Dear Naomi, My question is about how best to nurture my daughter’s natural talents. I want to say yes to her self-direction and interests and yet protect her from the unhealthy toys, foods, people and experiences. It seems like the older she gets, the more she gets exposed to these things (husband does some of it) and the more her interests are around these things and the more she gets away from her natural self and natural talents. She is 4 and I don’t feel yet she is rooted enough in herself to resist these things. She has a two year older brother and is usually doing what he’s doing or playing ‘his’ games with him or is with someone most of the day and plays by herself maybe 5 minutes a day. She is interested in stories, pretend play, mixing things, her violin, puppies, gymnastics, and language – where do words come from, how to say very big words, understanding others words. I do homeschooling and self-directed learning approaches and my husband ‘teaches’ in traditional way. Any advice you have is very much appreciated.
“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” – e.e. cummings
You are absolutely right to observe that the industry targets children to make them into consumers. They make a lot more money if your child becomes hooked on products than if she creates satisfaction from within.
It is your job, indeed, to protect your daughter from the addictive influences that draw her away from herself and harms her health, creativity, her interest in the outdoors and in developing her talent. To do this job, you have to be the one e.e. cumming is talking about. Let go of fitting in and dare to be nobody but yourself. Dare to lead rather than follow; dare to look bad and do good.
A big part of the problem is that the industry has done a great job of not only seducing children and parents, but also instilling a sense of shame in parents who don’t fall for their scheme. Shopping, consuming, having and having more, have become the way to celebrate and to “love” in this culture. It is parents like yourself, who insists on protecting their child from consumerism, who are belittled by other parents and friends, “Come on, lighten up, have some fun… let her have it.” Many of your own friends and family have, unintentionally, become the sales representatives of the industry. Dare to protect your child’s inner freedom, which the industry is so intent on taking away from her for financial gain.
I personally was always a “fierce mother.” In the early years I protected my children by not exposing them. I waited till they were rooted in themselves and nothing could sway them. My youngest son, Oliver, has recently said to me, “Adults always tell me that I have such a strong will power when I refrained from cookies, or stay away from video games.” “But,” he explains, “It is not will power. I don’t need will power. I don’t seduce myself by imagining eating or playing. I stay outside of it; I stay myself. How much fun can a cookie be after all?”
I did avoid social gatherings with too much exposure to junk until the children were older. Even then, we were very selective and outspoken. My husband agreed to refrain from bringing junk food or junk toys into the house. We bought few selective toys and our home was a junk-food free zone. We asked relatives to bring nothing and give the children an experience rather than commercial goods; go boating, hiking, visit the zoo and other memorable experiences. Or, we asked them to choose from catalogues we provided.
We need more parents like yourself so that other mothers and fathers can gain the courage to stand for their children’s right to stay free from commercial addictions and distractions. More often than not, the other parents would love to go your way, but succumb to peer pressure. Lead the way. Don’t fall for seeking their approval. Dare to create a shift and be outspoken. Dare to be you. You are the greatest gift you can give to your daughter and to society.
Warmly, Naomi Aldort, www.AuthenticParent.com