Papa Talk – Too Much Order Is Not Good for Children

I recently read an interesting article in The Observer, written by Eunice Musiime. I could imagine the situation in her Mama’s world, as she and her little soldiers go about cleaning up the mess they have created. In my own experience, it is always a pleasure when I have to do things with the children. I think we parents sometimes underestimate younger children’s capacity to reason rationally.

The other day, as I prepared to drive to work, my four-year-old boy realised that the driver’s mirror was blurred because of the dew.

“Daddy, your mirror can’t see! Let me clean it,” he said as he darted off to find a duster.

He did not allow me to explain that I had a duster in the car. Although he cost me a minute or two as he cleaned all the windows, I enjoyed seeing him get busy and then stand back and wait for my compliments. From reading Eunice Musiime, I am no longer afraid of ‘torturing’ toddlers with cleaning duties.

Yet there is a risk in this. I have observed many a parent try too much to organise children as young as three years. At a time when life is all about discovering and understanding their environment, toddlers often find themselves entangled everywhere in ropes tied by their parents: Don’t go there! Don’t do that! Don’t say that! Don’t touch there! Leave that alone!

Of course we mean well. No parent wants to be accused of negligence because shehe took the eye off the proverbial ball and the baby ended up in deep trouble. I should add that I used to be among those parents – until my daughter started running around the house at supersonic speed – even faster than her volatile brothers.

At 15 months, she would climb out of her high couch. She would climb into the sofa and before you knew it she was up the window shouting at birds outside. Nothing pleased her more than dancing from the middle of the dining table.

Don’t ask how she got there! She would climb onto a dining chair, and from there on to the top of the table and then start beckoning me to notice her: “Sheeeee meeeeeeee?”

At first I would panic. I would imagine the little thing would fall and perhaps suffer a serious head injury of a fracture. But I managed to restrain myself from interfering with the activities of my daring princess.

Now I am far more relaxed and, I dare say, she has not been terribly hurt. Yes, it is risky business, but she seems to have mastered her risk-taking activities. Some of the parents I have talked to agree that it is possible for us to ‘kill’ some valuable temperament traits when we try to control children at a very young age.

It could be that the young girl at home will surpass Sudhir in terms of taking calculated risks. By insisting that she stays down, I would be surpressing something valuable. It could be that the boy who asks a thousand questions in one day has an inborn curiosity that will make him a critical thinker. As a parent who loves disciplined children, I should not kill that.

This, of course, is easier said than done. And I am learning that the key thing to aim at is balance. And balance, when you are coming from a control-centred mindset, is not easy to achieve. So, the starting point is to distrust our instincts as parents, to start questioning our own principles a little more.

Nowadays, instead of ordering her: “Don’t climb up there!” I ask myself if it is totally dangerous for her to climb. And if she fell, what is the probability that she would be tragically hurt?

Oftentimes you find that the value of letting children be children outweighs the risks. We should be able to allow children to get a little messy – we only have to ensure they don’t get messed up. It is all part of growing up.

Are you a father? What have you learnt or discovered about your youngsters and parenting? Share joys, trials, challenges, successes. Send them in 500 words to

Source : The Observer

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