In a previous guest post Pauline King, The Contented Crafter shared her Reflections on living a contented life, teaching and school. The richness of the discussion that ensued, including additional clarifying comments from Pauline, made for interesting reading. One thing I have found consistent throughout life is that everyone has an opinion about education and schools. However, there is great diversity in the opinions held. I love to hear them all for the opportunity they provide for clarifying my own thinking.
In this second guest post Pauline shares some of her wisdom about children and parenting. Pauline and I share much of the same philosophy and background knowledge and are aware that some statements may require clarification out of that shared context. We therefore welcome your responses and look forward to the discussion that these thoughts may instigate.
What do you think is the most important thing for parents to understand about their children? What advice would you love to give every new parent?
I seriously think every parent should read and study Khalil Gibran’s chapter about Children in his poem ‘The Prophet’. Children are not just short adults; they are not there to fulfil a parents dreams [though they may].
(Note: This is just a short extract of Gibran’s words about children. You can read them in full here)
Children need to be allowed to enjoy their childhood, let them play, let them dream, let them imagine. Very little ones learn through imitation and play so be careful what you model for them.
Send them into formal learning when they reach their seventh year. But let that learning proceed through imagination, through practical practise and first-hand experience. Let the education content grow and deepen as the child matures. Don’t just stuff stuff into their heads because you think it’s a good idea or something awful has happened in the world.
Don’t discuss adult issues with young children. Keep them safe and secure while their bodies and brains mature. Give them time to grow up.
Parents study your child and all other children. Raising children is not a competition. It is not a case of keeping your child safe and clean and out of your way while you are busy. Think more of ‘The Waltons’ and let each child have a task to perform to help the family. Teach them all how to help prepare meals, set tables, make beds and other chores that need to be done.
Start to think less about how clever [or not] your child is, but what talents and attributes your child is exhibiting. Don’t stream, let them all do everything and let everyone have something they are good at and see there is something that someone else is better at – because that is the way of the world and we all have contribution to make and our lessons to learn. Understand that just as your child is special, all children are special. Understanding this is the first step in making a wholesome community.
Don’t be fearful of your child hurting themselves. As a wise man recently said ‘the purpose of our lives is not to arrive safely at our death!’
My personal opinion is that the increase in a society that reveres ‘health and safety’ has been responsible for the rise of lost teenagers, those aimless, disinterested kids who suffer from low self-esteem, drinking and drug taking and mindless vandalism. Take your older kids camping, hiking, abseiling. Do it with them and have lots of fun. Give them physical challenges and the ability and skills to succeed in them. It really is true that the family who plays together, stays together.
But mostly love and respect your child. Keep them safe when they are small and slowly teach and release them as they grow older. Feed them good food, positivity and encouragement and watch them blossom into the people they were born to be.
Give them time and lots of your time. They don’t need stuff and they don’t need to keep up with the Joneses. They just need you.
In responding to a previous post you said that you could write a post-length comment about the wisdom of children. Could you share a few ideas about that here. We might come back to that longer post in the future, if you are willing.
Observe your children, listen to them, know they are their own little being and as such bring their own personality and gifts into the world. Watch how they approach life and activities and you will see they have come with a wisdom about themselves and their purpose that we, the adults, may not be privy to. This is the wisdom of childhood and we, as parents and teachers, are really beholden to respect this and not try to ‘change’ the child to suit us, society or anything else.
Most teachers know that most children reach similar developmental points at around the same time. There is a great wisdom in this and when we become aware of it, it can help us understand what they are ready for in terms of learning, activities and life in general.
All of this Norah, is part and parcel of the training of a Steiner Teacher – understanding child development is the open secret that drives the curriculum.
Wow! Thank you, Pauline, for sharing your wisdom. Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet is one of my favourite books and his passage about children is never far from my mind. Your words in this post reflect very much the words and intent of his. You have given us much to think upon, and I appreciate it, as I’m sure the readers do too.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.