change our job, to follow up art.

I’m sure that happiness, for adults, is intimately related to their ability to listen to themselves, to trust themselves, to follow up on those inner yearnings.

And a happy person is a delight to be around. They don’t play out their insecurities on their friends. They don’t second guess motives, or act out of guilt. They respect other people’s decisions and trust them.

So… it could be said…that creating happy people is one of the greatest gifts we could give the world. In fact, I’m going to say it:

Urges look like disrespect sometimes – but allowing the fulfillment of an urge nurtures respect

The amount of times I have heard grownups talk about how important it is to bring children up to respect other people and things could not be added up using my daughter’s colourful vintage abacus. (It’s loads of times.)

It is sort of the unanimous thing, amongst all parenting types. A ground rule. Respecting people and stuff.

Sometimes when children can’t resist this yearning, it looks like disrespect. Let’s stop seeing it that way. Let’s simply say respect has nothing to do with it right here, in childhood.

But let’s say that a children brought up to follow their instincts and to be true to themselves is going to be a PLEASURE in society. Let’s say they might just be one of the most respectful adults out there.

I am pretty sure of that.

If we respect their drive and their desires now, if we protect their right to access what they hope for, they will grow up to respect others and to defend the rights of others.Urge- allowing children to follow thier yearnings

There are small, subtleties involved in allowing children to fulfill their urges, which are sometimes missed.

Like, the conversation that goes “This vase is really important to Hilary. She is worried about it breaking. I hear that you want to hold it. How about we hold it on the rug, so that if it slips, it won’t break?”

and the quiet, murmured one that goes “You are angry. You want to hurt him. I’m not going to let you hurt him. I see you want to hurt him. We will have to find another way for you to feel your anger.” (Because yes, I am an urge-enabler but harming people is never, ever okay.)

And the dance with objects, on this shelf and that shelf, when we can’t find another way… “You really can’t stop flicking these switches huh? But Uncle Les is worried about this radio. I’m going to place it in a cupboard. Now let’s find another switch we can flick…”

Before I had children, I thought I would be someone who wanted to children to understand simply Not To Touch. I’d leave my house exactly as it is… but now I want a YES environment for my children. I want them to have the mindset that the world can be an inviting, and welcome, beautiful place of curiosities and wonder.

I know that a lot of people would think I was a permissive parent. I hate the unconsciousness that comes with that phrase! I have read and read and thought and thought and I feel that letting go of a lot of control is the very best thing for my children.

While I seek to say YES as much as I can, these little conversations that happen are the nuances between being permissive and giving freedom for urges to flourish.

It’s him or me! Whose needs are more important, huh?! Huh?

If we step out of a “control mindset” (read Teresa Brett for more on this!) we encounter a situation where a parent’s needs and a child’s needs aren’t always in conflict. There doesn’t have to be a constant tug of war between what a child desires and our own desires as an adult.

Sometimes though…. There is. My child wants another pancake shaped like a dinosaur. I’ve just cooked ten. I’m tired and slothed out on the sofa. My need involves sitting down for a tick…

I do want to meet my needs as a parent. I am not willing to burn out.

BUT… soon enough my child won’t want me making pancakes… Once my child is a bit older, I have the whole rest of my life to sloth about. When I am 93, sitting for my ninth hour on the same sofa with Countdown on the telly I am going to WISH I spent more time making dinosaur pancakes. I’m so sure of it.

And also…. There is a thing about who is more able to get their needs met. Who is, in this partnership between parent and child? It is me of course. I am the one with access to the resources, the one who can articulate what is going on for me, I can get up and do this, and act on that.

My child however, is bound by her own abilities and my ability to support her getting her needs met.
Urge- letting a child's inner yearnings flourish(autonomously making paint with beetroot and flour)

And also, sometimes, they want to push our buttons…

I began this post by suggesting our children’s inner drive isn’t a push on our buttons. Then I remembered a story told by Larry Cohen, of Playful Parent fame. He had a couple sitting on his couch for a parenting consultation, they were desrcribing how their child was very aggressive, often used to punch them and strike out. He observed this mum and dad, they were just OOZING peace. There words were kind, considered, they were almost sleepy with mindfulness. He looked at them and said “Well, no wonder! She has to be angry for all three of you!”

Sometimes our children DO want a reaction. They dig and dig until they find us. The real us. The one that says OUCH when poked.

It is a strange thing…. Because of course, being a free, content, open, YES parent is a wonderful thing to be… but it is equally important to be an authentic one. When we say YES to an urge, we need to do it joyfully. And if we can’t do it joyfully, we have the opportunity to discover in our selves why not.

