Monday, January 12, 2009

Thinking Inside or Outside the Box

I love this picture of little brother, which cracks me up every time I look at it. This is the only cabinet in the kitchen that isn't child-proofed, and the boys love to empty out all of the plastic containers. Please note that little brother was assisted out of the cabinet the very moment after this photo was taken.

Before you say "Little brother clearly appears to be thinking inside the box (aka cabinet) here, Busy-Dad-E", or any other one-liner that comes to mind (my favorite is "the butt stops here"), let's not forget that children are smarter than we give them credit for.

I know, what's smart about crawling into a cabinet and getting stuck? Well, it's more the fact that he was willing to crawl in there, rather than the outcome. That is, I always marvel at how children's thinking/speech/curiosity is not kept grounded by many of the "rules" that plague us as adults. There is a lot that we can learn from them in this regard. Let me explain.

Children are not afraid to try something new. Little brother plowed in to the cabinet head first, without fear, to explore what was in there. How often are we as adults afraid to step outside of our comfort zones and try something new, whether it be eating at a new restaurant, starting up a conversation with a relative stranger at a party, or trying out a new hobby? Sometimes we get "stuck", but sometimes we discover something great. Nothing ventured, nothing great.

Speaking of discovery, children's curiosity is contagious. So frequently as adults we lose that innate sense of wonder about how things work, our natural world, a geographic location, a period of history, etc. We're make excuses--too tired, too busy, it's too expensive. The reality is, if something is a priority, we'll make time for it. We would do well to imitate our children's passion to learn more about things. We can start by helping them with their own interests. Big brother was really interested in Egyptian pyramids, for example, so let's get some books to read from the library, watch some videos on the internet, build a pyramid out of legos, draw a picture, etc.

I'm also impressed at how children aren't afraid to fail. In fact, they don't know to be afraid of trying. I love watching (and helping as needed) as the boys work on a new task--the just delve in. I say, let them try to stick the square peg in the round hole, so-to-speak. They may try ten different things that are incorrect, but they do so with the fierce determination that it's going to work each time. In fact, children need to learn about what doesn't work as much as what does. The point is, they're learning. As adults, we get caught up in "there's only one way to do something." Whether it's a research question, negotiating a conflict, or other routine aspects of our daily lives, we should always be searching for new approaches. That's how progress and innovation happen, and usually that takes a lot of brute force trial and error.

Lastly, I love how children don't always bind themselves to the rules of english grammar. I laugh when my parents told me how I used to say "I amn't going to do that." Not long ago, we were talking about something and I said "Hope not!", to which big brother (being required by age to be oppositional) replied "Hope yeah!" This is yet another example of how our children are always thinking outside of the box. And so, little brother, keep it up--never cease to explore, be curious, and try new things (so long as their legal, moral, and not bungee jumping)--Busy-Dad-E and Busy-Mom-E will help if you get stuck.

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  1. Good job, Little Brother! Keep on exploring! :)

  2. So cute! Love the picture and your post reminded me of a proverb or quote or something. excuse my brain fog...but it was something about how for every success there are a bunch of failures. Um it was much more elegant than that, but basically along the same lines of what you were talking about. If we are afraid of failing, we'll never succeed because we must have many failures in order to also have successes. thanks fo rth epost!

  3. Great insight Dad-E. Gave me something to think about. Go Little Brother!