Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Life Lessons

Little man lit a match last week. It surprised him, and it surprised me! I was watching him nearby, so I was able to put it out before he started a fire. It stayed lit long enough to feel hot to him, though. Now, when he sees us lighting a candle, he exclaims "tot! (hot!)" and takes a step back. My husband and I were talking about the incident and how it illustrates something that we feel strongly about as parents: when at all possible, allow your child to experience the real world, even if it is painful or difficult. The lessons learned by experience stick so much better than the lessons that we try to hammer into our children's heads verbally. Also, when a lesson like this is learned, there is no need to give a lecture, an "I-told-you-so," or to reiterate it in any way. It sticks on its own.

Ryan and I have just seen too many Christian kids who are ready to leave home and do not know how to make decisions, think for themselves, problem solve, trouble-shoot, handle money, etc. This is because their parents, though well-meaning, protected them from learning by experience. Interestingly, these are also often the parents who were "heavy handed" when their children were toddlers, spanking them for touching or trying things. Their children learned, "play it safe, stay out of trouble," early on. By spanking and otherwise punishing, these parents actually shield their children.

I propose that we let our toddlers explore as much as possible, unless something they are playing with is life-threateningly dangerous. There are some things I tell Aydon a firm "no" about. This would be such things as knives. But when I tell him "no," I also try to tell him why. "Aydon, no, you may not have the knife. It is sharp and could cut you. When you are bigger, I will teach you how to use it." Then, I put the knife out of sight. Sometimes, I redirect activities that could make a huge mess to a cleaner area: he is only allowed to dump and pour in the sink, not on the floor. He likes to smell spices (yes, my child for sure), so he sits at his table to do this.

God created toddlers to explore. It is how they learn. If we are looking towards their future, we need to allow them to explore and experiment as much as possible. We need them to experience the cause/effect relationships intrinsic to life, and then give them time to absorb it on their own, without us trying to turn it into a lesson. Christian kids should leave home ready to face the world, able to stand up for the truth because they personally believe it, able to make right, wise choices on their own. My husband and I firmly believe that the way we deal with our toddler gives him a foundation that will help carry him into maturity.

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