In first grade, I sat at my desk as the kids laughed.
I peed my pants and the puddle under my chair was there to prove it. The warmth of my tears stung my face and my body curled into itself as if to protect my wounded spirit. I wanted to disappear.
Minutes before this, I raised my hand and asked my teacher if I could use the bathroom, to which she replied, “No, it isn’t time for a bathroom break.” And maybe, according to her agenda and classroom flow, it wasn’t, but my body was telling me otherwise.
I crossed my legs, tapped my foot, wiggled in my chair - all attempts to hold it.
And when I couldn’t, I was shamed for it, not only by my peers but by the adult in the room.
Reflecting back on this, I see how harmful the experience was to my child-self. There weren’t physical wounds but the emotional bruises were pulsating.
How often do we, even if unintentionally, asphyxiate our children’s intuition by telling them that what they’re feeling is wrong? We tell our kiddos what to think, how to feel, and how to behave. And in micromanaging them, we override their natural intelligence system. When we communicate that their sensations are inaccurate, they begin to question and then distrust their personal truths.
We may say things to gaslight their experiences:
- You’re fine. You’re not hurt.
- Don’t cry. It’s not that big of a deal.
- Don’t feel that way.
Or set limits that contradict what feels right/safe to their body:
- You can get up when you eat all of the food on your plate.
- Don’t be shy. Hug your uncle.
- He just complimented you. Say thank you.
- She’s the adult, so she’s right.
Or we send messages that it is not allowed to tell an adult no (You can’t tell me no!). And the thing is, saying no is a skill to be practiced. If our children cannot tell us no (respectfully) then how are they to tell their peers or anyone else for that matter?
Intuition is vital for our children to feel safe. If we create a child who believes that approval equates to love, they will become approval seekers and this can put them in danger of those who fail to have their best interests at heart.
When we send these messages to our children, we dismiss life through their lens and, because our intuition guides our perceptions, it damages their perception of reality. Children need to know that we will support them in tuning in and trusting what they find.
Our role as parents isn’t to control and demand that our children see the world as we do, but to be the guide by the side, teaching them to love and trust who they are.