The ability to express oneself freely comes more naturally to children than adults. That is . . . until they feel as though the opinions of others are more important than doing what brings them pleasure. As an adult, watching children’s carefree spirit is liberating. So, why is it that we often stifle that carefree spirit? When we teach children that their individuality—expressed both through their words and actions—is something to be proud of and not ashamed of, we simultaneously teach them to embrace that same quality in others. A world where children embrace their own individuality and the individuality of others creates a more harmonious and accepting humanity.
Children have opinions, they have likes and dislikes, and they have desires and aspirations. When they are accepting of and feel confident in their own opinion, likes and dislikes, desires and aspirations, they are naturally accepting of others. A child’s ability to create a playful, judgment-free environment among their peers is directly correlated to their own feelings of acceptance. It is a cyclical and essential aspect of humanity. Judgment of others is a learned behavior stemming from the fear of others’ opinions. As adults, teachers, and parents, we must encourage and foster a child’s free thinking and be especially careful not to be judgmental. Instead of putting an emphasis on what others may think about actions, it is important to teach children to focus their energy on exploring their own opinions, interests, and inner creativity. The only absolute it is essential to focus on is that of kindness.
Take some time to consider how you can show appreciation for your child while teaching them to find the same appreciation for others.
- Make no verbal expectations for your child’s future. They may fear disappointing you and end up in a field, or lifestyle, that leaves them feeling dissatisfied.
- Do something embarrassing in public. For example, dance in the aisle at the supermarket to your favorite tune, to show them that it is okay to not conform all the time if it allows for harmless joy.
- Write them a letter. Mail it (preferably via traditional mail), for no special occasion, expressing how you appreciate their unique qualities and what a pleasure it is to know them and have them in your life.