We love books, very much. At home, we have a small private library which includes several thousand volumes. In the evening, before we go to bed, my wife and I often read for a while in bed, in the bedroom where our small children also sleep with us.
And our children read too.
Very carefully, like experienced readers, they choose books to read. They turn their pages at approximately the same speed as we do. And they rarely skip any pages, yet these are not the usual children’s folding picture-books, but books with pages covered by dense text and sometimes without a single picture. They read just like mom and dad do. When they stop before going to sleep, they carefully mark the page they’ve reached with a bookmark so that they can start at the correct place the next time and do not have to reread what they have already read. Every day they boast about how far they’ve gone with their reading and show us how many pages they’ve read.
Now you are probably saying, Well, what’s so special about that? Even in today’s digital age there are still children who like to read books. You’re right, there is nothing so special about it.
However, there is one thing that is rather strange.
Our children do not hesitate to “read” even though they cannot read yet!
At the age of three or four or five. With a serious, concentrated expression, they are able to pretend they are reading for half an hour. Once I even suspected for a while that they really were able to read. I thought to myself that they might have absorbed the ability to read in some mysterious way, that they had watched us and somehow learnt to decipher individual words and their meaning from the text. Or that they had learnt to read from their older siblings, or a picture alphabet book, like Tarzan in the jungle. But they had not. The letters for them were just little marks like tea leaves in a cup, or like strange, but beautiful, insects. Still, they just kept staring at their books for long periods. When they could not find the book they had just started, they were very unhappy.
I did not understand this.
Perhaps they thought that if their parents enjoyed looking at the strange black squiggles on the page for so long, there had to be something to it. They wanted to be like us and live the way we lived. To share our common interest with us.
After several days of diligent “reading”, my five-year-old son showed me his book with its bookmark and said, “Look, daddy, I’m halfway already. ” And after a few more days, he snapped the book shut and said with a look of satisfaction, “Well, finally, I have finished the book.”
“And how did you like it?”
“Yes. Very much. Now, I’m going to read this one.” And he showed me another book he had chosen, one with densely printed pages and almost no pictures.
Our children love some books so much that they don’t hesitate to “read” them carefully, several times over. Perhaps they read those books in some other way than we adults do, and they perceive the energy of their content by some mysterious sixth sense.
Children will do and follow what you do
It’s so simple. Children will do and follow what you do. Only they will have internalised it. No speeches, moralising, punishment, recommendations, manipulation, praise, commands, prohibitions will work in the long term, and often not in the short term either. Yes, during their innocence, and while children still see the God in you, they will listen to you, but they will only believe in what you yourself show you believe in in the long run.
And what you yourself live, you will also hand to them in life. That is what they’ll take away. These can be programmes, opinions, habits and lifestyle patterns on which they can build, through which they will develop, or they can be things that will pull them down and which they will have to struggle to get rid of sooner or later.
The only education (which is not really education) that works 100%… without you knowing
It is ironic, and rather a paradox, that you “educate” the most in the moments when you are not trying to educate, but are simply being yourself. Just when you are totally natural and not carefully watching your behaviour, your educational example, although it is not intended to be educational, is the most effective.
Your children will live the way you do.
It is no good telling your children what to do, but then doing precisely the thing you don’t want them to do. If you do not want them to smoke, do not smoke yourself. Do you want them to be active and take part in sport? Then be active yourself. Do you want them to eat healthy food? Eat healthy food yourself. Do you want them to help you at home? Then help them and others.
Our children have always wanted to get involved in what we do. When we baked bread, they wanted to help with the baking of the bread. The smallest ones were so happy when they could work with dough. The slightly older ones wanted to do everything we were doing, and when they could not do so, they were often on the verge of tears. As long as it was a game for them, they would fight for their part in the baking work.
When I started to garden, all the children wanted to have their own little patch of ground that they could care for and then boast about what they grew. When I took up jogging, the children wanted to run with me. When I go for a bike ride, they want to go with me. When they see an older brother or daddy exercising on the horizontal bar, they start trying to get on to the bar too, like tireless little monkeys. During the reconstruction of our house, the little boys begged to help with the work. They loaded mortar and concrete, pulled nails out of the planks, and with the leftover planks they hammered together their own little houses. Once when I was making some carved wooden jewellery, all the children wanted to do wood carving too.
When our children see their mom painting pictures, they want to paint. When they see her doing pottery or making ceramics, they want to work with the wheel and form clay. When they see her making jewellery from Fimo clay, they also want to make something for themselves. When they see her doing yoga or chi-kung, they want to train with her. When she sings mantras, they sing with her.
Just let the children see you doing the activity and they will join in sooner or later.
You do not even have to invite them, they will join by themselves.
They will even nag and beg you to get involved. Just like in Mark Twain’s famous book, where the boys watched punished Tom Sawyer painting a fence and begged him to let him try to do it.
So use their enthusiasm and be happy they want to do something with you. Do not worry about it, or worry about them losing interest after a while anyway.
Enjoy those special moments when your children want to do everything with you. You will strengthen your relationship, and the child will gradually gain confidence in your abilities and self-confidence. In adulthood, he/she will not be afraid to try anything, create something or put a shoulder to the wheel.
The golden age of imitation is about the first seven years, which is when your children will want to do everything with you.
At the age of about 10, children will also want to engage in almost anything that they find somewhat interesting and where they can test their skills. Then it gradually changes, and by the onset of puberty everything will be different. Your children may want to define themselves by the right of doing the opposite of what you do, which is quite natural for the gradual building of independence and autonomy in adolescence. However, it is possible that you will continue to share some common interests, and your teenage children will then be the best possible partners you could wish for. Perhaps the situation could be as it in our studio, where our children are happy to participate in lessons, courses, events and activities, and bring in their own ideas, creativity and originality.
When your children grow up in something, it will become a natural part of their lives. What they bring to life are patterns of behaviour and emotions that they encountered at home and in their immediate surroundings.
It is good to remind ourselves from time to time, especially in the moments when we feel the necessity to “educate” our children, that
the lives of our children can be influenced most by the way we live our own lives.