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As They Grow – The Art of Being Curious with Our Kids

I was speaking with a mom of a five-week-old baby and I asked how things were going. She replied, “We are getting to know each other.” This left me thinking, what a wonderful way to come into the profound relationship between parent and child. It starts in infancy as we watch, wondering what their noises, cries, gazes and smiles might mean. This is a time of discovery, an intimate personal journey a parent takes to answer the question “Who is this little person?”

However, infants grow into toddlers with minds of their own. They can choose between things and have preferences. They can answer questions, tell stories, discover and create whole new worlds in the bathtub, the garden, in a cardboard box. It is essential for parents to guide their children, to teach them right from wrong and to take charge when necessary. For toddlers, that must seem like so much of the time. So in between, be curious.  We can support our kids in this stage (and as they grow) by being curious. Curiosity is a strong desire to know and learn. When we listen to our children’s ideas, ask open-ended questions and praise creativity, we not only let them know that we are interested in learning and knowing more about what they are thinking, but more importantly, about who they are. Let go of teachable moments and replace these with connection and curiosity. Toddlers’ minds are open and ready to explore all possibilities of their world. Drilling colours, numbers and labels for things can create anxiety. However, when we follow our child’s lead, we may discover great things about them.  A dog could be a giraffe with a shorter neck, bananas could be blue on another planet, songs are better with made up words and sounds. When we understand that toddlers’ primary intention is to learn, even when they exhibit the most challenging behaviour, we are better able to react with interest and empathy when things go wrong. My three-year-old niece wrote on her parents’ new couch with markers. When they asked her why, she answered “How would I know if markers worked on couches?”  Ah… an experiment, misguided as it may be. Instead of responding with anger, frustration and punishment, we could respond with curiosity. How can we fix this together? What other things can we colour on (tin foil, napkins, paper plates, stones, etc.)? These reactions help our children feel like they matter while helping them understand that no problem is too great to solve. Showing curiosity paired with connection will help our kids understand that they are valued for their thoughts and ideas, are unique individuals, one of a kind, with gifts to offer and for this, they are loved.

Dana Libby, Child and Family Therapist, Early Years Team Vanier Children’s Services For the Middlesex-London Community Early Years Partnership

 

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