Do you have a child who is afraid to grow up and wants to stay little for as long as possible? Does he or she complain of others calling him or her a “Big Boy” or “Big Girl”? Does your child talk to you about life moving too fast and not having enough time to play and just be a little kid? I’ve been getting this type of feedback from parents and small children and I want to tell you that these are real concerns and feelings nowadays.
In our hectic, fast moving lives the frequent situation happens to be that we, as parents, lack an hour to just breathe and spend real quality time with our kids, just be with them, observe them in their natural environment, watch them play, explore the world around them, brag about their accomplishments for longer than 5 minutes, and just be genuine little kids around us.
In today’s school system our kids are forced to grow up and mature extremely fast. Their personality still remains so infantile, not ready to take on the world of the big school system, abandon their natural play and careless environment and hop on the fast moving train of life with us, adults. Today our children start school when they are 4 years old. I just want to repeat — 4 years of age! I started school when I was almost 8.
How much responsibility does a child really need at 4? At this age the child’s world revolves around play, inventing new games, diving into an imaginary world, creating imaginary friends, making sense and processing life’s work in her environment and sharing this information with her parents and friends. Does a child really need to abandon all of this for 5-8 hours daily and find herself in a structured, demanding classroom where her toys are put away, undivided attention towards the teacher is demanded and the child moves from one structured activity to another?
I wholeheartedly agree with the fact that learning is a vital, life long process, and should be made exciting, imaginative, inquisitive and evoking curiosity. I disagree with the minimal amount of toys and games, which enter this learning cycle. We often hear our children complain and cry that there are no more toys because they are in the Big Kids’ school now. The conclusion that stems from this is that many kids of today are no longer infatuated with becoming older, the phrase “You are such a big girl already” no longer sounds as a compliment but rather as a painful reality. This reality is created because our children know that getting older means acquiring more responsibilities, hard work, absence of play and they need to bid farewell to the unbearably light feeling of carelessness.
I want to note that the awareness of responsibilities and hard work in life is very important in raising our children in general, but I strongly feel that our 4, 5 and even 6 year olds do not need to concern themselves with the pressing, overwhelming reality of adult life. Life moves too fast and in this dance we discover just how difficult the days of an adult can be. Why subject our little children to this reality so soon?
Let them be careless, playful and naturally intuitive just a little while longer. We can afford to spare all the tedious details of just how life works until our kids are ready for it psychologically and emotionally. Let’s sacrifice structure at this young tender age in the pursuit of creativity and emotional development. We will thank ourselves in the future because our children will be more inquisitive, imaginative, playful, resourceful, mature, satisfied, not depressed or anxious and emotionally capable to take on this very real world and succeed in it!