Letting Children Enjoy (And Learn) The Art Of Free Will

Letting children enjoy themselves in their own way and use their free will to learn and grow is essential, even if difficult for parents.

Letting children enjoy themselves in their own way and use their free will to learn and grow is essential, even if difficult for parents. A very honest, introspective post.

When is the last time I left my six year old daughter all by herself, doing and enjoying whatever she loves?

When is the last time I allowed her to play a game, that is not related to anything educational?

Have I allowed her to adventure in her own style?

Have I allowed her to speak to another person, without correcting or helping her, once in every ten words?

Has a day gone without feeding her about discipline and behaviour?

When is the last time I permitted myself to sit and relish this creative, cute, free-spirited tot’s awesomeness?

Have I allowed her to experiment?

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Have I allowed her to make mistakes and learn?

The list goes on and on and on….

For all these endless list of questions on the ‘Mother and Kid Saga’, honestly and sadly, the answer is ‘No’ or a feeble ‘Yes’.

In this digital world, the increase in awareness of various subjects through the Internet and greater exposure to the day-to-day lifestyle of one’s peer group through social networks has imposed pressures on every single individual. Mothers fall into this trap easily.

From the day pregnancy is confirmed, we feed on too much information on what to do and not to do from so many sources. Though a lot of this information is legitimate, there is an equally alarming amount of baseless inputs without scientific proofs. On top of this ocean of details, we add in our own expertise, experience, imagination, doubts and fears. Then on, our manipulation starts. We are mindful of everything we do. The marathon gains momentum at a steady pace. As the days pass by, every single phase of parenthood increases its expectations and challenges at an exponential rate.

The over-planning of children’s time

Every moment of the space and time spent together with the kids is headlined with a perfect objective and purpose. The mission is, not to allow the kids to waste a single second. Make every single bit productive and valuable. In all this rush, we tend to forget that letting the kids use their free will forms the base of their intelligence quotient. The opportunity for today’s kids to ‘be themselves’ is coming down slowly. The upbringing is generalised and the beautiful concept of ‘individuality’ is getting lost in the commotion.

The opportunity for today’s kids to ‘be themselves’ is coming down slowly. The upbringing is generalised and the beautiful concept of ‘individuality’ is getting lost in the commotion.

This may surprise many, as we do not realise how we have been draining our kid’s individuality gradually.

Mealtimes: How many of us place a plate of food, and permit our kids to relish it in their own style and in their own time? We decline them that option, even once a week. We don’t let our kids play with their food. We are so focused on teaching them to eat without spilling, without talking and giving them all the gyan on ‘table manners’.

Playtime: Kids can’t choose their toys. How much do we insist that they play with the so called ‘educational toys’ that we have bought with care? Playtime is slowly being converted into ‘Lesson Time’, as they are not playing with their imaginations any more, but only as per the instruction manual.

In an outdoor activity, can we sit on a bench and watch them quietly, as they run aimlessly, throw the leaves on their head, fall down, get up and slide in the opposite direction? That sounds impossible, right? We can hardly sit for ten minutes, without shouting some safety instructions.

Homework time: This is the most challenging time. Here, the comparison factor plays a great role. We tend to get more agitated that our kid is not able to read or write in the same manner as others’ kids. In some houses, it’s also called ‘war time’. On top of these, we tend to buy so many books in addition, to make them gain additional knowledge. Plus, even weekends are choked with activities and extra curricular classes.

Cousins/Friends/Family Time: This time puts the parents on their toes. The kids are always monitored vigilantly, so that they don’t misbehave, don’t behave silly, don’t ask irrational questions and are also pressurized to behave as the most perfect, intelligent, obedient, super kids in the world.

Even the sleep time is demanding these days. We can stack so many things on to this context, on what our kids are being subjected to.

What stops us from letting children be?

So let us try to rationalize: Why we are doing this? What is the driving factor behind all this craziness? Some reasonable factors pop up:

  • Enabling the kids to survive in this competitive world
  • Kids should be engaged, so that as they grow up, they don’t get diverted into ‘unwanted’ stuffs
  • At the wiring stage (from 4 to 9 years), they should be engaged thoroughly and productively, so that they stand out
  • The comparison factor; with the Social Network revolution, we know what’s happening next door and in another time zone, as well. The exposure to other kids of the same age and their performance and achievement at various levels imposes direct pressure on parents whose kids are not at the same level
  • The various source of information from the Internet on kids’ enrichment has a phenomenal effect on parents

I have been one of these parents, subjecting my daughter to many forms of activities, disciplining her here and there, instructing her once in three minutes and more, all under the assumption that I am enabling her to sail safely in this competitive world and be the best.

