Why children need to experience real life with us, their parents
The beautiful thing about being a parent, is that we teach our children real life.
There is a big difference between children that grew up in a family and children that, most of the time, were put in a day care.
As Jesper Juul explains in his book ”No! The art of saying no with a clear conscience”, children who spend most of their early childhood in daycare are surrounded by professionals.
People who are trained to do their job, who are expected to apply their learned skills on the children entrusted to them.
On the one hand, that’s a good thing; in the daycare I was working in, social services enrolled children in our program who were neglected at home – by parents who were overwhelmed with life, struggling with different sorts of addiction. We were there to help those children to develop healthy social skills, to nurture them in areas where they lacked adequate development and to support them in their growth.
But many parents feel that the people that are trained to care for children in a professional way are doing a better job than we as parents, who many times have no previous training or experience in the area of raising children.
We tend to think that it is only a good thing to give our children into the hands of professionals.
Jesper Juul, in the above mentioned book, chapter “From the ages one to five” puts it like this:
“Generally speaking, staff in daycare centers are highly professional. Nevertheless, they are with the children for the sake of the children and are as such in the role of service providers. In other words, in these contexts children are not interacting with ordinary adults who have their own lives, faults and failures. They interact with people who essentially “work” for them.
In many childcare centers and similar institutions the adults personal boundaries and needs disappear only to make room for set standards and regulations. Most of the pedagogical staff is excellent, highly professional and gets on really well with the children.
Because of this, many parents see them as role models. Ultimately and unfortunately, some of the important differences between institutions and family disappear..”
He goes on to explain how children, surrounded by parents that try to imitate professionals, will become increasingly frustrated as their need for personal and authentic relationship is not met.
How they grow into children who’s “need for entertainment and externally generated stimulation grows “, he explains in the same chapter. “
“The only way to counter this trend is for parents to be as genuine and authentic as humanly as possible. This will create space for parents to be adults that provide children with the opportunity to develop their social skills as well as learn to accept other people’s boundaries and needs.“
In other words, our children need to experience the beauty of real life.
They need to experience us as tired parents, who didn’t sleep because their sibling – or our work didn’t let us sleep at night. Parents that have a bad day and feel stressed out – or parents who simply don’t know how to handle this specific situation, or can’t explain in a professional way why we tell our kids “no” for this specific matter… simply saying it because we feel so.
Our kids need to see us in our Pijamas, see us crying, happy or upset.
This is real life. This is the beauty of family life.
When they know that we need a coffee to start the day or experience us falling asleep beside them while reading a bedtime story.
It’s vital for them to know if we love summer or rather the beauty of the colors in autumn.
To experience what kind of music we listen to, or witness the things that make us cry or laugh.
It’s ok that they know how to push our buttons – and it’s ok as well that we react as human beings, allowing them the experience of our personal boundaries, needs, weaknesses.
They want to experience “real life”. “Our true self”.
Of course, I am not speaking about yelling at our children because we want to be “true to ourselves”. Neither do I speak about breaking a promise we made to our kids because we don’t feel like it any more.
What I speak about, is this erroneous belief many parents carry that our children are/would be in better hands of professionals, because they are trained and equipped to do a better job than we do.
Parents who feel as a failure or inadequate to parent their child – being daily confronted to their own feelings, emotions, needs and boundaries.
But as we have seen in that article, “being a limited human being to our children” is the most beautiful, important gift we can give to them.
As role models of life, we can teach them how to deal with emotions. How to set boundaries. How to express feelings in a constructive way that brings growth.
We can share with them beautiful moments, spend quality times no professional can spend with their kids at work.
I wish to encourage us to share our true self with our children.
To walk a way of life that reflects our values and transmit them to our children.