How To Raise Children Who Are Confident To Explore

The Magic of childhood is filled with curiosity for the world around us and effortlessly living in the present. I can remember running free through the grass feeling the ground connected to my feet, and stopping to pick up bugs that were in my path because I didn’t like to see them being stepped on. It was time to head home when sunset signaled the end of the day whilst the air blew cooler on my face. Bringing my children up in a world full of do’s and don’ts, I am thrown back to these moments in my motive to understand their energetic yet gentle world. I am reminded of those moments I was left with simple freedom and intuition and how my sense of self-safety truly became rooted when given the trust that I was capable. The word mistake had no meaning, but rather an interesting discovery of life’s consequences.

See the part of the brain which is responsible for behaviour control and critical thinking is last to fully develop. “Before age 6, children don’t have the ability to think out plans and imagine consequences of those decisions” (Arnall, J. 2019). When we jump in and tell children what to do and not do, we are interfering with their innocent interest in their surroundings. When they are punished for doing something viewed as undesirable, we are missing a chance to see that they may have been showing their creativity, or their love for adventure. When we use phrases like “told you so”, we risk creating shame in a normal part of development. If we don’t know when to pause, step back and allow our children to step into discovery, we risk creating a dependency to look to others for approval, when in reality they are doing exactly what they developmentally should and can be doing at that moment.

Humans from birth are “hardwired” for risk taking play and children can be supported to engage in age-appropriate risk-taking play (Early Education). We wouldn’t let a toddler see the consequences of jumping off a climbing frame, but we might let her pick up that slug on the patio, so she can learn that they are squishy and slimy! (although chances are she will love it). Or, for example, you may not feel you can leave your preteen alone at home to cook a full meal without an adult present, but you might let him bake a cake without following the instructions and recipe so that he can see what works and what doesn’t.

The difference between freedom and carelessness is that we are engaged with our children in their wonderful present world and we are aware of what is appropriate for their current stage. We can support them to connect with themselves so that they become equipped as they gradually grow independent. We maintain healthy boundaries and are aware we are there for guidance on their journey of self-discovery. This can often be easier said than done, and something I remind myself of all the time because we just want to protect our children.

We are protecting our children, by guiding them in how to trust themselves.

We, as parents generally share the goal of wanting their lives to turn out the best they can. What we can forget, is that learning isn’t a process needing to be completed, but more a state of being which is beautiful, creative, and worthy of our present time. Our children are already whole and life is happening right now. Thankfully, most of the time dos and don’ts are there to protect our children when they aren’t with us, but the world is not perfect and people aren’t always telling people to do the right thing for them. Every child is an individual with individual needs, gifts, and passions. I don’t want to raise my children to do things simply because they are told to do it. I want my children to have the ability to make decisions because they feel like it is the right thing. I want them to be able to evaluate the situation for themselves whilst feeling confident in their intuition. To be brave in following their unique path whilst also having the confidence to leave situations that do not feel right for them.

children are capable when given the freedom to be, they just need us to see it and to be there with open, non-judgmental arms.

References: https://judyarnall.com/2019/02/18/when-do-children-understand-consequences/#:~:text=Before%20age%206%2C%20children%20are,to%20make%20the%20right%20decision.

https://early-education.org.uk/taking-risks-in-play/

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