My four year-old loves to investigate things. This means he is very happy to spill stuff, open cupboards, and search the house for anything he wants to learn about. This also means that sometimes he makes decisions that are a bit perplexing like spilling glue all over the table to see what it feels like or breaking a marker and running water to “catch the colors”.
Sometimes people ask me how it is that I don’t totally lose my cool when I discover another one of his messes or undertakings. The thing is, knowing him, I don’t just expect these messes, I try to support them. I know how much he learns from them, and he is even becoming more and more responsible because of his natural curiosity!
I really believe that when we become more realistic in our expectations of ourselves and our children we can start to truly enjoy the gift that it is to be together and focus on building a relationship and a life full of meaningful moments. Because I know how much my son loves to explore, I try to have an ample supply of safe items around that he can use for his explorations and I always involve him in the process of cleaning up his messes. What’s more, because we have never really shamed him about any experiments, my son is not afraid to ask for help!
Of course there are limits, and we keep things safe. Dangerous items are not allowed to be played with, we expect respect towards our pets, other people in the house and overall my son has a good idea of what things are absolutely off limits. Sometimes, he makes mistakes, and then, we get to talk about it and look for solutions.
Recently, while playing with some mud in the garden, my son decided to use a drinking glass from the kitchen to make a mud concoction. I wasn’t really happy with that choice. I approached him, joined him in his play. I scooped up some mud, we laughed about it, we smiled at each other. Then, I let him know that the drinking glasses were off limits but that there was a box of containers under the sink he could have. Immediately he offered “oops mom, I will wash it up and get something else”. That was it, no shame, no blame, no struggle.
Do you have a curious preschooler? What would happen if you accepted her mistakes, appreciated effort and then simply supported your child in their endeavors? I often find that not demanding, not reprimanding but simply supporting children and helping them find a solution, from a place of love, appreciation and connection goes such a long way!
Peace & Be Well,
Ariadne Brill is a certified positive discipline parenting educator. She is the author of positive parenting connection, a resource for gentle parenting and positive yet effective discipline. She has three children, loves chocolate and is passionate about helping parents and children create harmony at home.