Let Kids Be Kids
By Anna Stewart
I once heard a mom say, “My husband loves being a dad. He’s just like a kid again. He knows all the cartoons and action figures.” Is that what parents think being a kid is? Power Rangers and Rug Rats? What about imagination, creativity, curiosity? What about letting a kid just be a kid?
I think we push our kids to grow up too fast. We bombard them with learning-based toys. We brag to our friends that our child can count to 10 and recite the alphabet by age 2. We dress them as little adults. We reward their precociousness. We’re embarrassed when they act like babies. We fill their calendars with gymnastics, soccer and music classes.
Moments in (double)time
When my oldest son was a preschooler, he often sounded like an adult. Sometimes it’s charming like when he asks me at the dinner table if I’ve had a good day. Sometimes it’s not, like when he tries to negotiate for two, “no, three pieces, Mom” of candy after I’ve agreed to one. The preschool he was in two mornings a week had a monthly agenda. “We’re working on colors this month,“ said his teacher. “I keep trying, but so many of the kids don’t know them.”
Another mom told me about her 10-year old daughter. “She won’t eat macaroni and cheese anymore because it’s too fattening. It used to be her favorite. It seems like all her friends are on diets.”
Peer pressure is just that: pressure. It’s hard for a young girl to say, “I’m not going to be like my friends.” Her peers help her define who she is. While they help each other grow, they also keep each other in the status quo. To break from that is to risk being outcast. And the desire to belong is of supreme importance to a child.
Stop the time machine
So what do we need to do to stop the time machine?
• We need to say to our babies, toddlers and preschoolers, “Your job is to be a child. Your work is to play in the realms of imagination. We won’t ask you to learn your ABCs. Instead …”
o “We’ll provide you with simple toys such as blocks, clay, dress-up clothes, paper and paint.”
o “We’ll surround you with beauty.”
o “We’ll provide a safe place for you to be.”
o “we’ll encourage you with songs and stories.”
o We’ll be with you but we won’t direct you. We will allow you to find you own way.
o “We’ll not give into our own peer pressure from other parents. We know that by not giving in, we give our children the tools of self-esteem, confidence and creativity. Maybe it will be easier when they’re older to say no to diets and drugs.”
• Pay attention to how you dress your kids. Dress them in cute clothes, not sexy clothes. After toddler sizes, I’ve found many of boys clothes only come in blue, brown and green with sports, dinosaurs or transportation images on them. I look for brightly colored clothes, fun clothes, clothes that don’t say “boy.”
• Choose schools with all this in mind such as Waldorf or Waldorf-inspired schools.
• Ask your child’s friends’ parents to support this by not allowing the kids to use media during playdates.
• Get silly with your school-age children. Snuggle with them at bedtime.
• Make your teenager pancakes in the shape of Mickey Mouse. She might say, “Oh Dad, that’s so babyish.” But she may secretly relish that you still see her as a child. It’s tiring to act grown up all the time.
Let’s treat our children like kids. A child whose given room to stretch their imagination will grow up to be an interesting, loving and intelligent adult. Childhood doesn’t last. Let them enjoy it.
© Anna Stewart
Anna Stewart, B.A., C.M.T., C.H.T., mothers three young children, one with special needs. In her classes, workshops and services, she weaves her expertise as a professional writer, creative artist and student of rhythm dance. Anna offers a number of classes in the Boulder, Colorado, area. She can be reached at (303) 499-7681, [email protected] or see her web site at www.motherhands.com.