We might feel helpless when we hear that we need to ‘slow down’ because we know that in order to survive in this world – which is not plain ‘world’ anymore, but ‘a fast-paced world’, we need to buck up! Fast! There is a sense of urgency in everything we say or do – ‘I’ll quickly tell you my thoughts about…’; ‘I need to make a quick visit to….’; ‘Let me ask you a quick question...’.
This sense of shortage of time is a trap. It makes us more disconnected from ourselves and each other. When children are made to fit into this pace, it is detrimental to them and to us as a society. While walking down a street, the child is absorbing everything around her - the wind brushing the leaves, the trees that look different, even some garbage lying on the road that looks different.
It’s all intriguing for the child! After all, how can time spent this way be of any use to us? We need the child to hurry up, walk faster, and get the next ‘to-do’ task out of the way. The child however, is learning about nature, at nature’s pace. If we want our children to be sensitive to nature and care about the world around them then we need to allow them space to savour the moment.
When we interfere with the child’s pace, we interfere with the child’s concentration. When the child has been given enough opportunity to build his concentration and curiosity, only then can he bring that into adulthood. We can’t expect a 13-year-old to have concentration and curiosity, when he’s not had enough practice to build it since childhood. Let’s look at another example.
In the shop, when the child says, ‘Mama, look so many cars!’ Hearing that, in our mind, we have fast forwarded the whole situation and are already imagining him having a tantrum on the floor for the car. Instead of sharing his reality in the moment and saying, ‘Yes! So many of them! There are cars everywhere,’ we end up saying, ‘I’m not buying any for you right now. You have enough of them at home’.
Slowing down would help us to really hear what the child is trying to convey, and avoid a few (if not all!) melt downs. In this way, the child will soon develop a language which is steeped in slowing down and truly listening.
Just imagine how compassionate our world would be with this skill! When the child comes to us with a problem, ‘my friend is not talking to me’, we want to solve the problem for the child and make him feel good as quickly as possible. So we rush to offer advice and solutions with the intention of putting an end to his misery. As adults, we know that hurt and overcoming it are processes and they take time.
How reassuring for the child to know that he is trusted and he will be fine eventually, though it seems very chaotic now. It’s empowering for him to have you by his side while he grapples to find his place of peace.
What a boost to his self-esteem to know that he can come up with his own solutions! We’ve had a chance with our pace, sometimes even paying the price for it. Now, let’s give their pace a chance.
The writer is a certified parent educator with Parenting Matters, an organisation which empowers parents to build deeper connection in families.