My girls had asked for permission to get wet in one of the fountains at the playground. I told them it was ok because we had a change of clothes in the car.
But another little boy, maybe 20 months old, wanted to play in the water too. I didn’t know what to do because he certainly didn’t look like he should have been getting wet and his parents were no where to be found. He was dressed nicely and even had shoes on (unlike mine, who are perpetually unshod). But, I didn’t really think it was my place to tell him to not get wet. I mean, he’s a toddler. He sees water. He wants to play in it, right? Anyway, in this part of Australia, on the Gold Coast, kids are always playing in the water. If I had seen he was going to get hurt or was in danger, then, of course, I would have stepped in. But… it was just water…
After a while, he couldn’t contain himself, he got right in there and became soaking wet. A few minutes later, the dad, who looked like he had just had a rough day at the office, came up and yanked the boy away. He said, “Ahhh! That’s it! We’re leaving now! I can’t believe you did that! We still have to go the shops and you’re going to have to go just the way you are!” So, they strapped him, soaking wet, into the stroller and off they went. I felt so bad for the little boy, and regretting my decision to not stop him from getting wet.
What’s ironic is that it was really the parent’s fault for not watching him! What 20 month old could resist themselves from the temptation of playing with running water!?
This story is not trying to point fingers or to cry ‘bad parenting‘, it’s simply to illustrate the fact that far too often, I see kids getting into trouble, just for being kids!
Stop being so loud!
You’re getting messy!
Stop annoying me!
Kids hear this stuff all day long. I admit, it’s not easy to break the habit of constantly saying these things. but, it’s worth the effort to be more aware of what I say to my kids.
I’ve even seen a 3 or 4 year old child get into trouble for not watching his toddler sister, who ran out into a road!
Let’s be realistic about our expectations from kids. Kids live in the present moment. By nature, they’re not naughty, irresponsible, reckless, rude or disrespectful. They are natural, uninhibited and curious little human beings. They’re learning about the world around them in ways that have been long forgotten by us adults.
When an adults sees a child playing with a water fountain, to us, we see them getting wet and ruining their clothes. But, to the child, they are learning about trajectory, gravity and sensory feelings. The fact that their clothes are getting wet (and that mum didn’t pack a spare set to change into) is inconsequential to them. At 2, they’re happily playing in the fountain, getting wet and dirty.
But, what if they’re always getting stopped from expressing this natural, unquenchable desire to learn and explore?
Then, by the time they get just a little bit older, they stop playing so freely. They stop learning so freely! Simply because, they know that they could get into trouble for just being themselves. I’m a high school teacher, and I see, that by the time kids become teenagers, many of them are so used to being told that they’re doing things the wrong way, or are fearful that they will make a mistake, that they can hardly learn at all! Do you see where I’m going with this?
I’m not saying we should always let kids do whatever they want, and whenever they want, just because they’re kids. If there had been some legitimate reason why I didn’t want my kids to get wet, I would have told them “No“. Or, I would have given them some other option for playing, like, letting them play in their undies to save the clothes. Sometimes, we really don’t have the patience for usual kid behavior and that’s nothing to feel bad about. Also, when a child is acting out in aggression or is failing to cooperate, there is more going on than meets the eye. We don’t need to be permissive in our parenting all the time just because we want our kids to be able to act like kids.
But, a child’s actions are pure and innocent. It’s not easy for adults to accept this! Letting kids ‘be‘ is a learned skill on the parent’s end. It’s so important to provide suitable playing/learning experiences for our children without loosing our cool! For some of us, it’s a real challenge to just let our ‘kids be kids‘ and to look at the situation from their point of view. We have to ask ourselves? Are they being destructive? Or, are they being creative and learning? There is a fine line, and for the sake of our children’s future, it’a line worth taking into considering.