My last blog post broadly covered the topic of educating the whole child. Today, and in all subsequent posts throughout this year, I will introduce one concept that will explore ways we can inspire and cement deep within a child’s framework the confidence to achieve their dreams, regardless of their prevailing circumstances.
Very early on in life, we are forced to adopt false narratives such as the perception that our aspirations are “unattainable,” “far-fetched,” or “unrealistic” simply because they seem out of reach for whatever reason at the moment. Rather than being encouraged to dream, we are often trained to be “practical” – we are not taught to look at failures as success waiting to happen, or to consider barriers as challenges that will teach us more of what we need to know to succeed the next time around. Over time, we run the danger of losing our imagination, our curious nature, and the ability to dream.
Creating an environment that invites curiosity is essential to nurturing future generations. Of course, if we are to achieve this ideal as parents or caregivers, we need to have actionable steps to champion our children in this way as they navigate their world – which is often as demanding and as complex as our own “grown-up” lives.
Storytelling…your child’s first passport to the world
Stories provide children with a view into new and exciting worlds of characters, places, cultures, and traditions.
Storytelling enhances creativity, inspires curiosity, and broadens a child’s immigration – making them more open to new ideas and concepts while teaching them about life, themselves, and others.
Sadly, children along various dimensions of diversity rarely see themselves represented in the characters of the books that they read. They are not only besieged by false narratives about themselves, but positive alternatives are seldom portrayed to challenge those untruths.
This is why representation matters, and the stories that we tell should be richly diverse.
Children’s early experiences shape what they imagine to be possible for people who look like them, live where they live, or come from where they came from. Simply put, children determine what they can become and what they can achieve based on the examples and role models they are exposed to.
I write this not from the perspective of an educator or a child psychologist, as I have no relevant credentials to speak of, but rather from the perspective of a parent—a parent wishing to instigate in his own child a curiosity for the richness of the world, the nuanced interplay of creativity, trial and error, diverse experiences, failure, and ultimately allowing him to create his own version of success.
I believe a fundamental practice, albeit extremely difficult one, is to try to suspend judgment of our children- their thoughts, their ideas, and their actions. We ourselves come with a set of preconceived notions of how things “should be” based on our own upbringing and/or our expectations of who our children should become. However, it is imperative we learn to subdue this overwhelming needed in order to truly allow them space to foster their own imaginations. Obviously, this will require monk-level patience and self-control!
Create space for imperfection
Perfection is curiosity’s kryptonite. We know too well the common mantra “no one is perfect.” However, I believe we still inherently expect that of ourselves. We want our environments to be perfect, our actions, our thoughts, our parenting, and ultimately our children. However, this simply cannot be, and in fact, it’s counter intuitive to learning and creating.
And so, for us, the action here is to make peace with the “messy,” the “imperfect,” and the “failures”, because therein lies the key to true deep learning and boundless discoveries.
Paint your children’s experiences with diversity
As humans, it is natural to gravitate towards the familiar and the easy. After all, this is where our comfort zone keeps us well-insulated from anything perceived as “threatening” or challenging.
As parents and caregivers, we have a responsibility to instill in our children a healthy appreciation for all things that contrast with their own reality (food, cultures, people, ideas, places, styles, etc.)
Painting our children’s experience with diversity starts with painting our own. This is a moment for all of us to look in the mirror and consider our own false narratives, learned limitations or simply areas in our life where we have a homogeneous existence.
As parents and caregivers, we also must become curious about the world around us and develop a healthy appreciation for difference.
Changing the world as we know it starts with reflecting on our lived experiences, the narratives we have adopted and how that translates to how we show up in the world.
It’s about the environments we create to support unhindered growth and the realization of dreams through exploration; and as we consider educating the whole child, it’s about the aspects of humanity we impart along the way.
If we sow these little seeds now, who knows what the resulting forest will look like in its time.