It really got my attention when a 10-year old young girl, whom I tutor, told me, ‘I’m so happy to have nothing planned this week-end, I will have time to read and be in my room.‘
Isn’t it a tendency of our current world to go fast, to move constantly from one activity to another, as though doing nothing was shameful? So many well-intentioned parents pack their children’s schedule in fear that they might not give them all the tools they will need to survive later. And often, I notice the paradoxical weariness of some children who instead of being energized by these new experiences, end-up exhausted and frustrated about not having time to dwell in their inner worlds.
While I believe in giving children the chance to try new things, to make the experience of learning an instrument, a sport, or a language, I also strongly believe in their need for ample opportunities to be on their own, with their thoughts and their imagination. Indeed, this time when we do not ask anything of them is as necessary as our active coaching to help them develop a sense of discipline and purpose in their lives.
When a child is alone with himself, in his room, or in the living room among the other family members busy with their own activity, he can spend time with his soul and get to know himself. He practices being with himself, and being comfortable with himself.
Not being commanded gives him the opportunity to hear his own voice, and develop his judgement:
Do I like the way my friend talked to me this morning?
What do I really want to build with this lego set?
I am feeling angry because my brother keeps interrupting me!
I’m really bored at this time…
When they’re alone, children start processing their life and making sense of it. Isn’t it what we wish for them: that they develop their critical mind and a set of personal values that resonates with their core being?
It may not be easy, at first, for parents and children who are not accustomed to their own company. They may fear stillness, fear to miss out on something, fear to look within, even existential fear of realizing they’re finite beings. These feelings will be unsettling but step by step, with practice and commitment, all will start becoming familiar with this internal space, that demands attention.
Much of the stress and restlessness of today’s children can be linked to this lack, or even absence of, ‘being with oneself’ time. Of this time for self-reflection when no adult, no friend, no sibling will interfere, when we get this thrilling feeling to just be.
As we unilaterally fill our children’s heads with knowledge, we observe symptoms of: aggressivity towards self and others, irrational excitement, inability to focus, distraction, etc. All of these behaviours indicate that the child may be overwhelmed, and needs time to wind down and to make sense of all the stimulation she receives.
I recommend taking a close look at your children’s schedule and re-assess the value of such and such plan you had for them. A child who can develop a practice of self-discovery will learn to manage herself, and her emotions; she will learn about herself to an extent that is not possible when having to attend yet another meetup.
If you would like to share your impressions and ideas, you’re most welcome to do so in the comment section.
Marion Franc is a Mentor and Coach for gifted children, and their parents. To enquire about mentoring possibilities for yourself and your child, you can send an email at: email@example.com
Caring for the Gifted Child