While Ramona and I were watching Apra playing, our talk came, as so often when we are with her, to the topic of parenting and how what you are doing now has such a big effect on your child’s future. This time, we thought about the difference in giving your child instructions on what to do and giving your child freedom to do what he or she wants.
I believe you need a balance of both but with a small comparison of our two countries and cultures we noticed that many people often go extreme in either one or the other way!
If you visit families here in India, a lot of times you will notice that there are adults at home but they don’t actively interact with the children. The mother is doing household chores, other family members may be talking and the children are playing on their own. They find their games on their own, their toys on their own and practically fill their time without instructions, fixed games or an adult who plays with them.
Sometimes and especially in uneducated families, this can lead to big dangers! Children explore their surrounding – which is definitely not child-proof – and often get serious injuries. Had an adult been there with them or simply paying more attention, accidents could have been avoided. Even in joint families, where there would be enough adults for one to be looking after the kids, such things happen.
In the west children are, as I have seen in many families, really constantly under supervision and mostly also actively engaged with one adult. While this prevents bad accidents from happening, it also gives adults the possibility to get to know and further develop any talents in the children.
From a very young age, there is structured play time. Adults prepare the toys that children should play with and they play with them, giving constant input and teaching them. Then children go to Kindergarten and school, where it is anyway structured. After school time, there are classes for learning instruments or for doing sports and of course homework needs to be done as well. There are instructions for what should be done and in which sequence. Even on play dates with friends I have seen parents who feel the need to tell their children exactly what to play.
The problem I see with too much of this guidance is that the children get so used to doing what others tell them to, they don’t even know anymore what they want to do themselves! Especially with traditional schooling methods and strict parenting, they are not encouraged to try and find out! They cannot fall and realize it hurts. They never had to decide what to do. And then they don’t know what they really want to do either!
We end up with a whole lot of young adults who don’t actually know what to do with their time. They get out of school and still wait for their parents to tell them where to apply for a job or a teacher to tell them how to go on with their lives. They follow only what they are being told because they feel comfortable with that.
I believe we need to give children free space to develop their own wishes. We should softly guide them to learn but at the same time have to give them enough space to find out what they would like to learn! We should keep them safe without preventing them from making their own experiences.