“We do too much and savor too little. We mistake activity for happiness, and so we stuff our children’s days with activities, and their heads with information, when we ought to be feeding their souls instead.” - Author Katrina Kenison
Today’s parenting culture has gone overboard - we give our kids too much stuff, and rush them around to too many activities. We are not enriching childhood, we are just overwhelming it. We are also creating so much work for ourselves as parents, leaving us frazzled and spent. Our children’s cabinets are overflowing with toys that go unused, and we trip over tiny plastic pieces scattered all over the floor. We are buying on the Internet and buying at the toy store. Our lives are overflowing with stuff. We think we are making our lives easier, but we are making it more complicated, robbing kids of the space they need to feel their spirit and discover themselves.
Start early with your new parenting mantra: Less is more. Resist electronic toys that talk, flash lights, and play for your child – instead of your child playing with the toys. Buy simple wood blocks that invite hours of imagination, or paper and crayons. So many parents ask me why their kids don’t know how to play. Parents lament that their children always default to an electronic device. The answer is simple: kids were never given opportunity to grow the play muscle. We have too many structured activities; parents are constantly directing their child’s play and offering suggestions. Allow your kids to be bored - boredom is pregnant with possibilities.
SLOW DOWN THE PACE
“When I am not enjoying my parenting, it usually because I am not in the moment. I am rushing to get somewhere or I am thinking about all of the things that I should be doing or need to get done. When I slow down and let go…and just allow myself to be with my children and relax and enjoy them, I have so much more fun. I get to silently witness and cherish this miracle in front of me.” - Laura Carlin, author and blogger
“My three–year-old was mesmerized by a ladybug. Quietly crouched to the ground, she was examining it closely with wonder. I called for her to get in the car, as we were going to be late for our toddler gym class. She was so engaged with the ladybug that she did not even hear me. So I swooped down, grabbed her, strapped her into her car seat, and shoved a toy in her lap. Tears started rolling down her face. At that moment, lightning struck: I thought, what am I doing to her? Why am I pulling her away from a ladybug to rush her to a synthetic gym with a whole bunch of three- year–olds who would also rather be playing with bugs?” (Quote from “Permission to Parent”).
Watching a ladybug is like a meditation. It is a way of feeling connected, an experience of oneness with nature, a sense of peace. Of course this little tyke found it jarring to be yanked away.
Children are rushed from activity to activity – from toddler gyms to music lessons, and too many of these “enrichment” activities erode free time and free play. Kids are playing organized sports before they are developmentally ready. It’s exhausting not only for the children, but for their parents. I watched a small boy chasing a butterfly at a soccer game - as his coach screamed at him to get in the game. Shouldn't this 4- year-old be chasing butterflies? The world is fast paced enough, rushed, competitive - we don’t need to roll back that pressure to the preschool playing fields. The pace of childhood today is stressful for little brains that are still developing. The pace of life affects your child’s neurochemistry. You brain is a living interactive organism, impacted by its surroundings. Today’s high–tech, fast–paced world is on a collision course with childhood! Let’s slow down the pace, edit too many activities. You don’t have to go to every birthday party. Maybe staying home on a Sunday with the family is your best choice. We don’t want our kids to remember their childhoods by us barking, “Hurry up, get in the car, we are going to be late,” many times per day.
How can we bridge the distance between what we cherished most about our own childhoods and what we are giving to our kids? Remember when days and play were unhurried, unstructured, and could unfold organically, without a to-do list? Summer days at the beach, floating in waves for hours, lying on our backs, staring at the sky, imagining shapes in the clouds. Let’s recapture some of that for our children and ourselves so that home can be a place to rest and truly connect with our children, a soft place to land – a port for recharging.