By Stacey Loscalzo
The author of the acclaimed Winnie the Pooh books, A.A. Milne was born on January 18, 1882. As parents, we read books and articles, listen to experts on the radio and watch psychologists on the news to learn how to best raise our children. There is a vast wealth of knowledge on the topic of child rearing and child development.
What, though, if it were as simple as listening to the words of Winnie the Pooh and his creator? In simple text and nearly childlike expressions, Pooh and Milne distill the raising of children in to easy, manageable tasks.
Following are some tips based on the wisdom of a pudgy, hungry bear. Perhaps we can take some of these words to heart and grow as parents.
Allow your child the chance to be an individual: Milne writes, “The things that make me different are the things that make me me.” In our competitive world, it is easy to believe that all our children must excel at all things. They must earn top grades and play on the travel soccer team. They must love to read and volunteer at the soup kitchen on the weekend. They must be friends with everyone and never complain. In truth, each child is just one person with just one set of strengths and just one set of passions. Allow your child to be the ‘me’ they are meant to be.
Allow your child to be heard: As we rush from one activity to the next, it is often difficult to stop and listen. While listening, we learn who are children are. We realize exactly the individual they are meant to be. Milne writes, “Weeds are flowers too once you get to know them.” If we take the time to truly listen, our children’s strengths will rise to the surface. Perhaps, we feel like our child is too sensitive, complaining often about the light being too bright or the sounds too loud. Maybe that sensitivity can be channeled in to an artistic venture. Or our child who talks constantly could become a great stage actor. Or our child who won’t stop throwing his toys could thrive on the baseball field. If we watch and listen, these ‘weeds’ will become flowers.
Allow your child the chance to understand you: While is important to talk with children constantly helping them to develop vocabulary and conversational skills it is also important to remember that children are not small adults. Milne writes, “It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like ‘What about lunch?” If we ask our children to do something and they don’t, it’s possible that our directions were too wordy. If we suggest our child chooses one thing over another and they can’t, perhaps we made the choice too complicated. As Pooh would, simplify your message and watch your child understand.
Allow your child time: Children move fast. They run when adults would walk. They climb when adults would choose a different path. They throw when adults would travel across the room. Because of this, we tend to believe that children can do everything quickly when, in fact, they can’t. Their small muscles and their ability to plan and organize movement are not as developed as ours. Children take more time to brush their teeth and tie their shoes. They take longer to choose what to wear and what cookie to eat. As adults we must remember to give them the time they need. As A.A. Milne writes, “Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.” If we allow our children the time they need to complete their tasks, their stress and worry alongside ours will improve.
Allow your child to be imperfect: There are days when we are great parents and there are days when we aren’t. Sometimes it is hard to forgive ourselves those bad days but usually, we go to sleep and simply hope for a better tomorrow. With our children though, we dwell on their imperfections. Why did she get a B on that paper? Why didn’t he throw more strikes? Shouldn’t she have been invited to that birthday party? A.A. Milne writes, “You can't help respecting anybody who can spell TUESDAY, even if he doesn't spell it right; but spelling isn't everything. There are days when spelling Tuesday simply doesn't count.” There are just days when our children aren’t perfect. And just like spelling Tuesday correctly doesn’t count every day, neither does our children’s behaviour. Sometimes, they just aren’t perfect. And that is all right.
Stacey Loscalzo is a freelance journalist and mother of two girls living in Ridgewood, NJ. She has been listening to Pooh's wise parenting advice for nearly a decade.