Wisdom is the combination of knowledge and experience. But in the case of children we’re talking about really limited life experience here, right? This got me reflecting on whether wisdom and raising wise kids was even an appropriate conversation to have on this blog– like, how wise can our kids actually be?
So last week my kids had spirit week all week at school and there was a different theme each day. My husband was also traveling so it was me and the girls for most of the week so I had to be more intentional with my time and just plan on the outfits and costumes and meals and stuff because I knew my husband wasn’t going to be around and it was just gonna be me and the girls. On Monday, it was like explorer day, so they both had to dress like Indiana Jones, and then Tuesday was career day so I dropped off a teacher and a doctor, and then Wednesday was wacky-tacky day. So my kids are getting to the age where 1) they’re more particular about what they’re wearing and how it feels on their body, and 2) whether they like how it looks, right? So I get them up early because I know wacky-tacky day is gonna take a minute. I had brought out some options the night before – like Christmas stuff, pajamas, tutus, dr. Seuss striped socks – all this random stuff I thought they could pair together for their wacky tacky outfit. So friends it takes me a good 45 minutes for us them to try stuff on and find something that’s wacky enough but that they still feel comfortable in. I do their hair all wild and Ashton is wearing 2 different shoes, and we’re feeling pretty proud of ourselves for how wacky they look. And I get their backpacks packed and everyone in the car and we get to school like 10 minutes before the tardy bell rings and I just take a second in the car to acknowledge that I’ve freaked crushed this morning by myself and still got the kids to school looking like clowns, in good spirits, with time to spare. And you guys probably already know where this is going, but I start to notice the other cars pull in and the parents taking their kids out and walking them into school and everyone else is in their school uniforms. Everyone.
So I say that to the kids and I pull out my phone and open up the email from the school about spirit week and I see that very clearly it says that Wednesday is wacky sock day and that the students must still wear their uniforms. Are you kidding me? I had completely missed that and my 100mph mom brain saw wacky and assumed it was a wacky tacky day like they’d had at their preschool last year, and I had just completely biffed it.
Friends, a couple of years ago, this might have put me over the edge. But, because I’ve been doing so much work the last few years on regulating my nervous system, expanding my capacity to deal with stuff exactly like this, and re-wired my brain with a ton of practice to show myself compassion instead of judging myself I just owned it – and I told my kids, oh my goodness, I am so sorry. I completely misread the email about spirit week you guys were supposed to wear your uniforms today with just wacky socks and I totally missed that. Do you guys want to go in dressed like you are and be on time, or would you rather go back home, change, and then come back and get a tardy pass? And without skipping a beat, they both wanted to go home and change and then come back and be late for school, and I totally didn’t blame them because they both looked like clowns.
So I turn the car around and we’re sitting in morning school rush-hour traffic going back home to change and I know this is cutting into my work time, so I’m just breathing and enjoying this extra time with them, and again I’m just like guys, I am sorry you’re going to be late this morning. Next time I’m going to read the directions more carefully.
And my little 4-year-old chimes in from behind me, all strapped into her car seat, and she says “Mama, it’s ok. We all make mistakes sometimes. It’s just an accident and accidents happen. I forgive you. I would love you no matter what you do.” And friends, that wisdom, coming out of that little body with that little 4-year-old voice – it wrecked me. So wise. Perspective, forgiveness, unconditional love – so much wisdom.
With all this, I’m 100% convinced that we can start raising wise kids even at a young age. Because it’s not about knowing everything, it’s about starting to plant seeds of wisdom that will continue to grow as our kids do. So yes, of course, the wisdom of your 5-year-old might be limited, and certainly different than the wisdom of your 12-year-old or your 25-year-old, but I think we can be intentional about emphasizing wisdom and making wise choices and having wise perspectives even from a young age.
Here are 3 ways we can encourage our kids as they grow in wisdom:
1. Teach them to see the big picture.
Much of wisdom comes from perspective, trying to see all the angles. We all have blind spots sometimes, including our children. The more we help them see alternatives, different consequences, or outcomes, the more they will be able to develop a wise perspective.
When your child is breaking into a pattern of extremes you might ask questions like: Is that really true? Compared to what? How do you know that? Thus, you will encourage them to have a deeper thought.
Also, as much as possible, we want to teach our children to take a bird’s-eye view when making decisions. We can ask them questions that lead to some foresight. How could this turn out if you do X? What if you decided to do Y instead? Do you think this is going to be something you’re gonna regret, or do you feel pretty confident that it’s the right thing to do? And really guiding their intuition and ability to listen to their somatic bodies in this process is huge. My 5-year-old was trying to make a decision yesterday and I asked her to close her eyes and try to notice how each choice felt in her body, particularly in her tummy and her heart, and she did. She closed her eyes and dropped in and she was like, my heart says this is what I should do. And allowing her to trust that intuition – to trust her body and what it’s telling her – was huge. As an adult, this is something I’m not just starting to learn how to do.
2. Teach them to ask for wisdom
In the book of James, the Bible says “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” So if we want our kids to be wise, we can teach them to ask for wisdom. Maybe it’s in making a decision, we can encourage them to pray about it. Pray for guidance, pray to make the right choices, and pray for the right people to come into your life.
And part of teaching them how to ask for wisdom is teaching them how to seek the wise advice of others. We can be intentional and surround them with wise people, whether they are seniors, young adults, grandparents, or teachers, and encourage them to ask questions or seek advice. Sometimes children are not very interested in what their parents have to say about certain things, so it is important that they have others to turn to when they need wise advice.
I think another thing we can do, especially with our older kids who use computers, is help them find reliable sources to research and learn more about things they’re interested in or when they’re trying to figure out what they think of something. what we say makes us more assertive. So if they decide they want to become vegetarian and that’s going to be part of their identity, they can research it, read the pros and cons, find the healthiest way to do it, and learn how they can explain their decisions to others who might not understand. These are all amazing life skills, right?
3. Encourage them to grow in their identity.
As parents, we’re wired to protect our kids. But sometimes when we’re helicoptering a little too hard, we can end up taking away valuable, teachable moments. Kids need to learn that success is usually found only after a lot of hard work, persistence, resilience, struggle, and oftentimes failure.
Research has shown over and over that kid who is resilient, kids who are more comfortable failing and trying again, those kids have a strong sense of self-worth. And I think the failing process also brings empathy. It brings humility. It brings collaboration. And all of these traits are the roots of wisdom.
Wisdom is knowledge plus experiences. And their experiences, whether curated by us as parents or simply what life throws at our children, shape their inner voice, and give them confidence and character. All experiences are not easy but when we empower our children to persevere, speak up, stay true to themselves, and stand up for what they believe in, we help shape their identity and bring out the best that is within them. That empowerment really creates a strong sense of self and self-improvement.
Have you ever seen your children act wisely? Tell me in the comments!
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