There are so many factors that go into parenting. It seems that every friend, website, magazine, and blog is telling you how to get more organized and structured in your parenting.
But what if I told you that you were too organized and rigid? Would that be freeing?
Of course there are times that you need to focus on structure and consistency. I teach parents those skills all the time. But I was thinking about this the other day. I was feeding my 13 month daughter. Everytime she would take a bit of banana, she would spit it out, smear it all over, and often then throw it on the floor. At first, I was saying, “No, we don’t eat that way,” or “Let’s not smear the banana.”
Then I stopped.
She has the rest of her life to eat in a polite way. So I just enjoyed the moment with my daughter. My stress dropped and almost immediately I was laughing with her.
Here are some things that most kids need more of:
1. Unstructured time to explore and play. This helps the brain learn to create, rather than be told how to create. For example, kids that watch a TV show and then have the action figure of that show are more likely to engage in play that has been defined by the TV show or by what the action figure is “supposed” to do. Over time, kids may say to one another G.I. Joe is a person, you can’t pretend that it’s a rocket ship.
2. More toys that don’t have a “meaning”. Why do you think kids love sticks, boxes, and tape? They are totally free.
3. Messy time to get dirty, covered in paint, and feel free. As well as the fact that it is just plain fun, it also helps them develop sensory skills.
4. Time to make their own choices. If their time is scheduled by adults, they will not learn the important skills of working hard and resting hard, or even saying, “I don’t feel like doing that.”
By giving kids the abilities to have choice, create, and get messy, it will help them learn and adapt in ways to help them become more agile in how they live life. Also, it will cause much less stress as a parent to let go.
Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a licensed professional counselor and owner at Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, MI. He enjoys playing outside with his daughter.