There is something about the outdoors that breaks you down to your core. It makes us fearful, in a way, to be in the wild, yet strangely comfortable, like we are fulfilling some primitive part of ourselves.
Adventures outdoors show us what we are truly made of, instead of how others see us. Kids feel this too. They are receiving messages non-stop about their world. What is their culture, their interests, their abilities?
As parents and teachers, we seek to define our kids in order to understand their motivations and desires, to be better providers, or maybe give praise. We label them innocently, like when we say, “She is the artist in the family”, or sometimes maliciously like when we call children “mean”. Labeling hurts kids in a deep way, and we can communicate just as well without using them.
Think about what our kiddos could be missing out on by being labeled. When we call our kids things like, shy, independent, bossy, aggressive, a big boy, a girly girl others accept those labels and treat our kids like those things. The kids themsleves begin to internalize those labels and use them to define their growing and ever changing sense of self.
In the book, Siblings without Rivalry, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish recount a story where one woman, Ruth, loved to play the piano as a child, but had a hard time progressing. While her sister, who wasn’t taking lessons, could play every note perfectly. Ruth told her mother she wanted to quit because she was so disappointed in her own ability. Her mother let her quit, and Ruth had always regretted it.
For some reason, we have the idea that our “selves” are stagnant. We have a specific personality, with fixed attributes and aptitudes. We also think this about our intelligence: “I’m not a math person.” In reality, Psychology is learning that development is never stagnant or set. Not when we are born, and not when we are 90. Human brains have the capacity to grow and change until death.
What would happen if we could see aptitude, intellegence, and all our other traits as fluid: what if we let them decide, what doors could we open for our children then?
When asked how Ruth would have felt if her mother had told her that she should keep playing the piano because it made her happy, and it didn’t matter how fast or slow you learned, it was the meaning you bring to the music that mattered, she answered, “It would have meant everything to me.”
This post is about thinking of language differently and encouraging confidence in our children by letting them tell us who they are, in their own way and time. We all want to encourage and understand our children. We want to know them in order to guide them, but if we are not mindful of the framework which we use to do so, we can also shut our kiddos down and lock them out of hidden potential.
If they could, our children would tell us they need us to believe they can be everything, because then they will believe that they can be anything, whatever it is that they need to be. Kids need us to see their capacity for both fear and boldness, both leadership and support. They need to know how to fulfill both their own needs and the needs of others.
Learning in Forest Schools presents many opportunities, times for doubt and selfishness, teamwork and triumph. At Worldmind, it is important that children experience it all, and that we don’t let labels limit them.