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Mar 29

Supporting Self-Expression in Children

Welcome to the March 2013 Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Self-Expression and Conformity

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by Authentic Parenting and Living Peacefully with Children. This month our participants have written about authenticity through self-expression. We hope you enjoy this month’s posts and consider joining us next month when we share about Peaceful Parenting Applied.

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When I was pregnant with our first child, my husband and I joked that if nail polish were ever to be involved, he would be in charge. He thought I was joking at the time, but painting nails was never something I wanted to do. My grandmother tried to no avail to interest me in the finer aspects of nail painting when I was little. I hated it with a passion and still do. In fact, until a couple of years ago, our home was a nail polish free zone.

We were walking in a store when my then 6 year old daughter asked if we could buy some nail polish some day. Part of me would have loved to give an excuse as to why we couldn’t buy nail polish, but really there was absolutely no reason I could give. Instead, I told her we would research what brands were better and see about getting some. A few searches later and I had found brands which were less toxic and yet still affordable.

Shortly after that, I made my first ever nail polish purchase in a variety of colors. My children, all four, sat around waiting for their turn to have their nails painted. This happened several times with quite a bit of excitement on their part, trying out different colors, having that one on one time, until for the most part it died down, with only occasional nail painting happening now.

We support our children in their self-expression, whether it is nail polish or something else. Childhood is a time to learn about who you are and what you believe. We have purchased and helped paint finger nails and toenails. We have picked up colored hairgel for washable hair expression. And while I do save hand me downs for my children, they always have the choice about whether they like the clothes and want to wear them or not. Our children have gone to restaurants dressed in costumes at times other than Halloween, much to my mother-in-law’s disbelief, and the dress up bin is for everyone to play with – no sexism here. For now we draw the line only at permanent changes. We will support our grown children’s right to piercings, tattoos, or even cuttings if that is their choice, but we believe it is our responsibility to keep that option for them until they are old enough to make those types of decisions.

Self-expression doesn’t end with bodies, though. We encourage our children to explore new things and see what it is they really like. It’s important to us that they have opportunities to do this, and we have made it work on a budget, mainly in part to my mad organizational skills to get businesses and venues to give us group rates (just don’t remind me of the aquarium trip with 150 people. It’s something I would prefer to forget). As an unschooler and parent, it’s my job to facilitate, not dictate, my children’s learning experiences. Since life is learning, this includes allowing them the opportunity to explore and express themselves.

I think it’s working well. When my then 9 year old son was questioned at gymnastics for wearing hot pink nail polish, he merely turned to the kid in question and asked, “Why shouldn’t I wear pink nail polish? I’m secure enough in myself to wear it. Colors aren’t sexist.” Apparently the other child had never heard such things.

For me, it’s not about allowing my children to express themselves but rather not preventing them from being authentic. It’s about my children being themselves.

photo credit: Melchorseg via photopin cc

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APBC - Authentic ParentingVisit Living Peacefully with Children and Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in next month’s Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival!

 

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon March 29 with all the carnival links.)

5 comments

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  1. Laura @authenticparenting

    I absolutely love your son’s response! What a rockstar! We follow the same guidelinesin our house… even if some thing make us cringe… but I feel the cringe as a good example that we’re raising individuals, not copies of ourselves

  2. Momma Jorje

    Beautiful! But… who did the actual painting of the nails? Because I’m thinking it would be your husband – since it was officially his department. :-)

    We were a nail polish-free zone as well, but with my eldest living here full time now and being a teenage girl… sometimes she wants to paint her nails.

    I tend to resist as well. I think I’ve turned Sasha down for nail painting mostly because I don’t think he is capable of being still long enough for them to dry. I should cave soon, though, should she ask again.

    I like that you highlighted (possibly by chance?) that nail painting is, by nature, one-on-one time. That is an awesome point! I *did* love nail stickers when I was a kid, those would be fun to do with the kids, too! (And don’t require the same drying time.)

    1. Mandy

      Ha! I’ve done the nail painting. My husband doesn’t seem to recall that conversation. He also points out that I’m the one who uses paint for walls and art projects. Apparently that gives me some sort of expertise on paint.

      I try and remind myself that it is one-on-one time. It seems more positive in my mind to actually do it.

  3. Destany

    What a sweet post! I love your sons reaction and your full approach.You are right that kids should not be inhibited when it comes to discovering who they are.

  4. Hannah

    One of the things that I love about our daycare provider is the shared dress-up box. I love when I drop him off and the boys are wearing princess dresses.

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