“What if we just dropped our expectations and provided them with space, time, and resources and let them develop on their own time and in their own way?”
As parents, we trust in the first two years of life our children will learn how to walk and talk on their own—two of the most difficult tasks humans learn to master.
Learning to walk: from lying, to rolling, to pushing up, to sitting, to crawling, to standing, to walking—some of the most complex tasks for mankind. There are so many processes happening within the body-mind system for this to happen, it’s incomprehensible to any rational mind. It is so big, it is beyond any of us to fully understand.
But we trust this will happen. It’s a natural part of evolution. We don’t sit and show them. We don’t crawl and show them. We don’t walk to show them. They learn what they need to do in order to move around. And we trust that they will innately learn this, in their own time, without having to formally teach them.
They learn to speak from nothing, from goos, gagas, and grunts, to gibberish, to sort of words, to words, to meaningful sentences. It is guided by forces beyond what we can imagine and we trust this will happen naturally. All we do is speak, and they learn how to get there on their own. No teaching. They do it through keen observation, mimicking, sounding, practice, modeling, and more practice.
Assuming there are no major neurological interferences to their functioning, these tasks are well learned by most children. Two of the most complex tasks we could possibly imagine, done by the first few years of life, all through their natural development, in their own time, and without force. They are guided by their natural abilities through evolution and growth.
Then after these processes of development are complete, we tend to lose trust in the process.
We then decide that we have to control how our child learns and develops. Some appear to think that the child becomes instantly incapable of learning on their own. At this junction in the road, adults now know exactly what they must learn, at what age they must learn it, and because we know what’s best for our children, the adults will teach these inadequate little ones.
We construct rules. We insist that they all of a sudden have to sit down to learn and that they have to spend six to eight hours a day doing it. Like they haven’t been learning every minute for the first five years of life. We now decide how this learning must happen and in what context. We then put pressure on them to learn in this most unnatural way.
We begin to obsess about the timing of learning and attempt to control that. They just finished learning the most complex tasks all by themselves! Then we ignore their innate abilities in an attempt to impress upon them what we think they must learn, in the precise time we dictate, all so we can pass judgment on their success or failure.
The question is, where does the trust go? Why would we want to interfere with the child’s development? They learn to walk and talk on their own, just by being around people. They figure it out in the perfect time for them. They don’t start in a particular month like September, then end the learning process in June. They don’t start learning on Monday and end on Friday. Learning takes place all day, every day; they are learning in each moment what they are innately able to learn at that time. Nothing more, nothing less.
Preparing children for life is one thing. Attempting to control, stress, determine, accelerate, and label the timing of the learning process is another.
Do some children take longer?
Do some take less time?
Children learn all tasks on their own unique schedule just as they do when learning to walk and talk. Do all kids have an inherent love of learning? Yes. Just watch them in the first few years of life—they are joyful, happy, and love learning.
When we decide to place rules on their learning and create expectations that are to be met, we get serious again! They are constantly being judged. If our expectations are not met, kids are immediately labeled slow in that area. “They lack talent. They aren’t a natural.” If they took a few months longer to walk, would you label them not talented in walking? If they were slower by a few months to learn a language, would you say they were not talented at speaking? No, it just wasn’t the right time yet. But we would trust they would learn it.
What if we just dropped our expectations and provided them with space, time, and resources and let them develop on their own time and in their own way? What if we made learning fun and free of expectation? So many parents stress over their child’s not meeting expectations that are based on a highly structured learning process taking place from September to June, five days a week.
Celebrate the love of learning. Respect and appreciate the process, not the outcome. The waking parent knows that learning is a daily, lifelong process of discovery. We never, ever stop learning. Every novel experience we have is another learning opportunity within the process.
If provided the resources, kids will learn all they need to bring their gifts to the world and to follow their dreams and passions. Those who innately love math, will use it. Those who don’t, won’t. Just as they needed to learn to walk and talk to survive, they will learn what is needed to develop their natural abilities and thrive. What does thriving mean anyway? Regardless of what you think they should learn, they will eventually learn what they want and will automatically gravitate toward activities that develop and strengthen their natural talents and abilities.
Don’t worry, parents. Your children will be successful in their own way. They will eventually follow their dreams, whether you like it or not. The question is, how much are you going to pressure them with your priorities, only to delay this process? They will eventually follow their passions. You can’t stop it, and why would you want to? You can only allow it, and so you might as well do so in such a way that they can express their talents and gifts to the world as early as possible. This will allow them to enjoy a long, passionate, and exciting life, in whatever capacity that means for them. Instead of resenting the constant exertion of rigid parental controls, they’ll appreciate being given the latitude to explore and discover what thrills them.
Allowing them freedom from the shackles of having to learn everything in a particular sequence will nurture the spirit of your child and will enable them to explore as they need, in the time that is needed. Stay open, stay flexible, and stay in the rhythms of the day. Your child, like seasons, uses different resources of energy at different times. Be prepared and ready to embrace whatever they need, whenever they need it, and they will feel loved and nurtured in the learning process. Surrender less to schedules and time lines.
Different learning happens at different times. Sometimes children may need to build their physical strength over their intellectual. Sometimes they need to build their emotional energy, yell, and scream before they can think clearly. Ever felt like screaming, just to clear your head? There are different rhythms and cycles that happen throughout the day, that go beyond the rational mind, that cannot be explained by experts, charts, or graphs.
We need to look deeper. We need to listen. Asking questions like,“What are they needing right now?” will help you to stay mentally flexible and in tune with the rhythm they require.
Read on for 10 affirmations to help us be in the present moment when we are parenting.
Reprinted from Finding Magic in the Mess by arrangement with TarcherPerigee, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2019, Dr. Steven Fonso.