And, every parenting moment of angst is a chance to step back for a few seconds, to breathe, to consider the space we are in, what we are going to speak out from… but then sometimes our children need to see us in pain, in frustration, in anger…. Sometimes. Not in a contrived way… in an authentic kind of a way.

They see us then. And they know big feelings are okay, even in adults.

(This is good, because I get those big feelings regularly…)

Let’s bring our children up to be happy, not successful

Argh, that doesn’t sound quite right. I believe that happy = success. Why try and bring children up to be successful in a world that is, frankly, quite unjust? If they fit well within this kind of society than I feel I have possibly done a bit of a rubbish job.

Where as, if they can find contentment and peace- then I will be high fiving my husband about our parenting skills! If they are challenging society’s norms and measure by following their hearts, then I will be feeling like the challenges that came in their childhood of giving freedom to these urges was worth it.

Forget the lessons, the manners, the social norms; they will learn these in time, if they see a need for them.

Make happiness the goal. For your child right now, and for the adult they will become.

Give freedom to their yearnings. Defend their urges.

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  • Jo 27 October, 2014 at 8:41 pm

    This is awesome Lucy!
    Schemas wow must investigate this further. I guess wrestling with the tension and always trying to understand what’s going on from a child’s perspective is a lot harder then just saying No. Well maybe in the short term?

    • Lucy 28 October, 2014 at 11:18 am

      Ah, yes, their perspective, eh! I say always challenge yourself about why saying No as default- I still do it! Argh!

  • Saffron 27 October, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    This was a timely reminder for me as I steal a selfish moment with my IPad & cup of tea in bed (after a 5:30am wake up & grumpyness). Have you read anything by Bonnie Harris? If not, I think you would love her. Along Robin Grille lines & very practical. Lots about ‘button pushing’ and the importance of keeping that connection. You know & live it all but it’s lovely when your thoughts & feelings about parenting are reinforced by such an eloquent person & she’s a good one for your followers to check out. Thanks for this post, I really enjoyed it & will re-read again later. Off to give cuddles now…….

    • Lucy 28 October, 2014 at 11:17 am

      ooh, thank you! Will investigate x x

  • ThaliaKR 27 October, 2014 at 11:01 pm

    Yes. So much yes, and thank you for so clearly and carefully articulating it all.

    Everyday – those conversations! But you know, we’ve only once in three years observed what some would call a ‘tantrum’ – uncontrollable, hysterical emotions everywhere – and it was in the well-past-sleep-time slot. And I think the lack of ‘tantrums’ is because we have exactly the kind of patient conversations you record. All. The. Time 🙂

    I think most of the ‘terrible twos’ are parent-created, because we spend so much time saying no when we could actually say yes.

    My boy wanted to play at different positions in his carseat yesterday (lying with feet in the air – ‘can you put my straps on like this, Mama?’). We were on our way home, with no deadline. I was tired, it was cold and windy, and I almost started a putting-my-foot-down conversation. And then I thought, well, what’s five minutes? So he tried several different positions, and it was probably two minutes of faffing that I gave him, aka two minutes of delight.

    Anyway. Thanks for this!

    And I found the idea of schemas revolutionary, too. There’s a great NZ Playcentre book and chart describing them with lots of ideas of other play activities to try if you observe an URGE to do something in particular. Super helpful.


    And the chart: http://susan.sean.geek.nz/Schemas%20in%20Areas%20of%20Play.pdf

    • Lucy 28 October, 2014 at 11:17 am

      Awesome, what a fantastic chart! Thank you for sharing. And WOW to your experiences with your little one 😀

  • Marylea 28 October, 2014 at 7:07 am

    I completely agree, lovely post.

  • Helen 29 October, 2014 at 10:52 am

    Thank you so much for this piece – really thought-provoking. I will think of your dinosaur pancakes next time my 3yo is plaguing me for something and I find myself barking “but I just sat down!” – am spending a lot of effort on trying to focus on the longer game at the moment, as you say, thinking about how quickly it will happen that they don’t need us. It’s hard to do this mind-trick on yourself and escape from the intensity of the moment, though.

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  • c 6 November, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    Why forget manners though?

    • Lucy 8 November, 2014 at 10:47 am

      I think it is about treating children with the same respect we offer adults. I never, EVER remind an adult to say please when they have forgotten- which is very, very often! I just know that they are appreciative or whatever, and I see the same in my kids.

      • c 8 November, 2014 at 9:32 pm

        Interesting view. I would see teaching a child skills they will need or value as the greatest respect you can show them. I wouldn’t say treating them in the way in the same way as you treat adults automatically shows equivalent respect as the needs are too different, its more about communicating respectfully. How my children learn is very much my business and role, how another adult acts not my business so much.

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