One of the greatest parenting moves I've made in a long time is placing a spare queen sized mattress in the floor of our playroom. I have four boys. That's right, four. This means we wrestle, fight, jump up and fall down. This is how we have fun. This mattress is the location of lots of laughter and the occasional minor injury. The mattress sits between a small art table and the side of an upright piano. It wouldn't be as much fun if there weren't obstacles and something to jump off of!
The parenting lesson here is the importance of understanding the need for kids to be kids. This doesn't mean we let our kids run rampant all over our house and destroy everything. In fact, we (meaning mostly my wife) work very hard to keep most of our house clean, organized and in tact. Yes, there's the occasional broken lamp or body-slam on the couch, but we try to keep most of the destructive activity either outside or in the playroom.
Kids need a place to go where they can fully be kids, without the expectation to act like an adult. Make no mistake, there is also a great need for kids to learn to behave appropriately in public, when in the company of adults and certainly to respect their surroundings; however, they also need the room to run free, pretend, be loud and be playful.
One of the gaps in many parenting styles is engaging children on their terms. They need that. Nearly every child is mesmerized when mom suddenly jumps in and starts a food fight or when dad sits down and pretends to sip tea next to Cinderella. These are moments when we as the parents validate their imaginations and personalities. Your child that can be a little loud and obnoxious needs to see you get loud and obnoxious sometimes. That shy little girl needs to see you play gently with her dolls and treat them as real as she sees them.
This means parents must pay attention to their kids and notice those differences of personalities and get on their level and let them lead the way. My four boys are all very different. My oldest is seven and has a brilliant imagination. He constantly wants me to pretend we are undercover "bad guys," spying on the police. This game is usually played when we are in the car together and I have to stretch my imagination just to keep up! My second son is four and likes to ride on my shoulders around the house, but not too rowdy, just a light trot and he has a blast! My third son is two going on twenty-three! He is my rough and tumble kid. He can't get enough of being thrown on the couch or bed and loves trading punches followed by the words, "Love you!" My fourth son is a newborn so I can only look forward to his unique personality. As for now, we cuddle and that's alright by me!
I believe the more we balance good boundaries and discipline with appropriate permissions for kids to be kids we will see our kids thrive in life.
How about your kids?
Do your kids have permission to be kids or do they constantly live life on your terms?
Moms, when was the last time you jumped in the floor and got a little rowdy with your son?
Dads, when was the last time you took your daughter on a date and treated her like a princess?
What is that activity your child loves to do, but you avoid because you dread doing it?
Remember you have 7000 days, use them wisely!
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