It may be really obvious (but I think it is worth saying anyway): adults are really big! Have you seen one of those moments where a small and timid child grabs onto the jeans of their parents, then looks up…only to discover they have grabbed the wrong jeans!
For kids, moving through an adult world can be a daunting experience. Adults are bigger, stronger, faster and they can carry an uncontested authority.
Since it is unfair to expect our kids to come up to our level, it really is up to us parents to get down low. It can be good for us to be humble, and drop down to the eye-level of our children. I want to suggest two reasons why we should, and then three things that might stop us from doing it.
Why you should get down to kid-level
1. We can understand our kids better
You can learn quite a lot about your child, when you let them set the agenda and direct the play. You can find out what matters to them, topics they are interested in and things that might be troubling them.
Whether it is colouring in, imaginative play or constructing something, first-hand experience of your kid’s strengths and skills is really helpful. When we lower ourselves, we are entering their world, and gaining a better understanding of the picture they are building of themselves.
2. It reminds us what being a kid is like
You may have seen kids dress up – they usually dress up in adult roles. Kids often like to help with our adult jobs, trying out the things that make us adults (like taking responsibility for things, or getting things organised). But maybe it is time to return the favour and take on the kid’s role.
Do you remember what it was like when small bits of plastic or paddle-pop sticks could become almost anything? There was a time when the whole afternoon was for playing, and every activity was begun with enthusiasm (even if it was never quite finished or packed away properly). It can be great fun, and a great learning experience, to try to be like our kids for a little while.
Those are my two reasons for why you might want to consider eliminating the height barrier and getting down into the world that your kids live in. Chances are, though, that you are already sold on this idea – you would love to do it, except for one of the next three reasons…
Three things that might stop us
1. We are already busy
Isn’t there already enough to do? You might work; you might have a list of household jobs longer than your arm; you might have things you should be doing right now! Busyness is the pressure we all feel on our time. There are a limited number of things we can do. This means we need to choose carefully where our time goes. When we portion out our time, we usually run a deficit budget (aiming to do slightly more that we really have time to do). This leaves us with no spare moments for our kids.
The way I see it, we can either rearrange how we do things, or do less things, so that we find some time to be down in the world our kids live in. How about this: for every job that gets done, time is given for the kids. It won't make you less busy, but it might help you to remember to spend more time with the kids.
2. We anticipate the effort involved
The second reason we might be slow to get down low, is because we know how long it will take us to get back up again! Before we even try it, we have anticipated what will be involved and we are not sure we want to go there. I believe the effort is worth it.
But, it might not be physical effort that you are thinking about. Instead, it could be that you have no brain space left to take in all the names of the dinosaurs, or the challenges of the latest handheld game. Kids have lots of information in their heads, most of it very specific to their world. They spend most of their time getting information from adults, so the time you spend listening to them can be very precious – you are the student and they are the teacher. You are about to discover what engages them and matters in their world.
3. We’re unsure what to do when we get there
Finally, perhaps our real fear, is that we will get down, eye-to-eye with our child and not know what to do. We don’t want a stunned silence, or some awkward moment. But this is no reason to avoid getting involved in our kid’s world. So, it is probably worth offering two suggestions (you might have some of you own – share them below in the comments box).
Learning how to live in your kid's world
Students ask questions – as a student in the world of your child, you should ask lots of questions. Find out what all the toys & other things are; how they work; what they are for; how long they last; how powerful they are; why they are important; how they make them feel.
Students learn by making mistakes – the best thing to do when entering your child’s world is to have a go at adding to the play. You will probably be corrected if you are way off (or, your kids might be kind and try to work your glaring errors into the game).
Finally, don’t wait for an invitation – every time you walk in the room they are probably hoping that you will ask them all about what they are doing, and that you will come down into their world and, for a few minutes, see things the way they do.
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