As coParents, always try to see the best intentions within your child. Unfortunately, adults tend to think the worst when it comes to what children are up to.
But what if adults were to perceive children’s actions differently? What if we could avoid reacting and assuming the worst by being inquisitive instead? When we stop to really get present and come from a curious and speculative place instead of in reaction mode all the time with our children’s actions, the innocence of their imagination can then be more understood and even supported rather than stifled and shunned. Therefore, it can become easier for us parents to empathize with their actions instead of engage in our own reactions.
The following is a great example from a five-year-old’s point of view of what can occur when adults, unfortunately, do just the opposite and assume the worst:
My son and I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in an amazing home-schooling nature class with other families with children around the same age group. During one of the excursions, my son and his friends discovered a deep hole in the ground (perhaps a gopher’s hole). The kids decided to gather rocks to cover it up. Instead of inquisitively asking what they were doing, I just assumed that they were trying to cover up the hole so that the gopher wouldn’t get out.
Although I did inquire and ask them how they thought the animal might feel if it couldn’t get out, I hadn’t actually gone deeper to ask what their creative minds were doing. Even though, thankfully, we, as the parents, weren’t reprimanding any of the children, we did automatically jump to the conclusion that they were trying to trap whatever animal might be living in there without being the slightest curious to know what their imaginations were stirring up.
Towards the end of the class, our nature guide had stated, “When you hurt the animals and plants around us, it makes me see that you didn’t think this through.” Although our nature mentor was doing his best to be gentle with his words, this statement had completely shifted the children’s energy, and you could tell by their faces that they felt “bad” or “wrong.”
Later on, during their bedtime story ritual, one of the moms asked her son how he felt about what happened during the nature class. The dialogue went something like this:
“Our instructor doesn’t understand. Doesn’t he know we were saving the planet from the bad guys hiding in the cactus? They were everywhere and they were trying to steal all the life energy from our planet.”
Then the mom asked how her son felt about what the instructor had said at the end of class. Her son continued on to say:
“He was being very disrespectful. I had to defend us. We were all just so excited to be on that new land. It was amazing land! We all just wanted to play and have fun.”
The mom continued to ask her son about wanting to kill the ground squirrel. He said:
“Mom, that wasn’t a real ground squirrel tunnel. The ground squirrel was in disguise. It was the hole all the bad guys came to our planet through. The adults just couldn’t see it.”
Wow! That was the most profound and extraordinary dialogue between a mom and her five-year-old son. The best part is that when this mom voiced her concern (that others also had), the guide and the parents were able to create a dialogue that brought awareness and compassion with how to communicate with the children more consciously, and this strengthened the participants in the nature class even more. Not only did everyone feel more empowered by this experience but this mom’s child was able to have his voice and feel heard from the community.
When we, as parents and caregivers, can move beyond our own fears and choose to merely ask our children what they are doing (in a gentle and inquisitive manner) vs. trying to control the situation and assume what they are doing is “bad” or harmful, it is then that we can come from an approach that nurtures our children’s creativity and fosters connection. When we choose this approach, magic can happen!
As Albert Einstein once said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”