Yesterday, Ronit wrote about her experiences with kids who were mentally stuck in norms and invisible rules at the age of 6. Their creativity was stifled by notions of “right” and “wrong” and external opinions about what is pretty, messy or appropriate. Today, I would like to share with you some more signs of kids being stuck like this, along with a wonderful video clip.
A few weeks ago, our family went for a walk on the beach and realized there were nude people there. I was walking with some of the kids at the time and said to them, “What do you think? Wouldn’t it be just great if when we were hot, we could just take our clothes off and cool down?”
Quite frankly, my own answer was, “Sure it would, but I wouldn’t do it”, but I wanted to know how much the kids had been influenced by society already about this issue.
One of the girls, who is only 7, showed total disgust at the idea with her whole body language and facial expression. She even walked backwards from the circle of people, as if merely talking about it was already threatening.
Whenever I have a chance to listen to kids, I pay close attention to their words. It amazes me to hear how often they use “should”, “must”, “(not) allowed” and “get in trouble”. One particular topic of “stuckness” is the school uniform, which their school staff seems to be obsessed with. The poor kids are forced to memorize rigid rules about the color, material and style of various clothing items, spending way too much of their time feeling scared of “getting into trouble” if they wear something “wrong”.
Sometimes, when one of my own kids explains a choice by saying it prevents getting in trouble, I ask them, “What kind of trouble?”
This is usually followed by a long pause. They really have to think about it for some time, having accepted the threat without actually considering it. More often than not, “trouble” means the teacher will be unhappy, but will do nothing else. When they forget their hat, “trouble” means they are told to play under cover (there is plenty of covered space, but no covered playground).
To help my kids notice their own choices, I restate their action by saying, “So you decided to keep a good relationship with your teacher?” or “So you prefer to play in the playground?” I believe that doing this returns to them the feeling of control over their situation and their life. At first, they completed my re-statements and over time, started to tell their stories from a responsible point of view.
Why is it important to foster that freedom of the mind in our kids?
Our conscious mind is like a serial computer. It can do only one thing at a time. Even when we “multitask”, we are actually quickly shifting our attention from one task to the next, but only focusing on a single task every time.
Out subconscious mind is like a parallel computer. It can easily do a wide range of things at the same time – walk, keep the phone to the ear, watch out for cars, hold a child’s hand and talk to a person located miles away, while imagining their smile. As you can see, it is a much more powerful device.
So if our kids feel free to express themselves and to explore the world without the inhibitions of fear, we have raised a generation that will multiply everything achieved so far and will do it easily and happily.
In the video below, Sir Ken Robinson, a former professor of Education, talks about the need for creativity in the future and how this relates to the education system. If you are part of the education system, I hope you listen. If you are not, I am sure you will find many things that apply to you and your kids.