Initiative in Children: Harnessing What is Already There

There is a leap of faith to be made. It’s edgy. The leap is this. Kids don’t need much pushing. If from an early age children were given choice, autonomy and support in pursuing their interests, their natural level of initiative and motivation will be really healthy and present, perhaps more so than children who were pushed.
It comes down to moments, that as parents, we can be unaware of. All of the moments a child wanted to do something: grab this, move that, open this, close that, poke this, touch that, help with this and that, try to operate something, try to make something, making a mess…this is ALL initiative being shown. How we react to these moments I believe is critical. How we set up the environment to allow for curiosity and initiative to be expressed is important.
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How we respond to this natural born initiative will determine how it is expressed later on, if at all.

How many automatic NO’s we deliver will shape who our kids become. How many times we inadvertently suppress this initiative and energy will shape how that initiative is expressed. How are children conditioned? How were you conditioned? I know a lot of people only now coming around to their own interests and a personal expression that feels authentic.

How many times we facilitate this natural born curiosity and interest will be on display later in childhood and later in life. Children typically are not trusted. The idea is that they don’t know what is good for them. I think this idea is off base. I’ve worked with lots of kids. Yes, they need guidance, of course, but they are so much more capable and knowledgeable of themselves than given credit for.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of having specific challenges and rising to a challenge. Having mentors who have challenged me has changed my life so much for the better.

But there are some things that I find that really help when issuing a challenge to a child, a challenge that may be outside of the immediate interests of a child. The challenge is more likely to be accepted and completed when:

πŸ‘‰ A child feels safe and connected to parents.
πŸ‘‰A child has good reasons to trust the intention of the parent. For example the child senses the challenge is not a way for the parent to feel good about themselves.
πŸ‘‰The child understands the reason behind the challenge.
πŸ‘‰The child has had the ability to follow their own interests and as a result feels open and interested in new challenges.
πŸ‘‰The challenge is co-created in a way that the child has input and control.
πŸ‘‰A growth mindset culture, a culture of failure being a learning opportunity, is present.

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