Find your wild: Let your kids run free
Unsolicited parental advice is everywhere. It’s time to stop internalising it, and be the parent you want to be. Let your kids run free.
“Don’t get your clothes grubby!” they say. “Better safe than sorry” they interject. But do we want our kids to be passive partakers in the world? Or active game changers?
We say it’s time to rip up the parenting rule book and challenge some of the overused and outdated phrasing.
“Don’t get dirty!”
But no one ever changed the world through cleanliness and rule obeying. Adventures in the woods, building dens, digging for worms, splashing in puddles – it’s all part of the fabric and wonder of childhood. Encourage your kids to go wild, explore nature, and learn for themselves. So what if they get messy in the process?
Covid heightened our awareness of hygiene, but kids still need dirt and germs and microbes to build a healthy immune system. Dr Jack Gilbert, author of “Dirt is Good”, goes step further – urging parents to focus on eating healthy rather than keeping kids squeaky clean. So re-open that mud kitchen. It’s time to get messy.
Of course, we don’t want our kids to get hurt. But we don’t want to cushion them from life either. We want kids to get out exploring and experience new things for themselves. That’s why we don’t cushion our shoes. We want to give kids confidence in their actions and decisions. Researchers warn of raising unhappy and anxious kids if we don’t let them take risks. So we must let kids utilise and enjoy all of their senses. Not dull them, by keeping them wrapped in cotton wool.
Many modern leaders talk about mistakes they’ve made over their lifetime. We should allow our kids the same privilege. Childproof the world and kids will still manage to incur injuries. More serious “long bone” injuries occur on “safer” rubber floor playgrounds in fact. So take the padding away and let kids find their own feet.
Uggghhh, but why? Study after study has proved the benefits that movement can have on attention span. A burst of aerobic activity, or simultaneously bouncing balls, can greatly improve cognitive ability. And yet when kids get fidgety, a sign that their bodies and minds aren’t moving enough, they’re reprimanded.
We say get moving! Let kids invigorate their body and mind. Encourage them to find their wild and get out exploring. It’s important kids play and develop their sensory systems, to aid learning. So let them go barefoot. Feel the ground beneath their feet. Reconnect to nature. Or provide the next best thing, Vivobarefoot Kids thin, wide and flexible shoes - that are the closest thing to being barefoot.
Why not? It’s the body’s way to relieve toxins and hormones that contribute to elevated stress levels. Crying can help strengthen immune systems and lower blood pressure. Why wouldn’t we want that for our kids? Boys should be allowed to cry. Girls should be allowed to cry. Babies should be allowed to cry. Let’s stop controlling emotions. We want our kids to feel the world. And all the glorious raw emotions that comes with it.
Telling kids not to cry sends a message that their feelings aren’t important. But they are. And as the future leaders, we need them to understand and channel their feelings in a positive way. Whether anger, passion, grief, or love – we need them to experience a plethora of emotions. The future of our planet depends on it after all.
Obedience is over-rated. Compliance. People-pleasers. Does that sound like an inspirational, go-getting, next generation? Not to us, it doesn’t.
As child psychotherapist Alison Roy points out, "A child will push boundaries if they have a secure attachment. This is healthy behaviour.” Kids that feel confident to push back, know their voice is valued. They’ve learnt how to use a powerful tool. One that will take them far. But with compliance, “[kids] have learned there's no point arguing because their voice isn't valued," Alison adds. We say, if “behaving” means being quiet and sitting still – count us out.
Parents should feel confident in their role. Freeing themselves from the shackles of societal and parenting expectations. Allowing their kids the freedom to explore, take risks, learn from mistakes, embrace the wild, and live life unashamedly. Dive in, feet first. And enjoy the ride.