With my experience, I can certainly say, it was taking us nowhere.

I said, 'Japhi, Mummy is going to pose like a Fashionista, what about you ? Happily she shouted, I am a chicken.... and the camera went Clk..Clk...Clk :)

I said, ‘Japhi, Mummy is going to pose like a Fashionista, what about you ?’ Happily she shouted, I am a chicken…. and the camera went Clk..Clk…Clk!

This realization came to me a couple of months back. We have this ten minute drive on the bus and a five minutes walk to the school, everyday. I usually use this time to teach phonics, spelling, simple maths etc. I felt that it  was the best way to use the time productively. But then, in less than a few weeks, I sensed that she hated the commute time to and from school, absolutely.

The primary reason is that she loves to run back and forth on the footpath, which I restricted, as I wanted her to walk along with me, reciting the spelling and so on. I hardly allowed her to talk on her own topics of interest, as I was obsessed on teaching her the curriculum.

Seeing her lack of interest, I tried out many different options. I used to point out various colours and things in and around us and make her say the names and teach the spelling accordingly. It worked for a few days and very soon, she returned back to her grumpy behaviour.

She even preferred to sit alone in the single seat, in the bus. Subsequently, I lost my temper and shouted that she was not using her time usefully. Sometimes, she would get hurt and cry. This spoilt the morning hours and honestly, the rest of the day. The evening hours were the same.

Slowly I started to realise that I was not doing the right thing. I actually did not know how to mitigate this situation. So, out of frustration I decided to be quiet. I made a commitment to myself, not to restrict but just to sit and watch her.

In the first few days, I was annoyed to see her running here and there, pressing the ‘stop’ button in the bus unnecessarily, singing rhymes and songs loudly, throwing her school bag from one seat to another.

Things were worse on the walk to school. She ran back and forth more than five or six times. She would remove her coat and run in the cold weather, jump on the small water puddles, pick up dirty stones and scream all around. I was actually biting my teeth for the one week to pass, as I had made a promise to myself.

The beautiful behaviour of my daughter’s free will captivated me.

But then, by the third day, I sensed how the 15 minutes had turned into ‘happy minutes’ with so much giggling and laughter. The beautiful behaviour of my daughter’s free will captivated me. I came to know the lovely songs she had learnt in school. As she ran freely, she started to narrate the various incidents at her school, especially what happened at the playground. I also got to know about the lunch she ate, the colours she painted with, and her best friends name, among other things.  The moments turned from precious to valuable to priceless. I started to yearn for the morning 15 minutes and evening 15 minutes. The entire experience was awesome.

This made me do a reality check on the way I was treating my daughter. I asked the same set of questions to myself that I started this blogpost with. There was not even a ‘feeble yes’ in my case. But then, if I have to answer those questions again now, I would say ‘Yes’ or at least ‘feeble yes’ to many of those. I have not taken a complete U-turn yet. But then, I am changing myself slowly.

Instead of being so mindful of my daughter, I am being mindful of me. I am putting my best efforts into refining the way I treat her, the language I use with her, the respect quotient and various other factors.

Instead of being so mindful of my daughter, I am being mindful of me.

Things are taking good shape gradually. It makes the relationship a lot more beautiful. With working parents and the nuclear family life style, the kids are subjected to too many expectations. We expect the best of everything in that single kid. Sometimes, I feel, the mother of three kids is more relaxed mentally than the mother of a single kid, because, we tend to push everything on to this single poppet and expect mammoth results in all forms.

I acknowledge that there are amazing mothers doing an amazing job, without letting the world’s pressures come between them and their offspring. Kudos to them!

At the same time, I do know that there are ‘n’ numbers of mothers like me, literally struggling to be demanding and compassionate at the same time. This blog is dedicated to the latter. Hope it helps! God Bless!

“Children need love, especially, when they don’t deserve it”, goes a famous quote. 

Similarly, parents need forgiveness, especially, when they don’t deserve it!

Top image of child playing via Shutterstock; mother and child image is author’s own. 


About the Author

Diana Janet Joseph

Dreamer. Reader. Traveller. Foodie. Lover of Life. I create my world at dianajanetjoseph.wordpress.com where I am blogging a romantic series 'Life is a Ride'. read more...

8 Posts | 31,419 Views

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