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Friday, October 27, 2017

9 Ways to Embrace and Encourage Your Children's Individuality

Photo by Sergey Ivanov (Flickr)

While chaperoning a class field trip to an art museum recently, I noticed so many different personalities. Some of the kids asked dozens of questions, some joked around, and others chatted with friends. The variety of different and unique personalities made me think of how important it is for us as parents, teachers, and caregivers to embrace and encourage our children's individuality. We can do this important task in nine ways.

Encourage Free Play

Have you ever turned a group of kids loose in a game room? Each kid tends to gravitate to the toys, activities, and games that interest them. During playtime, kids show off their individuality, so let's encourage our kids to play in ways that interest them.

Compliment and Appreciate Quirks

One of our young neighbors likes to tell jokes and always makes me laugh. Even though he sometimes chooses inappropriate times to clown around, I try to compliment his uniqueness often. Life's definitely more fun because he and all of our kids choose to be themselves, quirks and all.

Ignite Curiosity

According to a U.K. study, kids ask an average of 300 questions a day. That's a lot of curiosity! As caregivers, it's sometimes tempting to ask our kids to stop being so curious, but they learn, grow, and develop unique opinions and interests partially because they ask questions. That thought motivates me to answer all of those questions and share resources that help my growing kids discover answers on their own.

Respect Differences

I admit that I'm one of those parents who dressed their toddlers in similar outfits. It didn't take long to figure out, though, that they each have their own sense of style, which doesn't always mesh with my preferences. And that's OK. We can respect our kids' differences and encourage them to be themselves even when they don't agree with us. They have the right to be unique.

Talk About Life

Every evening at the dinner table, our family discusses daily life. My girls know that I always appreciate hearing their views and opinions. By valuing our kids' viewpoints, we value our kids, tell them that they're interesting, and encourage them to continue thinking for themselves.

Promote Hobbies

My girls each enjoy vastly different hobbies, and I appreciate that they both express themselves through different outlets. Whether our children are into art, sports, or reading, we must give them time to explore the activities that inspire, motivate, and fulfill them as they express their individuality.

Promote Pretend Play

As they build block cities, ride cardboard ships into space, or rule kingdoms as kings and queens, our kids use pretend play to develop their unique voices. I also find that pretend play helps my girls discern the type of person they are now and want to become in the future.

Prevent Peer Pressure

When we denounce peer pressure, we equip our kids to be themselves. I often remind my girls that while they must be kind to other kids and look for ways to get along, they can be unique individuals. They don't have to think or do the same things as their siblings, classmates, or friends.

Resist Comparisons

My younger daughter sometimes struggles academically, but she excels on the soccer field. I try to affirm her strengths, talents, and skills rather than compare her to her sister, classmates, neighbors, or friends, and I politely ask others to do the same. Comparison only teaches our kids to conform rather than stand out and be themselves.

Even though they're young, kids are designed to be unique. We can embrace and encourage our children's individuality as we help them grow and develop. In addition to these nine tips, how else do you help your kids develop their own individuality?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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