Zanib Mian is the founder of Sweet Apple Publishers and author of a number of popular picture books. Her latest book, releasing in June insha Allah, is called It Must Have Been You.
She has kindly written this reminder for us, which also serves as a prelude to her new book.
Note: This isn’t the Frozen let it go, well maybe it is…
She had just spent a long and hard day at work, picked up the kids from school, brought them home, fed them, cleaned up, cooked dinner and took the laundry off the line. Finally, she put her aching feet up with a well-deserved cup of tea, when her eldest came complaining about what the little one has done. She goes to investigate and finds the clean laundry all over the living room; from trousers on the table and blouses on the bookshelf, to socks on the sofa and leggings on the lamps. Her two year old shoots her the happiest smile; unquestionably proud of his handiwork. But to her, this is not cute. She immediately begins to yell about how naughty the child has been.
In another scenario, a father is at home on his day off from work. He feels it’s a very well-deserved day off. He is looking forward to some peaceful time with the book he’s been meaning to read. He has only just read the first couple of paragraphs when clang clang clang! A most ear piercingly loud sound of metal banging against metal shatters the peace he had only just begun to enjoy. He shoots up from his arm chair with an instant will to make it stop and punish the culprit. Upon locating the culprit—who is now looking guiltily towards the storming six foot tall heat approaching—he snatches the two pot lids from his child’s hands while simultaneously yelling about how naughty the child has been.
All too familiar? We can all narrate countless similar situations, where our children have done things to frustrate us and the immediate effect has been yelling and punishing.
There are many things common in both scenarios. Let’s focus on the following two: (a) the parent feels their moment of rest (or attention towards a task) is well-deserved and (b) there is yelling about how naughty the child has been. Remember these, I will come back to them.
Let’s look at both scenarios now from the child’s point of view.
A child spots that wonderful basket of fresh, fluffy, wonderful smelling clothes in the living room. The one his mum always shoos him away from. Since Mum is nowhere in sight, the child takes a closer look. He thinks it’s a most exciting pile of clothes; soft and colourful. Then he discovers that throwing one of the items out of the basket is rather fun. So he throws them all one at a time, experiencing extreme pleasure at the sight and touch of each one. He even learns something about the physical laws of air resistance. That was so much fun that the child decides to continue by throwing the laundry now as far as possible. At times running up to an item of furniture to throw it there. Just then his mother comes in and he lets her know how excited he is by this new experience by smiling at her. But she is cross. Very cross.
The second child is home. He is bored; there is nothing to do. No nursery today. It’s rather quiet. He decides to entertain himself. He looks inside the kitchen cupboard. A nice shiny thing catches his eye. He picks it up and discovers that it feels cold and he can hold it easily by the handle. Then he notices there are two of them. He picks the other one up too. He clangs them together. A loud exciting noise is created! He loves it. That’s better! He does it again, and again. He even learns something about the properties of different materials. Just then his father comes storming in and looking extremely angry. The child doesn’t know why.
Most of the time we forget to put ourselves in the child’s shoes. The above may have given us some perspective about how the child is simply driven by innate curiosity. A healthy curiosity which is highly encouraged by developmental psychologists. A simple Google search will pull up many articles showing you how to inspire curiosity in your child. But the thing is, we don’t need to create fancy situations to do this. It’s already there, firmly rooted in their very being. All we have to do, in a safe environment is; let kids be kids, let there be mess and let it go.
Why is it so hard?
Our busy, hectic lives cause us to often deal with situations impatiently. We feel we just don’t have the energy to put up with another mess. We want to make it stop and deal with it immediately. What is really at war with each other here are the parent’s impatience and the child’s curiousity.
Now remember (a) and (b) that were common in both situations and will probably be found in any situation you can think of. Let’s consider how they are linked, and how we can alter the dynamics between them positively. If we just stop in those moments and go back to our well-deserved rest, or book reading, or cooking, or working, it will slowly dawn on us that most of those situations are not too bad. It is simply a bit of mess. We do have the energy to deal with it. Perhaps we just didn’t in the very moment that it was discovered. So leave it for a while – it’s not the end of the world. We will especially feel that we have the energy if we haven’t used it up in shouting at the child and huffing and puffing about it. So if we remember that the child probably wasn’t being naughty, they were just being healthily curious, we won’t yell at them. We will save that energy, and more importantly we won’t knock our child’s confidence to explore and learn.
Needless to say, my point here isn’t to let your children wreak havoc and get away with everything. Just for us to stop and consider the larger picture. In the long term, we will feel calmer and our children more confident.
In an article in Psychologies, Emma Cook says: ‘curiosity compels us to connect with the world, reach out and test its boundaries, establish where they end and everything else begins. For children, curiosity is inextricably linked with physical exploration, touching, controlling, creating. It’s intensely pleasurable, a sensuous adventure that is rooted in discovery.’ I think this nicely sums up both why curiosity is so important and why it can sometimes lead to mess!
My new book It Must Have Been You is a fun little story which allows us to see some of these innocent messy situations from the child’s point of view, whilst alluding to the fact that we shouldn’t always be quick to react.
Zanib Mian is the author of My Dad’s Beard. Her new book It Must Have Been You is being released on June 1st 2015 InshaAllah.
Below are some sneak peeks of this great-looking book!