Some of the wisest parental advice I ever received is that part of being a great mom is nodding and smiling at your child when they tell you about a new lesson they've learned, a lesson that you had already tried (repeatedly) to teach them. It's often hard not to bang your head on the wall or scream, "I told you so!" when you listen to your little one teach you your own lesson. All you can do is nod and smile and say, "Wow, Honey, that's great!" because sometimes, the only way they are going to learn your lesson is by testing it.
My 3 ½ -year-old daughter had recently been arguing about wearing her winter coat. There was snow on the ground, and yet she was not convinced that her coat was necessary. For months, I patiently explained how and why it is necessary. I less-than-patiently explained. I yelled about it. And finally, I gave up. I decided to let her discover first-hand how necessary coats are by letting her out of the house without one on a 30°F day. I actually let her go to school sans coat. And guess who came home that day, touting the virtues and wonderful comfort of coats? Yep, my daughter. And guess who nodded and smiled as she listened, saying, "Wow, Honey, that's great!"? Yep, this mom.
Although I wanted to pull out my hair and shout, "Haven't I been telling you all this FOR MONTHS?" I didn't because this served as a great reminder to me about the importance of letting children explore the world themselves. Yes, I have plenty of applicable real-world knowledge and experience that I wish to bestow upon her. I wanted to save her time and discomfort by explaining the right way to dress for the cold, so I told her all about it so we could skip right over her trial-and-error learning. While my lessons and information were all well and good, they weren't enough. She heard me go on and on about the misery of extreme cold, but it wasn't until she felt it for herself that she decided that yes, a coat is, in fact, necessary. She needed the trial and error to really learn the lesson I wanted her to just accept on hearsay.
It was a somewhat humbling experience for me, I admit. It reminded me that while sometimes I think I have all of the answers, that simply isn't enough for her. No matter how much she trusts me and believes what I say, there will be times when she needs to put my lessons to the test. It's not only important that she does, but it's important that I let her. It's important that I let her loose in the world to see and learn things herself—to get cold herself—and that I nod and smile when she comes back to tell me about it.
Photo: aaron schmidt